Wide Receiver shake-out
Now that Michigan is 1/4 of the way through the regular season including the test provided by Notre Dame things are beginning to shake out a little bit in the cluttered wide receiver field. Sophmore Mario Mannigham has clearly established himself as the new #1 (in the tradition of Anthony Carter, et. al.) and will likely inherit that numeral as his jersey number next season. However, 5th-yr. senior Steve Breaston has failed to impress this season despite repeated reports about how hard he worked this past off-season and that he was destined to have his best receiving year of his career. He continues to be plagued by dropped passes and it appears that Coach Carr's patience is wearing thin. Coach Carr is trying to bring along some younger receivers and when they are ready to step up look for Breaston's receiving opportunities to diminish. On a positive note, during the Notre Dame game Breaston became the Big Ten Conference's all-time leader in punt return yardage. I still maintain, as I posted back on July 1, 2006, that Breaston should be limited to special teams duty.
The top candidate that is being groomed to replace Breaston at WR is current #3 Adrian Arrington. Coach Carr has been raving about Arrington's blocking abilities but even Arrington has shown some difficulty holding onto passes including a potential TD against Notre Dame. Coach Carr stated at his Monday press conference that Arrington has to work on catching the slant pass. If Arrington develops more consistency during the top of the Big 10 schedule he should supplant Breaston. However, if he is unable to do so, Coach Carr is bringing along true freshman Greg Mathews and redshirt freshman LaTerryal Savoy both of whom saw playing time against Notre Dame. Both Mathews and Savoy are athletic pass catchers but their blocking skills are not yet up to the level of Arrington's blocking skills. Nevertheless, both Mathews and Savoy will continue to be brought along and see action each game.
With all this young talent some of the old guard is not seeing the field much. Carl Tabb (5th-yr. senior) started the Vanderbilt game as the third receiver but is now so far down the depth chart the only significant playing time he sees is on special teams. That means he is still doing better than junior Doug Dutch. Dutch (who earned his first letter last season) did not even make the trip to South Bend, Ind. It is hard to get into a game in South Bend when you are stuck back in Ann Arbor. It looks as if Dutch may be the odd man out of the talented receiving corps. He can hang out with 5th-yr. senior Alijah Bradley who is now riding the pine as a WR after switching positions because Michigan was so loaded at running back. Go Blue!