With Zach Gentry officially declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft, his departure opens up an opportunity for younger tight ends to step up and receive more playing time during the 2019-2020 season. While the Wolverines certainly have a good mix of experienced and inexperienced players on the depth chart, Gentry played a role in the passing game after finishing the season with over 500-yards receiving and two touchdowns.
With that being said, who stands to benefit next season with an increased role? The Michigan Insider breaks it down for you.
By far the most experienced tight end on the roster after Gentry, senior-to-be Sean McKeon could see the biggest role change in the U-M offense heading into next season. While not as efficient as a pass-catcher as Gentry was for the Wolverines, McKeon has shown the ability to run fluid routes in the past. He finished the 2018 season with 122-yards and one touchdown receiving.
Quotable: “Sean is kind of mister do-it-all. He does everything: he can run it, he can catch, he’s been outstanding. He’s put on another solid 5-10 pounds with coach (Ben Herbert), so he’s about 255 right now. Looks phenomenal, is running good. Working with him in the spring – he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s dependable, and he made a lot of plays for us, in the spring. So, really excited about him and all the things he can do.” – Tight ends coach Sherrone Moore
Outside of McKeon, Nick Eubanks is another player that could stand to benefit from increased snaps next season. Proving through two seasons that he is capable of making big plays, the chances are high that the U-M offensive coaching staff will ask him to do more as an experienced tight end on the roster. Scoring his first touchdown this season, Eubanks averaged 19 yards per catch this season and over 30 yards per catch in 2017. Another year of health will stand to benefit Eubanks greatly.
Quotable: “He’s got some good weight on him and he looks good,” Moore said of Eubanks, who now stands at 6-foot-5, 260-pounds. “I mean I saw him just taking pictures, the other day, and you can see his back, you can see his legs, you can see his arms, everything’s just like popping out of his uniform. And he said he feel, you know the most important thing for him is (he) has to keep (his) speed, and he felt like he has done that and kept that weight, and he’s going to be a really special player. I think he’s really bought into the strength program and worked really hard and done those things to help himself put on some good weight. But, he looks phenomenal, and he’s moving well, too. So I’m excited about him, too.” – Sherrone Moore
Mustapha Muhammad and Luke Schoonmaker
The two players are grouped together because both players didn’t see the field last year. While Muhammad spent most of the season injured and working on the playbook and fundamentals, Schoonmaker was just as raw from an offensive standpoint. If both players can develop during the spring and fall camps while remaining healthy, both players could see the field heading into 2019.
Muhammad quotable: “I think yesterday he told me he was about 245. So, as a freshman coming in, that’s huge and I’m really excited to see him work and get my hands on him. But, yeah, it’s going to be a competition. We’ve got some great competition in the room, and a lot of depth, which is a coach’s dream. So excited about it.” – Sherrone Moore
Schoonmaker quotable: “Luke Schoonmaker, he’s going to be a good player for us, too,” Moore said. “I think right now Luke’s probably around 235-pounds. He’s going to develop, he’s going to get bigger, get stronger, but he’s going to be a really good player for us, too. I haven’t gotten enough chance to put my hands on him in practice, but I’m really excited about his progress as a player, here.” – Sherrone Moore
Going from high school to the collegiate game isn’t an easy transition to make, true freshman Erick All could be considered a darkhorse candidate to see the field during his first year on campus. While Sean McKeon played during his true freshman season, it’s also likely that All takes the Schoonmaker and Muhammad route by sitting the year out due to redshirting to allow himself to mold his body and learn the playbook closer.
Quotable: “Knows how to get open and has great hands catching the football. All is also a very willing blocker and plays in an offensive system where he has been asked to do a lot of blocking in the running game. Have seen Erick All live a lot, and love the way this kid can get off the line and go up and get the football. Was very impressive earlier this year in Cleveland at the Under Armour camp, where he was nearly impossible to cover. He can make the tough catch, but maybe more importantly, All does not drop the easy ones. He is a very solid, consistent, and steady performer, and one that you know what you’re getting from day to day. He will block and will be even better at it once he fills out and becomes stronger. He has the frame that should allow him to play college football in Ann Arbor at 250-pounds, and be quite effective blocking and catching the football. He plays against great competition on a weekly basis, and All produces against defenses geared to stop him in the passing game. He plays for one of Ohio’s most respected head coaches in Jason Krause, and he raves about All’s toughness and his work ethic. I think there is a lot of upside with All, and room for a lot of growth in his game. I believe he could play early at Michigan, but a redshirt year to get bigger and stronger wouldn’t hurt either. This is a good fit for both Michigan and All, and he has the skill set to be a multi-year starter for the Wolverines.”