Entering the season, there probably weren't many who thought Drew Dileo would become one of the Michigan Wolverines' most valuable receivers.
That's not a knock on the junior, but let's face it, guys like Jeremy Gallon, Roy Roundtree and Devin Gardner were expected to do more as a receiver than Dileo, who has made important catches a staple of his game in 2012.
He's not flashy. He's certainly not the fastest, either. But Dileo gets the job done; he's added a wonderful dimension to the Wolverines' (6-3, 4-1) receiving corps, giving quarterback Denard Robinson (or Devin Gardner?) an option down the seam, down field, over or under.
Either way, Dileo has delivered.
During Saturday's 35-13 win over Minnesota, Big Ten Network announcers went there—they compared Dileo to Wes Welker, the New England Patriots' hustle man.
That may be a bit of an early and quite generic comparison, but it's hard to deny the thought of Dileo being one of the most diligent workers under coach Brady Hoke.
Has Drew Dileo surprised you?
Dileo averages 20.4 yards per grab, two more than Big Ten leader Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin. However, Abbrederis has 37 receptions compared to Dileo's 14. Abbrederis is a huge part of the Badgers' offense, whereas Dileo is more of a fill-in player/X-Factor for Michigan.
But that doesn't negate the leaps and bounds Dileo has made since last season, when he had just a pair of multicatch outings (two catches, twice) to complement nine receptions, 121 receiving yards and two scores.
So far, Dileo has three games in which he's made at least three catches:
He had three for 91 yards in a 63-13 victory over UMass, four for 92 yards during a 12-10 win over Michigan State, and four for 69 yards and a score against Minnesota.
His catches aren't always highlight reel-worthy, but Dileo continuously finds ways to get open when the main options are blanketed in coverage, evidenced by his 45-yard touchdown reception against the Gophers.
Dileo slyly made his way down field and cut his way to open area of real estate in the end zone.
He wasn't just "open," there weren't any defenders within reach. He could have read the morning paper prior to hauling in the deep bomb from Gardner, who relieved an injured Robinson on Saturday.
Making the most of opportunities
The Wolverines needed to shed a four-year losing streak to Michigan State in the worst way. For the past 48 months, the Wolverines were constantly reminded of the Spartans in-state success.
The game wasn't beautifully executed by either team, but Dileo made do when targeted; his 15-yard catch on 3rd-and-11 extended a drive in the second quarter and set up Brendan Gibbons' 24-yard field goal.
As it turned out, points were at a premium Oct. 20. Dileo's catch made a difference.
But he had another which proved to be all the more helpful.
Late in the fourth quarter, Dileo snagged a 20-yarder on 2nd-and-11, giving Michigan another first down and the opportunity for Gibbons to nail a 38-yard, game-winning field goal, which he did.
Dileo doesn't have to be a star, but he could be one for Michigan
The Wolverines are never short on high-profile athletes. With the returning players complementing a strong group of recruits, Michigan stands to be one of the most athletic teams in the Big Ten next season.
Don't forget about receiving recruits Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes, who could see early playing time in 2013.
Dileo will be a senior, a leader. He doesn't necessarily have to be a jaw-dropping specimen of an athlete to cap a respectable career at Michigan.
However, judging by what he's shown this year, Dileo could play the role as one of Michigan's top two wideouts in 2013.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81