The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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[ T I G H T E N D S ] 80 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW "He's going to be there, and when he starts making plays, now all of a sudden you've got to find a way to match up with two good tight ends and some speed run- ning down the field. That's when this of- fense is going to start running with opti- mum efficiency." That's no small part of what Schoon- maker could provide, Jansen noted. A sec- ond effective tight end could open up other avenues for moving the football. The other contestants to add depth are a bit less proven. Freshmen Matthew Hibner (6-3, 233) and Louis Hansen (6-5, 232) are both good athletes. They just need more opportunity and to gain the trust of the coaches in on-field situations. Then again, that's true of everyone at the position. With that trust and confidence comes increasing production, Jansen noted. There could be no better way for Michigan's tight ends — and its team — to get firing on all cylinders than to absolutely hammer West- ern Michigan Sept. 4. Well, that should go without saying, many might retort. Not so. The Wolverines struggled for almost a half with perennially lousy Rutgers last year. They lost to a Mich- igan State squad that wound up the season somehow worse than Michigan, at 2-5. In other words, the Wolverines cannot take anyone lightly. From the tight ends looking in every pass, to grabbing hold of the mental edge, Michigan can't leave any room for doubt, its former All-American insisted. "To me, it's all going to come down to confidence," Jansen said. "When they hit the field against Western Michigan, they have to make Western Michigan be- lieve that, 'Hey, we're really happy to be here. We're very glad to be able to make a big paycheck for our school, but we have no business being on the field with these Michigan Wolverines.' "Then they have to take that to the Washington team. When you have an- other Power Five team coming in here, I don't care if they're in the second year of a head coach, or if they've had a transition at quarterback, it doesn't matter. You have to take the confidence you had in that first game against Western Michigan and build on it against Washington." Again, it's the confidence that grows out of positive performance, Jansen noted. Maybe it's All securing that first catch for a big gain down the seam. Maybe it's Schoonmaker with a surprise touchdown grab in the early going. What's important involves establishing the sort of performance that carries over, Jansen assured. "When you can do that against another Power Five opponent, make them go away from The Big House thinking, 'That's a damned good team. That's a physical team.' That's when you can start building the confidence," Jansen noted. "Then you can turn the film on and say, 'Okay, this is really how this is supposed to work.'" That's how the memory of last season gets wiped away, he insisted. That's how the assurance of secured catches, first downs, touchdowns and wins piling up begins. But it must transfer from State Street to Main Street. So goes the time-honored warning, stretching back for decades. "It's there, in practice," Jansen said. "But last year, it was two wins. They've got to prove they can go out there against these other teams, in prime time, in The Big House, against Power Five. "Then when you get in the Big Ten and go to Madison, you've got to actually hit somebody in the mouth. When you get hit in the mouth, that's okay. They're a physi- cal team, too. But our response is better than anything they've got." The younger Harbaugh retook the posi- tion this year, and likely has designs on the return of the glory days of the Michigan tight ends. They certainly looked good when he coached them in 2015 and '16. Back then, All-American Jake Butt was racking up 138 catches for 1,646 yards, twice earning the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year Award in the Big Ten. He even garnered the 2016 John Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end. The pipeline hasn't run dry for talent at the tight end spot, by any means. Harbaugh will be looking to revive it, building the confidence and preparedness the Wolver- ines will need out of a position that has been deemphasized in college football, but could remain a staple of the Michigan attack. There's a catch, of course. And it in- volves catch after catch. ❑ rated incoming freshman Louis Hansen as the No. 5 tight end and No. 84 overall prospect in the class of 2021. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND ROSTER No. Name Ht. Wt. Year Elig. Hometown (High School) 83 Erick All 6-4 229 Jr. So. Fairfield, Ohio (Fairfield) 35 Luke Buckman* 6-5 244 Sr. So. Holland, Mich. (Holland) — Louis Hansen 6-5 232 Fr. Fr. Dover, Mass. (St. Sebastian's) 88 Matt Hibner 6-3 233 So. Fr. Burke, Va. (Lake Braddock) 80 Hunter Neff* 6-2 234 Jr. Fr. Chelsea, Mich. (Chelsea) 86 Luke Schoonmaker 6-5 252 Sr. So. Hamden, Conn. (Hamden Hall) 89 Carter Selzer* 6-8 240 5th Jr. Kansas City, Mo. (Rockhurst) * Walk-on X-FACTOR X-FACTOR Once again, it's a freshman — however, this time Louis Hansen didn't have the benefit of enrolling early. The 6-5 product of Dover, Mass., has great hands, reported that he was nearing 250 pounds in March and will immedi- ately be one of the Wolverines' biggest at the position. He didn't have a senior season on the gridiron, but still listed him as a top- 100 prospect nationally and there's plenty of room for an immediate impact at the position.

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