The Michigan Wolverines will be looking a bit different at the tight end position in 2019. Zach Gentry opted to enter the NFL Draft instead of heading back to U-M, and with his departure comes the opportunity for others to step up and fill the void.
The good news for Michigan is they may have depth at tight end.
Sean McKeon has stepped up in spring practices, and according to tight ends coach Sherrone Moore McKeon hasn’t dropped a pass.
“Sean as a blocker has been really good as he’s always been but his receiving ability, catching the ball in traffic, making the hard catch, making competitive catches to the point where Khaleke (Hudson) came up to me and said, ‘Man, Sean’s gotten so much better.’ I’m like, ‘yeah, he has.’ It’s a credit to him and what he’s done this offseason,” Moore said. “He really hasn’t had any drops. He’s going to pluck the ball, he’s going to make competitive catches so I’m really proud of him as a receiver.”
It isn’t just McKeon who’s impressed Moore, there’s also Nick Eubanks and incoming freshman Erick All.
Moore on All: “Extremely tough and he does some things for a freshman you don’t really expect. He doesn’t care who he’s going against, whether it’s Khaleke, whether it’s (Josh) Uche, in the run game, Glasgow, whoever’s covering him, he wants to win and he’s going to do everything he can to win. He’s tough as nails, he’s physical, and he catches everything. He has suction mitts for hands, so he’s gonna be a really good player for us.”
All, a 4-star product out of Ohio may have to gain some weight, according to tackle Jon Runyan, also adding that he loves watching him play and that All is going to be a special player for Michigan.
Jim Harbaugh mentioned last week that All has been receiving snaps at both tight end and wideout, so it remains to be seen where All will settle in long-term, but it’s a good bet he will always be a hybrid tight-end and even receive some h-back looks in Michigan’s new scheme under Josh Gattis.
But, the depth doesn’t stop there at tight end for Michigan, there’s Nick Eubanks.
Moore on Eubanks: “Nick has always kind of had that natural receiving ability but he’s taken a step in the run game to help himself and he really wants to be more physical and do those things. Having both those two has been really good.”
Eubanks will always get snaps because of his above average blocking prowess, and with the departue of Gentry, he may be able to have a breakout season. In 2018, Eubanks had a whooping 19.6 yards per reception, hauling in 8 balls for 157 yards and a touchdown. We haven’t seen precisely what Eubanks can do as a pass catcher, but if there’s a year we’ll find out, this will be the one.
Behind McKeon, Eubanks, and All, there’s Mustapha Muhammad and Luke Schoonmaker. Moore said both players needs to keep pushing themselves to get really good and that Muhammad is really showing up and getting comfortable. Muhammad, another former 4-star recruit, has incredibly impressive high school highlights and is a tight end that can stretch a defense and make difficult contested grabs.
The depth at wideout (when healthy) and tight end will hopefully translate into mismatches Michigan can exploit. “We’re gonna have so many playmakers it’s going to be hard to key on one guy,” Moore said. “If you want to try to stop Sean then you have to deal with Donovan (Peoples-Jones). If you stop Donovan then you have to deal with Nico (Collins), then you have to deal with Nick, then you have to deal with all the other guys we’ve got. Sean’s really taken the part of trying to be that security blanket for him (Shea Patterson), but most of the guys are doing a really good job.”
Michigan will still be using the tight ends a lot in 2019, and it’s possible Michigan will have spread formations with two tight ends being utilized. Their success is an important part of the overall production of the offense, and this unit has to be able to block and catch at a high level. The good news for Harbaugh, Gattis, and Moore is it looks like they have more than a couple options in line to contribute.