There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Nick Eubanks, redshirt SR
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (TE 15, Overall 344)
2019 Stats: 25 rec, 243 yards, 3 TD
Any Jim Harbaugh offense is going to need some production out of the tight end, but under Josh Gattis that role looks a little different. Physicality and blocking are important, but like every other skill position, there is now a bigger emphasis on athleticism and playmaking. Sure, there have been plenty of former tight ends involved in the passing game, but make no mistake, the role is changing.
The introduction of Gattis was a welcome shift for Nick Eubanks. A speedy tight end with great hands and catching ability, he definitely leans towards the receiving end of the scale. While his 2019 numbers do not jump off the page, there is reason to believe he is just getting started under the new offensive coordinator. As a fifth-year senior, he is going to be involved in the action and is the clear top threat at tight end.
What is the ceiling for Eubanks in the spread offense?
Though Sean McKeon entered 2019 as the leader at the position, it was Eubanks who wound up leading the group in catches, yards, and touchdowns. In fact, he ended the year third in receiving touchdowns and fourth in receiving yards on the entire team. The raw numbers are not exactly world-beating, but they show that Eubanks is a legitimate part of the offense and should see an even bigger role without McKeon in Ann Arbor.
By any account, Eubanks made the correct decision to come back to school. He was unlikely to be a coveted draft prospect, but that could change over the course of the next year. He has developed greatly during his time at Michigan, and a second season under Gattis should be his best to date. There were some encouraging signs down the stretch, including touchdown receptions in three of the final five games, giving fans a sense of how he can be used as a red zone weapon.
Eubanks will never look like the traditional tight end, as he lacks the size and blocking ability. However, he has turned himself into a real mismatch in coverage and has above-average route running and catching skills for the position. This sort of receiving option is key for a new quarterback and puts him in line for a jump in production during 2020. The Wolverines have a promising stable of pass catchers, but most are fairly young. Eubanks has the size, experience, and track record that many of his teammates lack.
There is no doubt about who will be the primary tight end target heading into the fall, and Eubanks did not return to school to be a passive member of the team. He ended the year on an upswing and has a good chance to carry that momentum into this season, given his familiarity and sure-handedness. Times are changing, but Harbaugh still loves the tight end position. Given his skill set, Eubanks should be in for a memorable final year.