Michigan Football Preview 2016

2016 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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76 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2016 FOOTBALL PREVIEW TIGHT ENDS BY JOHN BORTON S enior tight end Jake Butt could be working somewhere in an NFL training camp this summer. That he isn't says plenty about where the Wolverines are headed, not only at his posi- tion but overall. Butt became an All-American in 2015, the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year and a top target for quarterback Jake Rudock. He wasn't a one-man show at the position, given four Michigan tight ends that caught multiple passes at the position. The best of them wanted to get better and take a crack at a Big Ten championship. Butt made 51 catches in 2015, 30 more than he did a year earlier, with 654 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He more than dou- bled his own career production through his first two seasons in Ann Arbor, and looks poised for a breakout senior campaign. "It illustrates how important the position is to us," tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh noted, regarding Butt's meteoric rise. "It says there are a lot of opportunities to make plays for those guys, with Jake the main guy that was showcased last year. "To a fan with a keen eye, there are a lot of guys we play. We put different guys in position to use their specific skill sets. It shows that is a position that's crucial to the success of this offense, and it's criti- cal that we have playmakers there." Butt won't take a back seat to anyone in the coming season, Har- baugh insisted. "He has a tremendous knack for getting open," the coach said. "He's a very dependable target, who finds a way to make the play. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he plays at top speed. He's a very smart, tough player. Overall, he's a very reliable guy for us." Butt's position coach acknowledges a bit of a fist pump when the standout opted to return for a senior season, but genuinely felt it best for the senior to do so. "I think he's the best tight end in America," Harbaugh said. "He'll be the best guy coming out of this season, too. I say that because I know how talented he is, but also how much he's willing to put into it to get to where he wants to go. "He's fully invested in the team and in his own growth. He takes it very seriously, every aspect of the whole process. Knowing he has another year to devote himself fully to what he's doing, it really solidified it as a great decision. I was thrilled for our group and our team as well." It doesn't end with the 6-6, 250-pounder, by any means. The Wol- verines could be poised to go a half-dozen deep at the position. Ian Bunting stands 6-7 and weighs 252, a redshirt sophomore who notched five receptions for 72 yards a year ago. He didn't catch a pass in the Big Ten season after some promising looks against non- conference competition, but hauled in a 17-yard Rudock toss in the 41-7 Citrus Bowl rout over Florida. Loading Up Tight Ends Are Ready To Rumble, Led By An All-American Jake Butt, who was tabbed as an All-American and the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year in 2015, enters his senior season with 92 career receptions for 1,100 yards and seven scores. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Jay Harbaugh (second season). Returning Starters: Jake Butt (24 career starts). Departing Starters: A.J. Williams (13). Projected New Starter: Ian Bunting. Top Reserve: Zach Gentry. Wait Until 2017: Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Newcomers: Sean McKeon, Devin Asiasi and Nick Eubanks. Moved In: None. Moved Out: Khalid Hill (to FB). Rookie Impact: Asiasi. Most Improved Player: Bunting. Best Pro Prospect: Butt. FYI: Four tight ends combined to make 72 catches for 926 yards and three touchdowns during the 2015 season … A year earlier, Michigan also saw four tight ends catch passes, but they combined for 31 receptions for 313 yards and three touchdowns … Butt earned first-team All-America honors from both Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports, while the As - sociated Press and Sporting News accorded him second-team plaudits … Jim Mandich in 1969 was the last U-M tight end to earn consensus All-America laurels … Butt came up just two receptions shy of Bennie Joppru's single-season record of 53 receptions by a tight end, set in 2002 … Butt posted the third-best season ever for a Michigan tight end in terms of receiving yards, his 620 behind only Devin Funchess' 748 in 2013 and Man - dich's 662 in 1969 … Williams came into his senior season with five catches for 39 yards, and in his lone season under Jim Harbaugh's staff, he caught 12 passes for 129 yards as a primarily blocking tight end … Michigan's scholarship tight ends range in height from the 6-7 of Gentry and Bunting to the 6-4 of the rookie Asiasi. Year Rec. Yards TD 2015 72 926 3 2014 31 313 3 2013 70 985 9 2012 19 271 5 2011 25 262 5 Year Rec. Yards TD 2010 19 266 3 2009 21 283 3 2008 8 110 1 2007 27 327 2 2006 39 393 3 Offensive Production By Tight Ends

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