Don’t look now, but Colorado State might have another Hollywood-esque receiver on their hands.
Junior Michael Gallup may not possess the same flair in front of the camera as former Ram Rashard Higgins did, but the way Gallup impacts the game is beginning to look awfully familiar.
Having gone through three quarterbacks in Nick Stevens, Faton Bauta, and Collin Hill, Gallup’s 36 receptions for 570 yards and five touchdowns eight games into the season will not jump off the page like a Biletnikoff Award finalist’s would.
For example, eight games into the 2014 season, Higgins had 59 receptions for 1,137 yards and 12 touchdowns. That is not much of a comparison.
But when compared to Higgins’ 2015 season, when Stevens was at the helm as opposed to Garrett Grayson, Higgins had 46 receptions for 618 yards and five touchdowns. Granted Higgins missed the game against Minnesota in 2015, meaning those totals are only representative of seven games.
However, Higgins’ totals through eight games played are only boosted by an extra four catches for 49 yards. While the numbers favor Higgins, they do leave Gallup’s first season with CSU reminiscent of Higgins’ last, and his coaches have taken notice.
“(Gallup) has made plays with the ball in his hands after he makes the catch,” said CSU offensive coordinator Will Friend. “I think he’s a guy that can make plays in a hurry for you offensively and that’s been a big plus. Which is similar to what we had with Rashard in the past and he’s kind of doing those things for us right now. We have to keep him going and he’s got to keep doing what he’s been doing to improve and get better down the stretch.”
In the past three games, Gallup has hauled in 19 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns, all of which are over 30-yards.
It took awhile for Gallup to heat up, having just four catches for 38 yards in the first two games, but since the matchup with Northern Colorado in week three, Gallup has had at least four catches for 50 yards in every game and scored in five of the last six.
Some of Gallup’s slow start can be attributed to a lingering ankle injury, and also the fact there has been three different quarterbacks throwing him the ball.
“It was a little bit tricky,” Gallup said about having to transition from quarterback to quarterback. “All of the quarterbacks have a different type of arm strength, so you had to know if he was going to throw it all the way up or just throw a back-shoulder ball to you. But I think we’ve come a long way and Nick’s doing a great job for us.”
Since Stevens recaptured the starting job when Collin Hill went down with a torn ACL in week six, Gallup has continued to keep the opposing secondary on edge.
“He’s able to make plays with the ball in the air and also once he gets the ball,” Stevens said. “You’ll see him spinning and jumping over guys and stuff like that. That explosiveness, but also dependability; you can rely on him to go catch a ball on third down, just past the sticks. You can just drop it down to him and can depend on him to get the first down.”
It’s not just the offensive side of the ball that has noticed Gallup’s recent play. Going up against him every day in practice are the likes of safety Jake Schlager and cornerback Tyree Simmons. Both have become well aware of the astonishing athletic ability Gallup possesses.
“He’s got the body of a division one college wide receiver,” Schlager said. “He’s a guy, great, talented player, great person, but he’s definitely progressed. You can tell from camp to now. He’s definitely picked up on the offense and works every single day to get better at his part (by running) better, crisper routes. But he’s an athlete and athletes go out and make plays.”
“He’s explosive,” Simmons added. “When we need a play, we say ‘hey mike, we need you,’ and he be like, ‘I got you,’ and then he goes on the field and he’s going get that first down. Or he’s going to catch that first down and he’s going to make it a touchdown. He’s going to start it off and get that momentum going. And then he comes off the field and he’s like, ‘I got you baby,’ and we’re all like ‘ight.’”
At 6-feet 1-inches and 195 pounds, Gallup may not posses the kind of size on the field that makes you turn your head, but he more than makes up for it with his 4.4-second 40-yard dash time.
Gallup has never been questioned as an athlete, and maybe shined brightest in high school.
At Monroe High School in Monroe, Georgia, Gallup didn’t always play receiver. In fact, he spent most of time throwing to receivers as the quarterback or hitting them as a safety.
And football wasn’t the only sport he dabbled in.
Gallup earned 16 total varsity letters, four each in football, baseball, basketball and track and field.
“In high school I really didn’t even play that much wide receiver,” Gallup said. “It was a lot of quarterback, played a lot of safety, and then playing those other sports, I mean, that just kept me in shape for them and then helping me do just a bunch of different things on the field.”
Coming out of high school Gallup held offers from five Southeastern Conference schools, two from the Big 12 and one from the Big Ten, according to Rivals.com.
After spending two years at Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, Gallup has found home at Colorado State, and a large part of why is because of what Mike Bobo’s offense did for current Cincinnati Bengal’s all-pro receiver A.J. Green.
“I’m pretty positive I made the right choice coming to CSU,” Gallup said. “Bobo coached at Georgia and put A.J. Green in the same spot I’m in. I looked at that and said, ‘He got the ball a lot, I like to get the ball a lot,’ so it was a good move for me.”
“I like to (model my game after Green),” Gallup continued. “I love watching A.J. Green, always wanted to play just like him.”
A.J. Green may not be the greatest comparison at the moment, but Michael Gallup posses all the tools necessary to have his name mentioned in the same sentence as Rashard Higgins.
Collegian Sports Editor Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman