The Michigan Wolverines tight end room will look different in 2021 as spring football continues. Jay Harbaugh has moved from running backs coach to man the special teams unit and the tight end position. Meanwhile, former tight end coach Sherrone Moore shifts to the trenches to coach the offensive line.
Harbaugh will need to craft a new starter from the fold as Nick Eubanks moves on and hopes to be taken in the NFL Draft. These are the young men Harbaugh will have to work within his first year leading the tight ends.
Erick All, junior
The story so far.
Erick All has emerged as a favorite among his coaches and earned praise before the 2020 season. Moore said that he didn’t know what his ceiling was because it was so high and Josh Gattis called him a “special talent.”
Those comments were a surprise to a fan base that had seen All earn only 10 yards on a single reception as a true freshman. This is not an uncommon stat line for a guy who was not a highly-touted recruit and was learning the ins-and-out of a collegiate system.
He found himself played behind Eubanks for most of last season and did not make the most of his opportunities when he was on the field. He finished the year with 12 receptions for 82 yards and has yet to find the endzone in his career as a Wolverine.
All admitted after his freshman season that he was “messing up everything” and things began to “click” for him in his sophomore season. However, he still made errors and had a problem with drops. All dropped a sure touchdown in Minnesota in week one and the trend continued for the better part of the season. He had 4 drops in five games last year according to PFF.
Reports out of practice pointed to a correction of the issue, but he really never got to show it off because of the COVID outbreak within the program. If that’s the case, he is the favorite to be at the top of the depth chart. He has really good speed for his size and he’s extremely athletic which gives him the chance to be a legitimate playmaker for whoever lines up behind center. Michigan likes to line him up in the traditional tight end spot and out in the slot which shows the versatility he brings to the position.
Luke Schoonmaker, redshirt junior
The story so far
Schoonmaker is the most experienced tight end on the roster, playing in 18 games thus far in his Michigan career. However, he’s hardly seen meaningful stats, earning just two catches for 54 yards and a score back in 2019. He did not catch a single pass last season despite playing in every game.
Schoonmaker is not a natural tight end. He switched from quarterback to tight end in high school, so he understands his role in the offense well. He has proven at some level that he can make plays and is athletic enough to make some space, but the question is whether or not his blocking can catch up.
At 6-foot-5, 252 pounds, he is the largest tight end who will see playing time this season, but he has never really been known as a guy who will make a physical impact block on the edge. There is a lot to like about him, but this should be about the time where we see a jump or not.
Matthew Hibner, redshirt freshman
The story so far
Hibner is a former three-star prospect and the No. 12 tight end in his class, per the 247Sports composite. He was once outside of the top 1,000 players in the country, but improved throughout his high school career and showed Michigan their investment would be worthy. The ratings bump came from a spectacular senior season in high school where he caught 42 passes for 940 yards and 12 touchdowns on an offense that averaged 38.7 points per game.
“He’s a natural ball catcher, he’s a tough kid. He’s a smart, tough, cerebral kid. He’ll be a guy who will for sure have a role in the next coming years. He’s just gonna continue to develop,” Moore said last season. “Right now, he’s on the scout team, doing a really good job with those guys, working the fundamentals. Working right now to be stronger and bigger.”
We just have not seen him on the field yet, so an analysis of what he can bring would be premature.
The rest: Carter Seltzer (fifth-year), Luke Buckman (senior), Hunter Neff (junior)
This is an unproven group that has a lot of work to do this offseason. There was very little consistency last season with Eubanks and All both having drop issues and neither really stood out or met expectations.
A lot can change in a year and there will be a new starting quarterback broken in once again. Joe Milton had a strong arm, but his fastballs were noticeably difficult to grab. Once Cade McNamara took over, there seemed to be a bit more of a connection between him and the tight ends.
Six games in a losing season just is not a great sample size, either. The physical characteristics are there for a guy like All and you can see the ability that he has on film. He has to have sturdier hands to emerge and maintain his starting role.
The hope is that Jay Harbaugh moving back to coach tight ends will jumpstart the development of some of these younger players. The last time he was the head of this position, Jake Butt became Michigan’s all-time leader in receptions and yards for tight ends. He also won the John Mackey award in 2016 as the nation’s top tight end.
The tight end is supposed to be the safety valve of the offense and for quarterbacks. We will have to wait and see if they can once again be a prominent force for Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan.