Jim Harbaugh loves guys who love football and the University of Michigan. The prototype for that has been the Aidan Hutchinson-Ben Mason-Khalid Hill type of players. This season, that dude is Joel Honigford. He’s coming back for his sixth season with the program and is going to be a valuable piece to the tight end room. Let’s take a look at what he has done this far in Ann Arbor and what’s next for the Ohio-native.
The story so far
Despite being a three-star recruit, Honigford had quite a few suitors including Oregon, Oklahoma, Auburn, and several Big Ten schools. One that never offered him though, was his dad’s alma mater, Ohio State, where he was a basketball player from 1983-86. Instead, Honigford went with the better option and chose to play at Michigan.
After he redshirted in his freshman season, Honigford appeared in two blowout wins over Nebraska and Western Michigan in 2018. To this point, he was seen as a project interior offensive lineman.
He contributed a little more heavily in 2019 as a right tackle, specifically in goal line and short yardage situations. He also played a significant number of special teams snaps throughout the season.
Then, in 2020 came the switch to a hybrid-tight end role, mostly as a blocker in those same situations. Hardly was there a time where he went out on a route. Mostly, he was there to lay the wood against smaller linebackers or edge-rushers.
In the highly successful 2021 season, Honigford had the exact same role, and he thrived at it. The specific packages he was deployed in are designed to move the football on the ground and the Wolverines had one of the best rushing attacks in the nation a year ago. Honigford started five games at tight end and saw more of a traditional tight end role throughout the season. He even caught a pass for a 10-yard gain against Nebraska, the first of his career.
Outlook for 2022
Honigford is an athlete that knows what his role is and he excels at it. He’s a weapon on the offensive line as a blocking tight end. The issue is, it became so obvious the Wolverines were running the ball when he was in the game. If he continues to improve in the pass-catching part of his job, he is going to see more snaps.
However, if Michigan continues to just use him as that edge clearer in the run game, there aren’t many who do it better than Honigford. He should see the field early and often in this role and on special teams during the 2022 campaign.