- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Detroit Lions reporter
As Michigan’s preseason approaches at the end of this week, WolverineNation takes a look at the 10 players who are most indispensable for the Wolverines this season. This doesn’t mean the most talented players, but rather the players, if Michigan lost them, would be in the most trouble.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When Devin Gardner was a freshman and a sophomore, he would often look for wide receivers to practice with him so he could keep sharp as he had to wait behind Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson for a chance to play.
Getting receivers to work with the backup wasn’t always easy, but one player would show up more than most, would help out more than most. So to understand why Gardner and Jeremy Gallon appear so comfortable with each other on the field is not happenstance.
The rapport between the two started when no one else was around, just a backup quarterback and a little-used wide receiver working together. Now, they are angling to become the top quarterback-receiver combination in the Big Ten and two critical pieces to Michigan’s offense this fall.
Gardner, though, was expected to eventually be in this position. Gallon was not. He was a small wide receiver recruited for one system filled with guys his height who could make plays with space. He turned into a playmaker in a system designed for taller, stretch-the-field receivers. Along the way, he turned into one of Michigan’s most reliable, indispensable options entering this season, placing him at No. 3 on our list.
Last year’s stats: 49 receptions, 829 yards, four touchdowns.
Where does he fit on Michigan’s offense/defense?
Gallon is Michigan’s most experienced and reliable wide receiver. On a team searching for options to complement him, his familiarity with the offense, with Gardner and with making plays in critical situations have turned him into the top receiving option for the Wolverines this season.
Once Gardner took over as Michigan’s quarterback on Nov. 3, Gallon caught four or more passes in every game. He had 67 yards or more in each game, including a 133-yard performance against Iowa and a 145-yard game against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. He averaged 102.2 yards a game with Gardner as the starting quarterback, extrapolating to a 1,328-yard season if he played 13 games like that.
What happens if he’s out of the lineup?
Unknown. The depth chart other than Gallon is a bunch of question marks. Sophomore Amara Darboh is a potential starter opposite Gallon and has the size/speed combination Michigan’s coaches are looking for down the road. Redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson, who impressed some of the departed seniors from his work on the scout team, is similar to Darboh in that aspect. Drew Dileo, the likely starter in the slot, would also see more snaps. But Michigan would be without its most proven option at receiver and a player who has more comfort with Gardner than anyone else.
Bottom line, why is he critical to Michigan’s season?
As mentioned above, Gallon is the known quantity in the midst of a bunch of unknown options. He has also turned into a reliable player for Michigan. He has sure hands and is able to outjump taller cornerbacks and safeties despite being 5-foot-8. His route-running has improved and he showed the ability to find openings in a defense once the offense went from Robinson to Gardner last season.
As has been a theme with much of this list, Michigan has options behind Gallon and those options may be as talented as him, but without the requisite experience from most of those behind him, Gallon’s role this season jumps even higher than it was a year ago.
As Michigan’s preseason approaches at the end of this week, WolverineNation takes a look at the 10 players who are most indispensable for the Wolverines this season.