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AJ Barner’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2023

Welcomed depth via the transfer portal.

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

With Luke Schoonmaker heading to the NFL and Erick All transferring to Iowa, Michigan had an immediate need at tight end. The Wolverines went out and found one of the best transfer tight ends and landed Indiana’s AJ Barner.

The story so far

Barner’s originally from Aurora, Ohio and was a three-star recruit in the 2020 class. Barner committed to Indiana while receiving offers from programs such as Michigan State, Kent State, and Eastern Michigan.

As a redshirt freshman in 2021, Barner tallied 14 receptions for 162 yards. Barner had an uptick He upped his stats this past season by catching 28 passes for 199 yards with three touchdowns. Barner was known for being a major leader on the Hoosiers team, and he was selected as a team captain in 2022.

When Barner opted to transfer after the ‘22 season, received offers from UCLA, Pitt, Illinois and NC State — but chose Michigan because of the way they utilize tight ends.

“The style of play,” Barner said. “Running the ball. Being physical up front. The opportunity to be a tight end here and the way they use their tight ends.”

Outlook moving forward

Barner will be TE2 behind Colston Loveland, but TE2 at Michigan is a lot different than at most programs. Barner will still see the field a ton as a receiver and blocker.

“They just have a tradition of using the tight ends in an NFL manner with what coach Harbaugh does. Play-action pass, running the ball. To play tight end you have to be an all-around player. You have to pass and run block. You’ve got to run routes against all the players on the defense. I think that was the most intriguing part.”

Loveland jettisoned to TE1 earlier than anticipated. While the 19-year-old Loveland was stellar last season, it’s great Michigan has someone like Barner in the room who has experience and was a team captain at IU.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Barner could be versatile in Michigan’s scheme and someone J.J. McCarthy can rely upon. If Barner has career years in receptions and receiving yards along with putting out good blocking film, he’ll be yet another Michigan TE destined for the NFL.