The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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114 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW TE Butt finished with eight starts. He caught seven passes for 67 yards in the first eight games of the year — and added 13 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns, including his first-career score in overtime at Northwestern, in the final four games of the season. Unfortunately, though, Butt will not be on the field when the Wolverines kick off their 2014 season against Appalachian State. An offseason ACL injury sidelined Butt for the team's spring practice period and will force him to miss at least three to four games this year. "His biggest gains are still ahead of him," Ferrigno said. "It was unfortunate, because this spring he needed to practice, to learn how to block better. He is not a bad blocker, by any means, but he needs to get better. When he missed the spring, it really hurt him and us. He's the type of kid, though, that listens to everything you say. He will be fine, once he gets back on the field." The Wolverines are pleased and excited by how quickly Butt is storming through his rehabilitation. Since the end of spring practice, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has been increasingly optimistic about Butt's return, with some speculation that he could check back into the lineup as soon as the Notre Dame game the second week of the year. The tight end Tweeted, "Went for my first little run yesterday and my knee feels great!" on May 28. Even though the coaches are hoping Butt will be back sooner rather than later, the tight end corps has to move on — at least for now. "I know how hard he's working with recovery," Ferrigno said. "I know that, if at all possible, he is going to do whatever he can to get to the point where he can play. Right now, I am not counting on him. We have to prepare to play without him, until the doctors say he can play. "My mindset has to be that I am going to develop the guys we have right now, and then Jake coming back in is a bonus, when that happens." The Veteran Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier's offensive scheme has two tight end positions: the Y and the H. "The H-back is more involved in the passing game," Ferrigno explained. "In the running game, he is a move guy who plays like a fullback, almost. He doesn't carry the ball, but he will lead the way through the hole, like a fullback does. He will need to be better in space, because we're going to move him around. That is probably the biggest difference when you're playing Y, the guy you're going to block is either on you, on the line of scrimmage, or inside you all the time. At H, it changes all the time, and there is a lot to it. "Both positions need to be able to block. The one, on the line of scrimmage, more so, and the other one has to block in moving-type situations. We try to match those skill sets up with the players we have, so we can get the right guys doing the right things. That will be the challenge going through fall ball." Butt was on track to be the Wolverines' go-to H, with more responsibilities in the passing game and a lot of pre-snap movement, in order to create mismatches with different defenders. If the H shares some blocking responsibilities with fullbacks, the Y is more like an offensive tackle. He is the player who will be squaring up with a three-point stance on the end of the line of scrimmage. Although the Wolverines are still searching for an H, they are confident in the Y position. Junior A.J. Williams, who started at offensive tackle at Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, has been a block-first, on-the-line tight end for the last two seasons. The Y tight end, though, is more involved in the passing game in Nussmeier's offense than the Wolverines asked from the position under former offensive coordinator Al Borges. In his first two seasons as a regular contributor, Williams caught just one pass (a one-yard touchdown at Iowa last year). "He really had a good offseason," Ferringo said. "He lost some weight, which he needed to do. That seemed to improve his athleticism. We have never thrown him the ball very much, and our new system calls for him to catch a couple balls. That increased athleticism has helped his ability to make an impact in the passing game. He can catch the ball pretty well now. Not so much a vertical threat, but he is an underneath option. We have been pleased with him." The 6-6 Williams played at 283 pounds as a freshman and 265 pounds last year. Ferrigno said Williams has lost about 15 pounds since the end of the season. "He is just excited about the fact that he was able to do what we asked him to do, in terms of losing the weight and getting stronger," Ferringo said. "He is going to have to maintain that over the summer and come back for fall ball in good shape. I think he will. He has a different mindset." With the progress Williams has made, athletically, Michigan even gave him a few reps at the H position through spring — mostly to see what he could bring to the table there. Fans should expect to see him in the Y spot, though. And at the Y, Williams' first and foremost priority must be blocking. "He wasn't where we wanted him to be, as a blocker, coming into spring, but he has done a lot to improve that," Ferrigno said. "He has lost some weight, but even though you need a mass to block, he is still a big guy and now, his feet are quicker. That helps. "We are more pleased with his blocking, especially his footwork in blocking situations. He has really made an effort to become more of a technician, and that is really helping him. It was very important. If he didn't improve, we were going to struggle. I think he has improved." Junior A.J. Williams (No. 84) caught just one pass — a one-yard touchdown at Iowa last year — in his first two seasons as a regu- lar contributor, but showed improvement as a pass catcher and as a blocker during the spring. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 113-117.TEs.indd 114 6/19/14 2:03 PM

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