Heading into the 2014 season Michigan seemed set at the tight end position. A returning sophomore tight end, Jake Butt, showed a lot of promise and chemistry with two quarterbacks last season. With Devin Funchess moving over to tight end, Butt was going to be the man.
Now, it'll be a sticky situation for a the first few weeks of the season at least.
Tearing his ACL before spring, Butt is expected to miss most of the non-conference schedule. Luckily, if that's even possible, he hurt himself at the right time. He won't miss too much time and should be ready to go in time for the conference schedule.
We all know what Michigan is missing in Butt, but who steps up in his absence?
The Players (Listed in order by class)
|RS Freshman||Khalid Hill|
|RS Junior||Keith Heitzman|
Again, much like most of the offense, outside of Butt, experience is hard to come by. Which, in reality, is a bit of a concern. Not only are the tight ends important for the passing game, they also help tremendously with the running game as well. Outside of Hill, catching passes aren't exactly the strong suit of Heitzman or Williams. Williams will be covered later.
Thankfully for Michigan, Butt's absence is only for a few weeks. So it's a temporary band-aid, so to speak.
2013 Statistics (If Applicable)
Remember when I said that Williams is not a pass-catching tight end? Yeah, it's pretty apparent he's not here. I know Butt's statistics last year don't exactly classify him as "the man," but you have to look at the body of work towards the end of the season. He came up huge in many instances (especially against Ohio State). Again, Butt won't be playing week one, someone needs to step up.
2014 Maize n Brew Projected Depth Chart
With Butt (One TE Formations)
|TE1||Jake Butt||Khalid Hill|
|TE2||A.J. Williams||Keith Heitzman
Without Butt (One TE Formations)
Without Butt (Two TE Formations)
|TE1||A.J. Williams||Keith Heitzman|
What really happens when you go into a two TE formation without depth on one side during Butt's absence? Who knows, let's hope the injury bug doesn't decide to bite a little harder. Clearly, this could be a big year for Khalid Hill who could very well capitalize on the opportunity to see a little bit more playing time than usual early in the season.
Again, Williams hasn't been known to be a pass catcher, so someone will need to step up.
Three Big Questions
1. Why isn't Williams known as a pass catcher? Isn't that kind of important for a tight end?
Not necessarily, all throughout high school Williams played with his hands in the turf, so he didn't see many passes thrown his way. The Michigan coaching staff liked his size and wanted him onboard. Let's get something straight: Williams is a run-blocking tight end. The coaching staff are just trying to help his hands catch up to the rest of his ability due to the need for a pass-catcher. Not every tight end is athletic with sounds hands like a Jimmy Graham, the less publicized tight ends also get it done in run blocking game, too.
2. What about Ian Bunting?
Ian Bunting is in the raw stages of a collegiate tight end. Like Devin Funchess, Bunting was used mainly out wide as a receiver and never played with his hands in the turf. As a tight end, he is at a disadvantage if he had to play his first season. This is why a redshirt year is likely, he still has a long way to go mechanically to get caught up. Not to mention making some weight games before the season starts. However, if someone else were to be injured, they made need to have him ready just in case.
3. Will the tight ends miss Devin Funchess?
Yes, and no. Mainly in the depth and pass catching areas. The major concerns wouldn't be concerns at all if Butt were healthy, but that is obviously not the case. Thankfully the schedule bodes well for Michigan, as they are far superior than most of their non-conference opponents, that they could get through without any major issues.