When the tight group for the Michigan Wolverines met on Monday to begin spring practices, it did so without longtime names that had embodied the dynamic of the Wolverine offense.
While it will feel like something is missing when the glorious “Schooooooon” chants cease to erupt from Michigan Stadium, this team once again enters a new season loaded at the tight end position.
So with Luke Schoonmaker heading to the NFL and Erick All husking corn with Cade McNamara in Iowa City, where does that leave Michigan football as the 2023 season approaches? And who will be it’s likely standouts?
Leading the charge for the new-look tight end room at Michigan is star sophomore Colston Loveland. He was asked to step up in a big way, while delivering even bigger, upon Schoonmaker’s injury last season.
The freshman tallied 16 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns in limited action and showed he has what it takes to carry the load as a primary receiving option. While Loveland made his mark all over the stat sheet in the second half of the season, the youngster shined the most in the absence of Schoonmaker, accounting for 90 yards in his outings against Illinois and Nebraska. He also scored against Ohio State, and Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game.
With Schoonie heading off to greener pastures, the Wolverines are in great shape with the sophomore taking the reigns.
Following the conclusion of the 2022 season, Jim Harbaugh and company immediately went to work on the transfer portal, reeling in a notable tight end with experience in former Indiana Hoosier, AJ Barner.
Barner was a primary target at Indiana and was by far the most popular tight end on the team, totaling 28 catches last year. He appeared in 10 games in 2022 and recorded at least one reception in every contest.
He instantly slots into a leadership role with the Wolverines as one of the older players at the position in Ann Arbor. Expect Barner to see the field early and often in 2023.
Another tight end who should see the field quite a bit is Max Bredeson, the younger brother of former Wolverine offensive lineman Ben Bredeson.
He stood out early on during Michigan’s non-conference schedule in 2022 and appeared in every game for the Wolverines in various roles (predominantly at tight end). It’s anticipated the young Bredeson will be called upon more excessively in the upcoming year, but his primary job will probably, once again, be blocking.
As a junior, Matthew Hibner was primarily utilized on special teams in 2022 — and even recovered a fumble on a kickoff — but he could see an increased role in the upcoming campaign.
Hibner is the prototypical Michigan tight end at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. He has the perfect frame to succeed at the position.
It’s no secret Harbaugh loves the position, so expect for Hibner, as well as some unexpected names on the roster, to stumble into some playing time during the 2023 season.