Thursday, January 9, 2014
The good, the bad, the future: Tight ends
By Chantel Jennings
Considering that just a few years ago the tight end position didn’t even exist on Michigan’s team and the Wolverines had this season’s Big Ten tight end of the year, this might be the position group that has grown the most under Brady Hoke and this staff.
Devin Funchess displayed excellent athleticism as a pass-catching tight end, but his hands and blocking leave room for improvement.
THE GOOD: Sophomore Devin Funchess didn’t really impress too many people a season ago, and his ridiculous athleticism seemed underutilized. By allowing him to get his hand off the ground a bit more and get more involved in the pass game in 2013, he became a much, much better player and contributor for the Wolverines. Funchess was the team’s second-leading receiver this season, catching 49 passes for 748 yards and six touchdowns. And freshman tight end Jake Butt, who came on to the scene a bit late, finished the season as the team’s third-leading receiver with 20 catches for 235 yards and two TDs. Both Funchess and Butt will return next season as go-to guys, and on top of that this group returns even more depth. Sophomore A.J. Williams, minus his one-game suspension, was a consistent guy for the Wolverines. Walk-on Jordan Paskorz was a name that was brought up a few times, and Michigan also still has freshman Khalid Hill, who redshirted this season.
THE BAD: Funchess, for being as athletic as he is, had far too many drops this season. If there was any kind of bobble or pressure, chances were that Funchess wouldn’t be able to corral the pass. This obviously needs to change if Funchess wants to be an even bigger contributor for the Wolverines. And as a whole group, the blocking needs to be more physical. The Michigan wide receivers -- specifically Jeremy Gallon -- were often lauded for their physical blocking, but when it came to the tight ends the coaches kept talking about how far they were from the “expectation for the position.” If the wide receivers are being physical blockers, then there’s absolutely no reason why the tight ends shouldn’t be, too.
THE FUTURE: This group could see serious improvement during the offseason as every major contributor returns. Outside of the quarterback spot and the mike and will linebackers, tight end is the only position where that’s true. Additionally, the Wolverines will only continue to add depth as Ian Bunting will enroll this fall. The 6-foot-6, 223-pound tight end recruit is a former basketball and volleyball player, so he has good hands and his height will bring another tall, receiver-like tight end who will help this group.