The Michigan Wolverines were a team that frequently used the tight ends on the roster in the early part of the Jim Harbaugh era. Tight end usage has tapered off over the last few seasons, but that might be more on a lack of a true breakout player at the position. Matthew Hibner is a player that might seek to change that during his second season in Ann Arbor.
Here is a look at Hibner’s road to Michigan so far and how he might factor into the conversation in 2021.
The road so far
Hibner, a three-star prospect from the state of Virginia, was the No. 400 player in the country and 12th-ranked tight end, according to the 247Sports Composite. His senior season at Lake Braddock High School saw him catch 42 passes for 940 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to a 6C regional title.
Michigan brought him as a player who could be a “jumbo athlete” of sorts as a receiver that could move around and block, similar to the role they have had in mind for Erick All.
Stephen Osentoski’s first video as a staff member at Maize n Brew was profiling Hibner’s skill-set and recruitment.
Hibner did not see the field at all in 2020, but there was still progress made behind the scenes. His tight end coach (now OL) Sherrone Moore had this to say about his development last fall:
“Hibby’s doing great. He’s just continuing to get – for him right now, the progression is to get bigger, to get stronger. 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. 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.”
Outlook for 2021
Michigan still likes junior Erick All a ton despite a bad case of the dropsies during his time in Ann Arbor thus far. However, there is an opportunity for someone to emerge from the tight end room as someone who can be a reliable piece moving forward.
The Wolverines do not have a Jake Butt on this roster. They might not even have a Zach Gentry or Sean McKeon, but Hibner is a player who might have a future as someone who catches a few passes a game and can be a mismatch player over the middle of the field. Michigan was able to get good production out of the position when Jay Harbaugh coached there in 2015-16 — of course, having Butt helps — and he now returns to coach that position group.
All has the most upside of any of Michigan’s tight ends, but there is not a ton of proven depth here. Luke Schoonmaker has shown flashes at times but has not been on the field enough. Louis Hansen might still need some time to grow. Hibner has a shot to crack the rotation, but it might take All continuing to struggle to catch the ball for the door to swing wide open for playing time.