The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 79 [ T I G H T E N D S ] PRESEASON ANALYSIS: STARTER The position group has been productive in the Jim Harbaugh era, but the numbers have been on the decline since Josh Gattis arrived as offensive coordinator. Sopho- more Erick All seems to have the inside track on the starting job, but he has just 13 career catches that have gained 92 yards. DEPTH ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Redshirt sophomore Luke Schoonmaker is the only tight end outside of All that has caught a pass in college — and he's hauled in two, which both came during the 2019 season and went for 54 yards and the posi- tion group's lone touchdown in college en- tering the campaign. Nobody else on the roster has played yet in college. OVERALL There are a lot of unknowns here. All has garnered praise for his blocking in the past, but has to develop as a weapon in the passing game and clean up the drops (four on 27 targets last year per Pro Football Fo- cus). Schoonmaker has been targeted just twice and played 120 snaps in his career according to PFF. then you're always going to be continually hoping for more. You've got to be able to do it on Saturdays. Hey, practice hard, prepare for the game. But when the lights turn on, you've got to make those plays." Certainly, All can make them. He has 13 catches for 92 yards in two Michigan seasons, and he's repeatedly demonstrated his ability to find seams in the defense. He secured a personal-best four catches in Michigan's triple-overtime win against Rutgers, helping U-M to half its win total in 2020. Again, it's getting it done on a more consistent basis. And again, that goes for everyone, Jansen stressed. "Erick All had a number of opportunities last year," Jansen recalled. "I know those have got to be driving him right now. It's the same with the team, whether it's the corners, or linebackers that were lined up to make a tackle and just didn't follow through or didn't come through. "You've got to find a way to have a great practice and take that great practice out to have success on Saturday." Not that Michigan's most productive tight end of 2020 represents the be-all, end-all for the Wolverines. They feature a budding backup — or a complementary end in a two-TE setup — who could prove very effective as well. Luke Schoonmaker has the size (6-5, 252) and savvy in his fourth year as a Wolverine to emerge as a very valuable tight end. Jansen believes he's ready to emerge from the shadows at some point this season. "I noticed him a lot," Jansen said of Schoonmaker's spring efforts. "I think he's going to be a major contributor as well. He's going to have a season that's going to open some eyes. He's big, he's strong, he's going to get great movement up front. He's not going to be used, probably, in the passing game as much as Erick All is. Since the Jim Harbaugh era began in 2015, U-M tight ends have averaged 50 catches for 637 yards and 4.3 scores a season. Jay Harbaugh coached the position during his father's first two years at the helm, when the Wolverine tight ends posted clips of 66 catches for 797 yards and 4.5 touchdowns a campaign. In the four seasons since, the position has logged averages of 43 catches, 558 yards and 4.3 touchdowns a year, though the six-game season in 2020 obviously impacts those numbers. Doubling last year's production at the position would raise the averages over the last four seasons to 54 catches, 671 yards and 4.5 touchdowns a year. In his previous stint mentoring the position, Jay Harbaugh coached former Wolverine Jake Butt to a pair of first-team All-America honors and the 2016 John Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end. He also helped develop former quarterback Zach Gentry into a fifth-round pick at tight end. Among all FBS tight ends last year, PFF graded sophomore Erick All as the 31st-best run blocker, awarding him a 77.9 mark on the year. Only 13 tight ends from Power Five confer- ences registered a better score in the category. [ F Y I ] THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 79 "When you go out there and you're playing against an opponent, and you've built up confidence in your quar- terback and in [offensive coordinator] Josh Gattis call- ing a play where you know the ball is going to a tight end, and you've made that play time and time again — whether it's in spring ball or fall practice — you've got to make that play on Saturdays." FORMER U-M ALL-AMERICAN JON JANSEN ON THE WOLVERINES' TIGHT ENDS QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Jay Harbaugh (seventh year at U-M, first season back with tight ends after coaching them from 2015-16). Departing Starter: Nick Eubanks (19 ca - reer starts). Returning Starter: None. Projected New Starter: Erick All (2). Top Reserves: Luke Schoonmaker, Matt Hibner and Louis Hansen. Wait Until 2022: None. Newcomer: Hansen. Moved In: None. Moved Out: None. Rookie Impact: Hansen. Most Improved Player: All. Best Pro Prospect: All. [ T I G H T E N D S ]

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