When Jim Harbaugh was hired to be the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, one of the position groups expected to benefit the most was tight end. At his two previous stops — the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford — tight ends were a beneficiary of his power, play-action based offense.
At Michigan, fans have seen a mixed bag from the position. From an All-American to block-first players to receiving-first players to converted quarterbacks to converted offensive tackles, and whatever mutant alien combination Erick All seems to be becoming, Harbaugh as had it all in his tenure.
Much like my running backs piece on Tuesday, if you simply want a list of receiving yards leaders from Wolverine tight ends, hit up Google. This is a subjective celebratory ranking of the five best tight ends since 2015.
5. Nick Eubanks (2016-20)
Receptions: 45, Receiving yards: 578, Touchdowns: 6
Nick Eubanks lead all tight ends in receptions and was third on team in receiving touchdowns in 2019. He had progressed into a reliable blocker on top of being a priority receiving threat. Eubanks was poised to be a star in 2020, but factor in a pandemic and Joe Milton throwing semi-forward passes and greatness quickly becomes unattainable.
Eubanks will be remembered for his time as a Wolverine because of his leadership and ability to flash big play potential, but he was devoid of opportunity to actualize his abilities when he was at his peak.
4. Sean McKeon (2016-19)
Receptions: 60, Receiving yards: 668, Touchdowns: 6
While he never developed into an elite pass blocker, Sean McKeon was a deceptively reliable receiving option. In 2017, McKeon lead the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns, and was third in receiving yards (by six yards).
McKeon was a savvy route runner, especially under 10 yards where he developed into a safety valve option for the handful of Wolverine quarterbacks he played with at Michigan.
3. Zach Gentry (2015-18)
Receptions: 49, Receiving yards: 817, Touchdowns: 4
A part of Harbaugh’s initial recruiting class, Zach Gentry came to Ann Arbor as a four-star quarterback prospect but was converted to tight end due to need and his athleticism.
In 2018, Gentry was third on the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, only trailing a varying order of Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins.
Gentry’s height (6-foot-8) and natural ball skills made him a favorite for quarterback Shea Patterson and a mismatch nightmare for defensive backs.
2. Erick All (2019-Present)
Receptions: 51, Receiving yards: 529, Touchdowns: 2
Erick All had the single most important play of the single most important Michigan football season in almost two decades. Trailing by three points in the fourth quarter on the road against Penn State, All took a short crossing route 47 yards for the game-winning and season-saving touchdown.
Without that play, Michigan finishes third in the Big Ten East because without this win, the motivation is not the same against Ohio State; there is no Big Ten Championship or College Football Playoff appearance. All saved the season last year and continued to shine down the stretch with pulverizing blocks and highlight reel receptions.
All went from dropping everything in 2020 to being second on the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2021. Not to mention, All is a runaway train when it comes to blocking on the line or on the perimeter.
All is the most complete tight end at Michigan since Jake Butt and I expect him to continue to ascend in 2022.
Speaking of Jake Butt...
1. Jake Butt (2015-16)
Receptions: 97, Receiving yards: 1,200, Touchdowns: 7
I mean, who else could it be? Despite only having two years under the Harbaugh regime, Butt was a two-time All-American and a Mackey Award winner, given annually to the best tight end in the country.
Butt set the modern standard for Michigan tight ends with his soft hands, run-after-the-catch ability and blocking ferocity. Not to mention he holds the program records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end.
Honorable Mention: Luke Schoonmaker could crack the top five with a solid 2022 season.