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Michigan’s tight ends won’t be forgotten in new scheme

How involved will Michigan’s tight ends be in the new offense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Western Michigan at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines may have a new offensive coordinator and a new scheme, but that doesn’t mean the tight end unit will go to the wayside in 2019.

Ever since offensive coordinator Josh Gattis was hired he has repeatedly said he’s going to find ways to maximize the strengths of Michigan’s play-makers so they can thrive in his offense.

When it comes to the tight end position, Gattis believes the combination of Sean Mckeon and Nick Eubanks could be the best in the nation. “Those two guys, I believe, are hands down the best tight ends in the country,” Gattis said on Wednesday. Gattis also said that McKeon had one of the best springs he’s ever seen of a tight end and that Eubanks is playing at an unbelievable level right now.

“Coach Gattis trusts us to go and make a big play,” McKeon said on Friday. “He’s not afraid to have two tight ends out there even with all the receivers we have. Definitely gives us a lot of confidence he trusts us to make big plays.”

Michigan may be running a pro-spread system, but that doesn’t mean the two TE’s won’t be utilized a steady amount within the scheme. Tight ends will still be asked to block aplenty and Gattis trusts McKeon and Eubanks to make plays in the passing game.

McKeon is gearing up for more work as a pass-catcher in the ‘Speed in Space’ scheme, shedding body fat and adding muscle to “be quicker and faster for the spread”. As for Eubanks, he has the speed, and he could most definitely thrive in space. Eubanks caught 8 passes for 157 yards and 1 TD in 2018, averaging an insane 19.6 yards per reception.

McKeon mentioned that he has watched a lot of film of Iowa’s lethal TE duo of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom were selected in the Top 20 of the 2019 NFL Draft. “I think me and Nick could definitely be up there as good as they are,” McKeon said. That is a bold statement, as Fant had 39 receptions for 519 yards and 7 TD’s in 2018 while Hockenson tallied 49 receptions for 760 yards and 6 scores.

The best tight ends have become hybrids, just look at the likes of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Rob Gronkowski, Kyle Rudolph in the NFL. All of those players have the ability to block well and then become a go-to target in the passing game. That’s what Michigan is inching/marching towards. Having athletic tight ends that can get dirty in the trenches on one play, and line up in the slot out or out wide of a spread formation the next.

One thing’s for sure, McKeon believes in himself and Eubanks, and their offensive coordinator does too. Expect to see 2 tight ends on the field a lot in 2019.

Worth noting: The article focuses on Eubanks and McKeon, but TE’s Mustapha Muhammad, Luke Schoonmaker and Erick All will get snaps this season. Gattis will find a way to utilize all of them to varying degrees.

- Twitter- @WoodsFootball