A big-bodied player already, Tonielli has a lot of potential to grow into a solid all-around player at the next level. Here is a breakdown of his game and what he could bring to Michigan’s offense once he gets to college.
At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, Tonielli is a major threat in the passing game with his long frame and ability to grab 50-50 balls in the air over defenders.
At Oswego High School, Tonielli’s highlights show him being mainly used away from the line of scrimmage as an outside receiver and in the slot, running routes downfield to put pressure on opposing defenses with his size and athleticism.
His ability to play as a downfield receiver plays directly into his strengths, as he has excellent ball skills and positions his body well to fend off corners and safeties, which allows him to make difficult catches in traffic when the ball is at its high point.
Tonielli also shows a fair level of physicality in the open field, using a combination of strength, power and a dose of elusiveness to shake off tacklers.
On film, he also shows potential in the short passing game while being able to create some yards after the catch, as his natural stride makes it difficult for linebackers to create an angle on him to bring him down before he gets downfield.
Tonielli is a multi-sport athlete, also competing in basketball and track and field at his high school. Michigan has been known to take these types of players under head coach Jim Harbaugh, so Tonielli certainly isn’t the first to do this.
247Sports’ Allen Trieu’s evaluation says this about Tonielli:
“Tall, longer prospect. Plays as an outside receiver as well as a slot in high school. Uses height, length and leaping ability well and shows a big catch radius. Good athlete with basketball and track and field in his background as well. Appears to have some top end speed, but can still improve burst and suddenness. Tracks the ball in the air well and can put himself in position to make plays on the ball without losing speed or balance. Will grow into a tight end in college but his experience being unattached offers a lot of possibilities. Shows some physicality but would need experience as an on the ball blocker if schools try to do that with him.”
How Tonielli could fit in at Michigan
Tonielli’s style of play is interesting considering what Harbaugh-coached teams typically ask the tight ends to do. His traits don’t exactly fit the typical Harbaugh style tight end, but he has plenty of time to work on his blocking techniques before he is called upon to get significant snaps on the field.
If Michigan does truly plan on using him as a tight end, it will surely help having Grant Newsome as his position coach to help him work on the blocking elements of his game.
Regardless, Tonielli’s natural skillset gives the Wolverines a lot to work with. To be used as a slot or outside receiver at the college level, he will likely have to improve his “burst,” as Trieu mentioned. But his catch ability, frame and natural athleticism gives Michigan some different possibilities as to how Matt Weiss and Sherrone Moore may want to use him within the offense down the road.