2016 Michigan Spring Football Preview: Tight End

This upcoming week, Michigan football kicks off their 2016 spring practices at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and there are plenty of things to keep an eye on. And I’m not talking about the SEC/ACC/NCAA’s issues with Harbaugh and company posting up camp on their turf.

Overview

Jake Butt’s return to UM is gigantic for two reasons: 1. He’s the best tight end in the country and 2. There are plenty of depth questions behind him. Khalid Hill is moving to fullback but will likely see some targets as a hybrid fullback/h-back/tight end while another player is moving into the full time tight end role in 2016 in Zach Gentry. And he could end up being the best of the bunch.

As for the rest, there are big questions surrounding Ian Bunting and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Bunting flashed signs of promise early on in 2015 but hardly saw the field in the 2nd half of the year. Wheatley Jr. was said to be really coming on last fall camp before suffering an injury and now there are questions on whether or not he should stick at the position or move to offensive tackle. Add in the addition of early enrollee Sean McKeon and this competition is one to watch closely.

Pre-Spring Expected Depth Chart

-Not yet enrolled

  1. #88 Jake Butt, SR
  2. #10 Zach Gentry, SO*
  3. #89 Ian Bunting, JR*
  4. #80 Khalid Hill, SR* 
  5. #8 Tyrone Wheatley Jr, SO
  6. Sean McKeon, FR
  7. Devin Asiasi, FR
  8. Nick Eubanks, FR

Name to Watch Closest

Gentry. The quarterback turned tight end will be, arguably, the most “watched” player during the spring practices. At 6’7” 240-ish lbs, he has the size and athleticism to really impact the team and could end up leaving the spring game as the #2 tight end on the depth chart, as long as he gets the routes down and his hands in order.

Don’t Forget About Me

McKeon. There may not have been a recruit that flew under the radar or received less praise than McKeon and that may have been a mistake. He has the elite size, sneaky athleticism and good hands. If he can continue to put on size and figure out the playbook (and since he had the highest GPA of the 2016 class, that’s expected), I believe he could end up really climbing the depth chart this spring.

Breakout Prediction

Wheatley Jr. The raw talent and hype is there but questions about which position TWJr fits best at moving forward. Is he a better fit at tight end or offensive tackle? While I believe he could be a big time player at either position and could see time at both positions this spring, I think he finds his fit and stands out as a blocking tight end in similar fashion of AJ Williams.

Other Spring Positional Previews

Who do you believe will leave spring ball as the starter? Backup? Breakout candidate? Add your predictions in the comment section below! 

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports