Michigan football begins spring practice on March 24. Leading up to that, we are previewing all of the position groups on the team. We have already analyzed the offensive line, wide receivers, defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. This edition of the preview will focus on the tight ends.
On the offensive side of the ball the tight end position appears to be one of Michigan’s strongest position groups. Despite losing All-American Jake Butt, the Wolverines have many options at their disposal.
In 2016 Michigan tight end Jake Butt received much of the attention from opposing defenses. Butt hauled in 46 receptions for 564 yards. However, Michigan utilized a variety of tight ends in different situations. Ian Bunting, Tyrone Wheatley, Sean McKeon, and Devin Asiasi all saw significant time contributing on offense.
The question remains, heading into 2017, whether offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and new passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton will utilize the tight end as much as Michigan has the past two seasons under Jim Harbaugh.
The Wolverines lose Jake Butt to the NFL Draft and Devin Asiasi to transfer (UCLA). However, for the first time in many years, they have significant depth at the position to fill the void.
Ian Bunting (RS Jr) will likely take the snaps with the first team offense. Bunting is a two year letterman having played in 21 games and has seen significant time blocking on running downs and in the passing game. For his career, Bunting has hauled in 10 receptions for 118 yards – the most of any returning tight end on the roster. Bunting is likely the most complete tight end on the roster and can be kept in the game on obvious run downs because he’s not deficient as a blocker. He should develop as the next great Michigan tight end under Jim Harbaugh.
Key Reserves: Tyrone Wheatley, Nick Eubanks, Zach Gentry, Sean McKeon.
Early enrollees: None
Michigan will have an experienced upper classman to assume the main tight end responsibilities. Bunting has shown flashes at time and the accumulation of more playing time should only help him develop further.
The reserves, such as Tyrone Wheatley and Sean McKeon will also play a significant part in the running game. If they can develop as more reliable receivers, this position group may turn into the strength of the offense as the season progresses.
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