Michigan Football 2018 Preview: Tight Ends

Michigan Football 2018 Preview: Tight Ends

Football

Michigan Football 2018 Preview: Tight Ends

SET-UP

Its quite possibly Michigan’s most stacked group on the whole team — and certainly is on the offensive side of the ball.

The Wolverines lost two tight ends to transfer, with fifth-year Ian Bunting heading to Cal as a grad transfer in the winter, and fourth-year Tyrone Wheatley Jr. announcing just a few weeks ago that he has chosen to transfer to Stony Brook. Also, position coach Greg Frey, who oversaw both the tight ends and the offensive tackles, headed to his alma mater, Florida State, to coach the offensive line under new head coach Willie Taggart.

But, Michigan returns and adds at the position.

Incoming is new position coach Sherrone Moore, who coached tight ends at Central Michigan and is an ace recruiter. Returning are both parts of Michigan’s two-headed monster, in Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon. McKeon led the team in receptions with 31 a year ago, and was third with 301 yards. Gentry was second in receiving yards with 303. It was just the first year that both saw the field, with Gentry being a converted quarterback and McKeon having a redshirt year in 2016.

Also returning is Nick Eubanks, who had two receptions for 61 yards in Michigan’s season opener against Florida in 2017. However, he only appeared in four games, as he was limited with injury.

The Wolverines also add true freshmen Mustapha Muhammad and Luke Schoonmaker. Muhammad is considered a lock to see some playing time his freshman year, and the ceiling is extremely high for Schoonmaker. Also, preferred walk-on Carter Selzer returns and could break into the rotation, a la Michael Jocz two years back.

Superlatives:

most Likely to be position MVP

Zach Gentry is a mismatch for anyone, at a reported 6-foot-8, 263-pounds. Now that he’s starting to come into his own and understand the position, the onus will be on defensive backs and safeties to try to stop him — but if Michigan quarterbacks can put the ball where only he can get it, there’s pretty much no way to stop him if he has his game figured out.

Coaches say:

Per Jim Harbaugh:

“It’s just constant improvement from the time he left the quarterback position and really started playing wide receiver. And then into the slot and down to putting a hand on the ground – his progression as a blocker, his progression as a pass catcher. Knowing his assignments. He’s one of those guys that plays hard every play. And knows what he’s supposed to do. And more and more the subtleties of the game are coming his way – the techniques, the fundamentals.

“Sherrone Moore is doing an incredible job with him. He has been a tremendous addition to our staff.

“Cannot say enough good things about Zach. A continuous ascending player from the time we switched him to tight end.”

**

“The time in his freshman year when the scout team was really asking for him as a receiver, he started having success, really immediately as a wide receiver. The difference in his physique is night and day as well. He’s very, very confident. He’s got the chin-bob. He’s got this! And he hasn’t stopped looking to get better at any time since he’s been here. Timing up his jumps right now is something he’s really trying to perfect and master. Catching the ball at its highest point. Not taking it on the way down. But the hands are there. He’s running well. He’s in tremendous shape right now. So it’s all very positive for Zach Gentry.”

Per Sherrone Moore: 

“Since he was in high school,” “I went all the way back to him playing basketball in high school. I like to watch all of guys coming out of high school – watch their freshman year, watch and see how they’ve progressed.

“But watching those guys progress from even when they were in high school, it’s really cool to see their progression and where they’re at now.”

***

“He’ll tell me 265, but – 262, 263. If you’re 6-8 and you’re 260-something pounds, you’re doing something right. And he doesn’t look it – he just looks like he’s thin, so he’s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s been really cool to see him go from the transition of quarterback to wide receiver and now tight end.

“I don’t want him to get any bigger, but I’m just saying his frame will fill out even more.”

Mr. Dependable

sean mckeon michigan purdue

Without a doubt, Sean McKeon.

Heralded heading into last season as Michigan’s most consistent, well-rounded tight end, McKeon showed that talent off in 2017, and led the team in receptions as a result.

It was just his first year of playing time at the college level, so expect him to take a big step forward in 2018.

Breakout player

If he remains healthy, Nick Eubanks.

Eubanks is listed on the MGoBlue.com roster at 6-foot-5, 252-pounds, but Sean McKeon recently mentioned that he thinks he’s closer to 260-pounds.

Considered to be a deep ball receiving threat, we already saw what Eubanks could do in that regard in the season opener of 2017. He provides a different kind of vertical element due to his speed that could be an additional mismatch, to go along with the other TEs.

Per Sherrone Moore: 

“Nick’s been really, really good, and he’s taken a step forward – even for him, from the spring. He’s just continued to indulge himself in the playbook. Be really good. He’s a special athlete, and he’s going to be able to do a lot of things, a lot of weapons that I think people are going to really enjoy to see.”

Freshman to watch

spring game

Mustapha Muhammad.

Schoonmaker could need a year to get acclimated to the system, a la Sean McKeon, and Muhammad brings a willingness to take on the blocking element of the position. Like Devin Asiasi before him, expect to see the former four-star from Texas to get on the field and exceed the four games allotted for the true freshmen.

Per Sherrone Moore:

“His mindset as a freshman – it’s pretty uncanny. It’s just natural for him. Everything’s natural for him. He runs routes very fluid. He’s very physical. And when you see him and you meet him, he’s the nicest kid in the world. And, on the football field, he turns a little bit of a different cheek, which you really, really like.

“He’s been awesome to work with. But he and Luke are going to be an exciting pairing in the future.”

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