Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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The The otal Aim ackage TWolverines PTo Build A Fleet Of Well-Rounded Tight Ends I TE By Andy Reid n his first 14 years as a full-time assistant coach, Dan Ferrigno was, at one point or another, given responsibility over almost every position on the field. In those early years, spent at Western Michigan (1982-86) and Oregon State (1987-95), Ferrigno coached quarterbacks, running backs, offensive linemen, defensive backs, linebackers and special teams performers, and he was promoted to offensive coordinator during his final two years in Kalamazoo, Mich. He accepted an assistant coach position at Cal before the 1996 season and was given a position he hadn't coached since his graduate assistant days at Pacific in 1979: tight ends. And that year, Ferrigno, who came to Ann Arbor with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke as tight ends and special teams coach, was in charge of a specimen: Tony Gonzalez. The standout caught 44 passes for 699 yards and five touchdowns, earning consensus first-team All-America honors. Gonzalez was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 13th overall selection in the 1997 NFL Draft and has since earned 13 Pro Bowl nods and become the first tight end in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes. "I was the best position coach in the country until he graduated, then I wasn't very good," Ferrigno said, laughing. "He taught me a lot about great players." The biggest lesson he learned from his time with Gonzalez was the importance of all-around talent. Gonzalez may be one of the best playmaking tight ends in the history of football, but he is also an preseason analysis: tight ends Starter ✪✪✪✪ The Big Ten, as a whole, is fairly loaded with tight end talent, including Penn State redshirt sophomore Kyle Carter (36 catches for 453 yards and two touchdowns last year), Wisconsin senior Jacob Pederson (tallied more than 350 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons) and Iowa senior C.J. Fiedorowicz (45 catches for 433 yards and two touchdowns last year). But Michigan sophomore Devin Funchess may have the highest ceiling of the bunch. He is a mismatch problem for defenses every time he steps on the field, and he is working to bulk up to become a better blocker and a more effective overall weapon. ✪✪✪ Depth Sophomore A.J. Williams was an offensive tackle as a senior in high school, and while he didn't catch a single pass in 2012, he did play in all 13 games as a blocking tight end. Redshirt junior Jordan Paskorz, 6-3, 251, will be used primarily in two-tight end, shortyardage situations as another blocker. Freshman Jake Butt, an early enrollee, may earn some playing time and has the skill set to become another playmaker. But they are all relatively inexperienced and, at the moment, somewhat one-dimensional. X-Factor Jake Butt won't turn 18 until July 11, 2013, but he's already making a name for himself inside Schembechler Hall. The early enrollee has the physical and athletic tools to be a weapon in the passing game, and the versatility to be an aggressive blocker on the line of scrimmage. At 6-6, 231, Butt has to bulk up, but the coaching staff thinks he can be a great overall tight end. He caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner in the spring game and has the potential to see snaps in the fall. ✪✪✪✪ Overall Michigan has a lot of promising, young talent in the tight end corps. But the fact remains that this group has caught just 16 total career passes, and every player that will see the field has aspects of his game that need to improve (Funchess as a blocker, Williams as a route runner and pass catcher, etc.). The Michigan coaches are optimistic about the progression they have seen from the tight ends this offseason, and the group may have a big impact on the 2013 season. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars. Sophomore A.J. Williams appeared as a blocking tight end in all 13 games last season, but he is still looking to record his first reception for the Wolverines. photo by lon horwedel The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 107

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