Michigan Wideout Roy Roundtree.
The Michigan Wolverines started their 2012 campaign with national championship aspirations. However, those hopes were quickly dashed after the team dropped its season opener 41-14 to Alabama. Last weekend, instead of coming out with fire against a weak Air Force squad, Michigan came out flat and pulled out a nail-biter. While it's still too early for a mass hysteria to settle in over Ann Arbor, several players on Michigan's roster have a lot to prove heading into this weekend's bout with UMass.
In a game against an FCS opponent, Michigan must come out with a vengeance this Saturday. While beating UMass will not prove anything to anyone, the Wolverines need to play a full 60 minutes of football before they can contend with the best of the Big Ten.
Let's take a look at three players that must step up this week and contribute to a Michigan victory.
Despite coming into the season as the team's No. 1 receiver, Roy Roundtree only has three catches in two games so far. More specifically, he is only averaging 5.7 yards per completion, which means that he's not being the downfield threat that Michigan needs to stretch defenses and give Denard Robinson more room to operate.
A year ago, Roundtree caught 19 balls and averaged 18.7 yards per reception. He does not necessarily have to put up gaudy statistics this season, but he has to make sure defenses fear his big-play ability. With a mobile quarterback in Denard Robinson, having to account for a big-play receiver would create match-up nightmares for any opposing squad.
In order to compete with the Big Ten's elite teams, Michigan needs Roy Roundtree to create big plays down the field. He's a speedy receiver with decent size, so he has the athletic ability to do so. He seems to be recovered from his knee surgery, so there no excuse for him to not be producing. With the departure of Junior Hemingway, the Wolverines need Roundtree to step up now more than ever.
Michigan tight end Devin Funchess.
Funchess is a freshman who burst onto the scene last weekend with 106 receiving yards to go along with his first career touchdown. He is a big, athletic tight end who has the ability to become a cornerstone of Michigan's offense for the next four seasons.
However, it's imperative that Funchess continues to impress against UMass. As well as he played last Saturday, he's still a freshman with relatively little experience. While it's readily apparent that Funchess is a good player, he has yet to establish himself as a consistent threat within Michigan's offense.
It's completely unfair to expect a freshman to put up 106 receiving yards on a consistent basis. However, it's imperative that Funchess gets open with consistency throughout the game and provides an option for Denard Robinson over the middle of the field.
Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
After a stellar 2011 campaign in which he rushed for over 1000 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry, Fitzgerald Toussaint returned from his one-game suspension last weekend with a thud. He gained seven yards on eight carries and was never a significant factor in the game.
Fitzgerald Toussaint must be better this weekend and throughout the rest of the season. As a key cog in a team that relies heavily on its offense to outscore its opponent, Toussaint is going to be relied upon to produce consistently throughout the season.
This Saturday at home against UMass will be a great opportunity to break out. The Minutemen have allowed a staggering 516 yards rushing through just two games this season. If Toussaint doesn't have a good game on Saturday, he will surely have a tough time being productive against the Big Ten's elite defenses.