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Michigan 2023 TE Recap: Mismatches help guide Wolverines to National Championship

Michigan’s tight ends played a huge role in their offensive success this season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Erik Bean Erik is a lifelong Wolverines fan born and raised in West Michigan. He covers a variety of topics related to Michigan football including game analysis and recruiting.

The Wolverines have developed several impressive tight ends in recent years. Heading into the 2023 season, it was expected that the coaching staff was going to lean heavily on the tight end group.

Michigan was determined to be more balanced on offense this season, meaning the tight ends were going to be featured more in the pass game. While the Wolverines leaned on the run game late in the season, the tight ends can be credited as one of the best position groups on the team.

Colston Loveland

It became apparent towards the end of the 2022 season that Colston Loveland was a budding star. He was thrusted into a primary role while Luke Schoonmaker dealt with injuries and performed at a high level. There were large expectations for Loveland heading into the 2023 season as Michigan’s TE1, and he delivered.

Loveland ended the season second to only WR Roman Wilson in reception yards with 45 catches for 649 yards and four touchdowns. He was largely sure handed and one of McCarthy’s primary targets when he needed a big play. Loveland was also excellent in the run bocking, playing fast and physical. When the Wolverines desperately needed a big play, Loveland delivered with highlight reel performances against Ohio State and Washington.

Luckily for Michigan, they will get Loveland back for at least one more season. Despite his veteran playstyle, he is only a sophomore and will not be able to go pro yet. Despite the amount of departures on both sides of the ball following this season, the coaching staff and fans alike should be excited to have the First Team All-Big Ten star in the fold with next year’s daunting schedule.

A.J. Barner

The Wolverines lost Schoonmaker to the league and Erick All to the transfer portal last year. Outside of Loveland, it was unknown the impact Michigan’s tight end room would have this year. The Wolverines have always benefitted from depth at the position and it was unsure if they would have that. When it was announced that Indiana TE AJ Barner was following his IU QB Jack Tuttle to Michigan, the Wolverines had officially secured their TE2.

While Barner didn’t have quite the season Loveland did, he was another mismatch nightmare for opposing secondaries. He ended the season with 22 catches for 249 yards and one touchdown. He put up similar numbers to when he was at Indiana, being viewed as potentially one of the best tight ends in Hoosier history.

Barner’s future at Michigan is unknown. He accepted an invitation to the Reece’s Senior Bowl, meaning he is likely leaning towards making the jump to the NFL. Barner does retain one more year of eligibility, leaving the door open for a return to Ann Arbor. Should he decide to stay at Michigan, the Wolverine’s will have one of the best tight end rooms in the country next season.

Max Bredeson

Most players without flashy stats tend to fly under the radar, even if their impact on the field played a huge role in a team’s success. That is surely the case for former walk-on Max Bredeson. The junior had played quarterback in high school, but was informed when he got on campus in Ann Arbor that he would be transitioning to the tight end room. Despite a change in position, Bredeson made the most of his opportunity.

Given his size compared to Loveland and Barner, it was apparent that he would not be featured as much in the passing game. However, Bredeson was too good and too physical of a player to keep off the field, ultimately transitioning into a fullback role. Not every college football team regularly utilizes a fullback, but it was a good fit for a Michigan team that likes to run the ball. Behind many of Blake Corum’s goal-line touchdowns is a bull rushing Bredeson leading the way.

Outside of run blocking, Bredeson was pretty quiet on offense this season. He ended the year with two catches for 19 yards, a decrease in production from his sophomore season. Despite being quiet on the stat sheet, his contribution to the team did not go unnoticed. Bredeson was named a nominee for The Burlsworth Trophy, given to the most oustanding FBS college football player who began his career as a walk-on. The trophy was ultimately awarded to Missouri’s Cody Schrader, but nonetheless, Bredeson received some much deserved recognition. He will surely play a huge role in Michigan’s run game next season.

Other noteworthy TEs

  • Marlin Klein: Despite the top three being the most impactful tight ends during Michigan’s 15-0 run, others contributed throughout the season on both offense and special teams. One of those players was Klein. Although only having one catch on the season, he did so in the rivalry matchup against MSU, with an eight yard grab. The German born sophomore could be utilized in the passing game more in the 2024 season should Barner depart.
  • Matthew Hibner: The big-bodied senior tight end primarily saw the field on special teams this season. Despite a limited role, Hibner made the most of his situation. He and LB Jimmy Rolder laid a massive hit on Alabama’s kickoff return man Kendrick Law in the Rose Bowl. Hibner also had one other tackle on the season.