After weeks of voting, and 32 total players being in the original bracket, Jake Butt has been crowned the Best Player of the Jim Harbaugh Era. The former Wolverine edged out Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson by taking 52% of our vote in the championship matchup.
Who’s the best player of the Jim Harbaugh era: Aidan Hutchinson or Jake Butt?
This poll is closed
Harbaugh adopted the Michigan tight end when he came to Ann Arbor in 2015. At that time, Butt was one of the top players, and he thrived in his new head coach’s tight end-heavy, pro-style offense.
As a junior, Butt had 651 yards on a staggering 51 receptions bringing in 3 touchdowns. That rivaled the play of two star receivers Jake Rudock also had in his arsenal with Jehu Chesson and Amarah Darboh. Still, Butt was arguably Rudock’s favorite target. He had 8 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown in Michigan’s first game of the Harbaugh era against Utah.
The 6-foot-6 tight end towered over just about anyone he lined up against, and was a stellar blocker on the outside for lead-back De’Veon Smith.
Later in the season, in a double-overtime classic against Indiana, the Michigan tight end had 7 receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. That included the game-tying 21-yard touchdown in the first overtime:
A week later, Butt surpassed the 1,000 career yard mark against Penn State. The accolades came along with the stats in 2015 where he was named to the All-Big Ten First-Team and was the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year. National recognition came in as he was a consensus All-American earning first-team honors from Sports Illustrated and CBS and second-team nominees from the AP and Sporting News.
Expectations were high heading into his senior year at Michigan in 2016 under new quarterback Wilton Speight. It was a team that is remembered fondly by Wolverines faithful as the first season in the Harbaugh era where it felt like the team was National Championship caliber.
Butt was one of the best weapons in college football in 2016, and it was evident from the jump. He had back-to-back 7-reception, 80+ yard performances against UCF and Colorado. Arguably the best game of his career came against UCF where he tacked on two touchdown receptions:
Butt and Harbaugh led the Wolverines past No. 8 Wisconsin and wins over Penn State and Michigan State. Before we knew it, Michigan was the No. 2 team in the country, and it felt like a Big Ten Championship and more were within reach for the first time in a long time in Ann Arbor.
It all came down to the final game of the season, as it always does, against the Ohio State Buckeyes. It was No. 2 Michigan vs No. 3 Ohio State, and Butt tallied 5 receptions for 58 yards. We all know what happened in overtime (JT was short) as the Wolverines’ Big Ten title and College Football Playoff hopes were vanquished.
Then came the Orange Bowl where Butt sadly tore his ACL for the second time while he was at Michigan. He was set to be an early NFL Draft pick, but fell to the fifth-round, being drafted by Denver Broncos. In 2018, he tore his ACL for a third time, and retired from playing football.
Still, Butt finished his career at Michigan with 1,646 yards on 138 receptions while scoring 11 times and averaging 11.9 yards per reception. In 2016, he also won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Meanwhile, he repeated as the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year. Many will remember him as the best tight end to ever play in Ann Arbor.
Now, he is still around the program. Butt called the Michigan Spring Game alongside Devin Gardner, and is an analyst on the Big Ten Network.
Longevity of success clearly played a role in this bracket and I’m not sure there was a player that fit that definition better than Jake Butt. For both years he was at Michigan under Harbaugh, he was the best tight end in the Big Ten and one of, if not the, best in the country. He’ll have a lasting impact with the program and with the fans, which is why he takes home the honor of the Best Player of the Jim Harbaugh Era.
Thanks to all of those who have followed along during the offseason and for casting your votes!