Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link: https://read.uberflip.com/i/526035

Contents of this Issue


Page 82 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 81 TIGHT ENDS can count on to win one-on-ones. He needs to be a guy like that, and I think he's able to do it. I think he will be that guy for us." Beyond Butt and Williams is a hodgepodge of talented, but un- proven, players with different skills, starting with 6-2, 252-pounder Khalid Hill. He caught four passes for 37 yards in six games be- fore going down with a torn ACL in practice. Hill underwent successful surgery Nov. 4 but missed spring ball while recovering. He ap- pears to be on schedule to rejoin the team in August, but there are no guarantees. Harbaugh has seen and heard enough about Hill to believe he'll be able to contribute. "I've been around him a ton, heard good things about him and seen him play in the past," he said. "I think if he continues to do what he needs to do personally to get back and be a better player than he was before, he can help us, for sure. He's on his way back, and that's a good thing." Redshirt freshman Ian Bunting, a former four-star prospect out of Hinsdale, Ill., who held offers from Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State and others before choosing Michigan, is another with high expectations. At a lanky 6-7, 243 pounds, Bunting almost looks more like a wide receiver than a tight end, but he eats like a horse, Harbaugh reported, and is working on adding muscle mass to his frame. Bunting caught 27 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns in his career at Hinsdale Central and participated in Nike's elite "The Opening" event in Oregon. "He's a pretty good pass catcher, and he runs well," Harbaugh said. "When he plays with leverage he's a very strong player, and he's got long arms and long legs. When he plays at pad level he can be very physical, and then he's a big target in the pass game. "He does a lot of things well. If he just con- tinues that well-rounded development, he can be a special player for us down the road." Harbaugh's been pleased with Bunting's ap- proach to workouts and learning, he added, and hopes to see him on the field this fall. Harbaugh's group also received a boost with the addition of at least one defensive convert in redshirt freshman Chase Winovich, a line- backer last season, and possible two-way play- ers Henry Poggi and Tom Strobel. Winovich (6-3, 230) never played the posi- tion in high school — he was a linebacker and a quarterback — but he boasts good hands and a strong desire to improve. He let a pass slip through his fingers in the spring game, but he had his positive moments during the spring. "He's been great to work with," Harbaugh said. "He moves well and is a guy who plays the game really fast. He catches the ball well, and when he gets to the point that he feels really comfortable in the scheme, he can make some plays for us." "We're obviously always looking to get better, but I like the group a lot. I think we have a bunch of guys who can all do different things well. There's some versatility, and we stayed healthy, for the most part." TIGHT ENDS COACH JAY HARBAUGH Learning The Offense Is Key To Tight End Blocking Former Michigan tight end Andy Mignery came to U-M in 1999 as a quarterback before switching to tight end in 2002. He never put up big numbers as a receiver, catch- ing five career passes, but earned significant playing time in large part because of his understanding of the offense. Learning the playbook and becoming a reliable blocker are the first steps many of Michigan's younger tight ends will need to take for the group to realize its potential in 2015, he said. "It's imperative for these guys to be familiar with the fullback position and be inter- changeable with the fullbacks," Mignery said. "That's when it really starts to click. You have to know where the fullback is at all times. The fullbacks and tight ends are so similar in nature that you have to understand who's got who. "You can let a guy go at the line of scrimmage knowing that the fullback is going to kick him out and then get to the second level, but in order to be a true complete pack- age as a tight end, you have to know the passing game and the running game. Most importantly you've got to learn that fullback position." The more they play, he added, the more the tight ends will be on the same page with the offensive tackles and guards as well as the wide receivers and quarterbacks. It takes a large amount of brainpower to excel at the position — learning pre-snap reads, post- snap reads, audibles back to the run game … "You always have to know where you're going to be," Mignery said. Mignery has watched junior Jake Butt and senior A.J. Williams make strides in those areas over the last couple of years, but believes each still has another level he can reach. Their improvement will be critical to the offense in yet another season of transition. "That's a very big part of the position," he said. "We used to always say to the young guys, 'Look, you'd better be able to block first before you ever think of going out for a pass.' "Recently, that's reversed itself a little bit, which is very concerning. Hopefully Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and his staff can really put the blocking-first mentality part of the tight end position back in focus, because it's been lacking. "Do they have the qualified, experienced guys to get the job done like Coach Har- baugh would want right now, based on where the talent level and experience is within the group? I would say no. They really have to improve as a group just in sheer muscle mass, explosion off the football and blocking as a whole, but there's some potential there." — Chris Balas Jay Harbaugh, the son of U-M head coach Jim Harbaugh, has spent the last three years working for the Baltimore Ravens and his uncle, John Harbaugh. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

view archives of Michigan Football Preview 2015 - 2015 Michigan Football Preview