Grading the 2013 Class: Tight Ends and Offensive Linemen

Gregory Shamus

We decided to grade out the 2013 class as it winds to a close-today, we have the offensive line and tight ends. Tell us what you think!

TIGHT END

If there is one position group in this class that has been overlooked more than any others, it's the tight ends. The safeties, defensive tackles, o-line, and quarterbacks have all been receiving a lot of fanfare (especially the o-line), but the tight ends look excellent, based on Michigan's needs.

The second commitment in the class was Khalid Hill, a U-Back type from Detroit. While there isn't anything flashy about Hill, I think he's a very solid addition to the class. At 6'3, 240ish, he already has the body type to get in and play early. While this is the same role that Funchess was recruited for, Devin is still a long way away from getting his blocking and weight up to par, a hole that Hill may be able to fill. Hill is also an excellent receiver; he's shown strong hands and nifty route running ability through his highlights and camps. He's not likely to provide the same type of excitement that Funchess has shown, but he'll be a steady contributor.

So with Hill, Williams, and Funchess, we got 3 different types of tight ends over 2 years. Williams provides a bulky in-line blocker, Hill a versatile motion man and subtle receiving threat, and Funchess a WR/TE crossover. Jake Butt, then, provided the most all-around amalgamation of the three. For reference, I think Butt is comparable to Jaron Dukes as far as receiving ability goes (perhaps a bit better, even). He just also happens to be 30-40 pounds heavier and a capable blocker. He started off in the rankings as a fringe top-100 type, and I think that's where he belongs.

Michigan will have sufficient depth to redshirt one of these guys next year, but I'm not sure they'll want to. Just like Williams and Funchess, these two guys have the niche ability to carve out a role in the offense during their freshman campaigns.

TX TE Durham Smythe recently decommitted from Texas, and Michigan is rumored to have gotten in touch about setting up an official. Were Smythe to join the team, Michigan would be getting another versatile receiving threat in the mold of Funchess. I'm not sure the chances of that happening are very good, but still..ALL THE TIGHT ENDS.

Grade: B+

I really like these guys, but it's hard to give an A since Hill's best quality is..reliable. Don't get me wrong, Michigan needs reliable, but that's not exactly exciting. I suppose adding Smythe would bump this up to an A, but it would also seem a little redundant. Still. WOO TIGHT ENDS /WHIPSAW

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Another banner home run year for offensive linemen recruiting. Of the 9, I've been really impressed with all but 2 (Dawson and Bars). Of the 9, I'm willing to bet that a couple will transfer, a few will be career backups, and 3-4 will form the core of a very, very solid offensive line for years to come.

But to focus more closely on this class, one sees a potentially complete line in and of itself. With 2 tackles (Tuley-Tillman, Fox), 2 guards (Bosch, Dawson), and a center (Kugler). All but the center committed on the weekend of Ace-thritis back in February.

Bosch was the first to set off the festivities, and was a bit of a surprise. He had played his cards very close to the vest, and many believed he was going to explore his myriad of national offers (including Alabama, Notre Dame, and Stanford) before settling in on a favorite. Instead, he revealed that he had been planning to commit on his visit for weeks. When scouting Bosch, I was very impressed by his hand use and mean streak (which, yes, will be a redundant theme among these guys).

Later in the afternoon, Michigan faithful received word that Dawson had committed with fellow Technician Jourdan Lewis. While that would waver when he attempted to set up a visit with Florida during the season, he recently rejoined the class nonetheless. Dawson gets off the ball quickly and has blown up several camps, but (at least in his junior highlights), doesn't show the proverbial intensity that I think is a fundamental trait of top-tier linemen. I'm hoping that his senior clips will belie that.

That night, around the end of Michigan's home victory over Ohio State in basketball, we received word that CO OL Chris Fox had committed. This was less surprising than the other two, as he had been considered a Michigan lean for quite some time, but the news was nonetheless welcome. The kicker- he wasn't even on campus! When scouting him, I was impressed by his understanding of leverage, his relentless pursuit (mostly on the defensive side of the ball), and the way he effectively uses his legs, ala 2012 signee Kyle Kalis. IMO, Fox is in contention with Bosch and Kugler for the best lineman in this class.

Not wanting to miss out on the festivities, IL OL Logan Tuley-Tillman announced his intention to come on board the next day, on a Sunday evening. Tuley-Tillman had perhaps the best offer list of the group, a testament to his upside. Although he too was considered a Michigan lean, Tuley-Tillman flirted heavily with Alabama before deciding upon the Maize and Blue. LTT doesn't receive quite the hype on recruiting sites as the other guys, but his raw ability gives him perhaps the highest ceiling. When breaking down his highlights, I noted many technical flaws. However, I'm very impressed with the strides he made between his junior and senior years, as well as his continued drive to improve. A lot of people get excited about kids with high ceilings, but it's somewhat rare to see a kid have the work ethic to get there. In LTT, I think we have that.

The following weekend, PA OL Patrick Kugler came on a visit, and somewhat surprisingly committed to top off the class. This was extra tasty for Michigan fans as many Sparties believed Kugler was going to commit on the following day (when he was scheduled to visit East Lansing), headlining their class. Instead, a short-handed Michigan staff (Hoke wasn't even there) reeled him in and the trip never materialized. Kugler, whose father used to coach O-Line for the Steelers and now is the head man at UTEP, is further along in his development than any of his counterparts. He's a tenacious drive blocker with the athleticism and smarts necessary to anchor the line for years to come. While I would expect Miller to take over the spot next year, I wouldn't be sure that he'll hold off Kugler for all of his career.

Since Dawson's flirtations with other schools, and the now near certainty that Lewan is leaving, the staff has reached out to many other O-Linemen across the country. Some guys, like UCLA Commit Kenny Lacy or MD OL Na'Ty Rodgers, have since fallen out of the picture, but four main guys seem to remain. IN OL Dan Samuelson (currently 'committed' to Nebraska') looks like a future guard, and came into town the weekend of the 14th with the rest of the commits. CO OL Dan Skipper (currently 'committed' to Tennessee), a mammoth tackle at 6'10, was also in town that weekend. CA OL Cameron Hunt (currently 'committed' to Cal) has been talking about taking a January official visit. The only uncommitted guy is PA OL Jaryd Jones-Smith, a bit of a late riser who will be taking an official to Michigan in January, as well. Of the 4, Michigan seems to have room for one. If I had to guess, I'd say Skipper takes that spot.

GRADE: A

Again, A+ will be given out to college ready players. The nature of the position makes that highly unlikely for all besides maybe Kugler, who will be playing the most complex and intricate position on the line. Still, It's very hard not to see Michigan sporting one of the best offensive lines in the country in 2-3 years with the talent that Hoke and staff have recruited in the 2012 and 2013 classes. With the early addition of Denzel Ward, as well as perhaps FL OL Mason Cole and MI OL Tommy Doles in 2014, the trend doesn't look to be stopping.

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