Tight end has always been a position frequently used in a Jim Harbaugh offense, but we could see that usage change a bit this fall in Josh Gattis’ new offensive system. Zach Gentry is gone to the NFL, but there is still plenty of talent at the position. Here are five questions at tight end for Michigan in 2019:
Can Sean McKeon become a true No. 1?
In 2017, McKeon came out of nowhere to have a very productive season. He caught 31 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, his production dropped significantly, down to 14 catches for 122 yards and a score.
He will be the clear No. 1 target at tight end and won’t have Gentry stealing targets, but it’s tough to say how reliable he will be. He certainly has the ability to become a go-to target for Shea Patterson, but how big of jump can he take?
McKeon will likely become a steady option in the passing game, but don’t expect an All-Big Ten type performance.
Will Nick Eubanks continue to be the deep-threat at TE?
This one is easy: yes. Eubanks has battled injuries and couldn’t get very far up the depth chart last year, but he’s oozing with passing-catching ability. He’s shown he can be effective on long balls and is more likely to be a red zone target than McKeon. Last season, he caught eight passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, expect those numbers to be much bigger this time around.
Will the new offense diminish the role of its tight ends?
This is probably the biggest question surrounding the position. We don’t truly know what the finished offensive product will look like, but based on what we’ve heard, it would make a lot of sense for the tight end position to become less of a focal point in Gattis’ offense. After all, his slogan is speed in space, and tight ends aren’t exactly known for being the fastest bunch.
The offense isn’t going to become a full on spread, so tight ends will still be valuable, but don’t be surprised to see the wide receivers be the biggest benefactors of the new offense and not tight ends.
Who is the team’s third-string TE?
After McKeon and Eubanks, the depth chart is crowded with young players that we don’t know too much about yet.
Mustapha Muhammad was a highly thought of recruit that could be in the mix. He’s a great athlete and will be a redshirt freshman. The name we’ve heard more buzz about though this offseason has been true freshman Erick All, who seems to have incredible hands and could be the next big receiving tight end at Michigan. There’s some quality depth here, but the brunt of the production, barring injuries, will come from the top two guys.
How many touchdowns will Michigan tight ends score in 2019?
Last season, Gentry was Michigan’s leader at tight end with 32 catches for 514 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a lot of production to replace.
Most of it will be split between McKeon and Eubanks. However, those three players combined for only four touchdowns last season. Even if the position isn’t valued the same as its been in previous seasons, could the unit catch more touchdown passes given the faster pace of the offense? Absolutely. There’s no reason McKeon and Eubanks can’t combine for at least six touchdowns.