Toledo's Michael Roberts pushes past an Eastern Michigan defender last year. Roberts hopes to have an expanded rule in 2016. BLADE PHOTO
After being used mostly as a third-down threat in the passing game last season, University of Toledo senior tight end Michael Roberts hopes to have an expanded role in the offense this season.
“Last year was really a year for me that I was really settling into a role,” Roberts said. “I was more of a third-down player. This year, I'm an every-down player and they are trying to get me the ball, they’re trying to have people run behind me, so I think I'm more of an every-down player this time around.”
In 2015, Roberts had 21 receptions for 234 yards and caught touchdown passes against Ball State, Eastern Michigan, UMass, and Central Michigan.
“He’s become a bigger part of the passing game,” UT coach Jason Candle said. “Last year, toward the end of the year, he was relied on heavily on third down. Moving forward he becomes a threat on all downs in the passing game. He’s done a really good job being a run blocker too.”
Roberts often played behind senior Alex Zmolik last season, so more playing time is on the horizon.
Not only has Roberts worked this offseason to become a better pass-catcher, but he is extremely focused on becoming a better run-blocker.
“I’ve been working with the offensive line after practice learning some of their skills to better help me inside the box,” Roberts said.
At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, Roberts possesses ideal size for the position. New UT tight ends coach Robby Discher said this was immediately apparent when he watched film.
“Before I came here, I watched some games on YouTube of Toledo and he stood out,” Discher said. “Mike is a phenomenal athlete. He’s everything you look for in a tight end as far as body type and athleticism.”
While his statistics didn’t necessarily stand out last season, Discher said Roberts still forces defenses into uncomfortable positions in coverage.
“The biggest thing is he is so versatile,” Discher said. “It’s hard for defenses to know where he is going to line up. Not only can he line up as a receiver or as a fullback/H-back type or as an attached tight end, but he can do all three at a very high level.
“It’s hard for a defense to line up because they don’t know exactly where he is going to be and we play so fast that it's hard for them. He’s a mismatch nightmare for a lot of teams. He’s got the skill set of a receiver, but the body of a tight end.”
Roberts is on the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s best tight end.
“It wasn't even on my mind until it happened,” Roberts said. “It is a great honor to be in such a great category with a lot of great talent and great people, but it is probably the furthest thing from my mind.”
Roberts is ready for this season and says as a senior he will savor each moment.
“Being a senior, it’s the last go around for everything,” Roberts said. “Everything you do is the last chance. I kind of use that to go hard every day and make my team better.”
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