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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Depth chart analysis: Tight end

By Michael Rothstein

Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis heading into the offseason.

If any position sees an uptick in production next season, it will be Michigan’s tight ends. While the group saw more time this season than any of the prior four, as the Wolverines transition into a full-on pro style offense, they will be relied upon every play to do something, be it block or run routes.

It is a group, though, which still needs more bodies as well as more experience to be what Michigan will truly be looking for at the position as things continue to evolve.

Jake Butt
Jake Butt is unlikely to redshirt because of his talent and the lack of depth at tight end
The starters: Sophomores Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams. Listing two starters here because of how Michigan likely is going to use its tight ends from here forward. Since Brady Hoke and his staff arrived in Ann Arbor in the beginning of 2011, they have stressed how they would like to incorporate the use of multiple tight ends into their offense, and Funchess and Williams serve two different roles. Funchess is a potential matchup mess for opponents, a 6-foot-5 guy who while learning blocking can run routes like a wide receiver. Williams is more of a blocker and while he didn’t run many routes last season, his role is to provide extra protection on the offensive line.

The depth: Freshmen Jake Butt and Khalid Hill. Juniors Jordan Paskorz, Chris Eddins, Nate Allspach and Dylan Esterline. If you’re looking for two candidates not to redshirt their first year at Michigan, you can start here with Butt and Hill. Other than Paskorz, who has never cracked the two-deep, the rest of the options are walk-ons. So there is ample room here for Butt and Hill to receive early playing time.

The question mark: Before last spring, a former Michigan tight end told me to watch out for Mike Kwiatkowski as someone who could make an impact. Will that happen again? From a size perspective, Allspach has an intriguing frame at 6-foot-6, 244 pounds and could be that candidate this season. But considering Michigan’s relative inexperience at the position, it is an area a walk-on could make a push. Spring practice will be critical here.

The bottom line: While there are not the major questions from a season ago at tight end, there is still a lot of inexperience. Funchess cooled off after a strong start, catching no more than one pass in any Big Ten game. He has shown the potential, though, with a good offseason, to become a big, inviting target over the middle for quarterback Devin Gardner. Williams should improve with an offseason as well, which means the Wolverines know they at least have starters who have shown something in games. But things are still really thin here.