Tim Massaquoi entered Michigan as one of the most heralded receivers in the class of 2001. Even though his combination of size and speed made him a physically imposing wideout prospect, some pundits predicted that he’d end up at tight before he ever set foot on campus in Ann Arbor. After spending his first year flanked to the outside, he moved down into the trenches during his sophomore season and began to learn the tight end position. Bennie Joppru’s stellar performance that year prevented Massaquoi from getting a ton of passes thrown his way, but he was able to get his feet wet and experience what it’s like to play the position.
At the onset of last season many, including Tim himself, were expecting huge things from the former Pennsylvania star. His athletic ability rivaled that of many of the best tight ends in the country and certainly was superior to that of many former Wolverines that played the position. However, things didn’t go as he, or many prognosticators, expected. After Joppru’s strong 2002 season with 53 receptions for 579 yards and 5 touchdowns, the production at the position took a significant dip in 2003 with Massaquoi notching 15 receptions for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was apparent that the year didn’t go as well as he expected it to, but Tim understands that it might have been a lot better had he capitalized on more of the plays that came his way. “I think I need to improve on making plays,” Massaquoi said. “I think I had a lot of opportunities last year and I missed on them. This year I’m going to try to take advantage of them. I think that process (playing in 2003) was all about gaining more experience. That experience helped me a lot. I learned a lot of things through trial and error and I’m going to try and take what I learned last season into this year.”
Getty Images/Tom Pidgeon
Massaquoi did a number of things in the off-season to help ensure that 2004 lives up to his personal expectations. That seems right on time since both he and Tyler Ecker will be counted on heavily to help ease the transition of a new quarterback into the fray. “I worked with the quarterbacks all off-season,” Massaquoi said. “I went and did my own catching drills, ran routes, and just did a lot of things to help build myself into a player that can make plays for this team. Our coaches are going to try to get us (he and Tyler Ecker) in there a lot more this year. I’m not sure exactly what we’re going to do, but so far in practice we’ve been doing a lot of things with both of us on the field at the same time.”
Getty Images/Otteo Greule
With two big athletic targets in the middle of the field, Michigan’s new field general will hopefully have a very comfortable safety net to fall back on. After watching what John Navarre went through the past couple years, Tim made it clear that all of the pass catchers will be doing their part to assure the latest signal caller’s success. “The quarterback always gets the blame for a loss,” Massaquoi said. “I saw it with John Navarre and I have seen the pressure these guys are going to be under this year. There is a lot of scrutiny and it is their ability to handle that that is going to be the difference.” While careful not to state whom he thought the new QB would be... it was clear that he and most other players felt it would be Matt Gutierrez. That said, he had praise for each of the young quarterbacks. “As far as I am concerned, I'm not really working with a new quarterback,” Massaquoi said. “We have been working with Matt since he first got here and we've gelled all summer. Naturally he has taken a leadership role. You wouldn’t really be able to tell that he is sophomore. To me he’s like a senior quarterback taking a leadership role. Everyone can see his qualities. Clayton has an incredible ball. His ball is coming in fast and hard…and Chad is going to be a great player when he develops and learns the offensive system.”
Getty Images/Donald Miralle
Regardless of who the new QB is, Tim expressed confidence that that guy will
be able to get him the ball. The key for him will be what he does with it when
it comes his way. As is the case with David Underwood, Tim is a young man with
all of the physical tools necessary to be one of the best. Whether his talents
manifest themselves in the form of production on the field remains to be seen.
There is precedent in Michigan’s program, however, for players overcoming
adversity and realizing success. While the source of Tim’s adversity is
very different from that of his predecessor, all he has to do is look back at
what Bennie Joppru was able to do late in his career to see that it can be done.
Fortunately for Michigan, Massaquoi doesn’t appear to have any doubts
about the impact he’ll have on the offense this year. He certainly has
put forth the effort to make that confidence seem well-founded.