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2016 Preview – Tight Ends and Offensive Line

August 30, 2016

TIGHT ENDS 

Depth Chart – Jake Butt (SR), Ian Bunting (JR), Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (RS FR), Zach Gentry (RS FR), Sean McKeon (FR), Devin Asiasi (FR), Nick Eubanks (FR)

Overview 

As in any Jim Harbaugh offense, the tight ends will be expected to play a big role.  There is no shortage of talent at the position – Jake Butt is regarded by many as the best tight end in the country and a likely 1st Round pick in in next year’s NFL draft.  He has the size, speed, and hands to have a dominant senior year and should be one of the go to weapons on offense.  His 51 receptions last year were second only to Bennie Joppru’s 53 in 2002 in terms of single season production and tied the late great Jim Mandich’s 51 receptions in 1969.  Though there are plenty of other weapons on offense, don’t be surprised to see Butt break that record this year.  

After Butt the other name to watch out for will be Ian Bunting who showed promise last year in limited time.  He only tallied 5 catches and 72 yards, but was behind both Butt and Khalid Hill who has now moved to fullback.  Bunting is the likely second starter at tight end, at least to start the year.  

The remaining tight ends are highly regarded, but unproven.  Tyrone Wheatley Jr may look more like an offensive tackle, but given his genes certainly has the ability to run well too.  Zach Gentry was originally recruited as a quarterback but quickly moved to tight end after seeing his promise.  He’s athletic enough that he’s also been lined up at wide receiver this fall.  Devin Asiasi was one of the top high school tight ends in the country last year and is physically ready to play college ball.  So much so he’s also seen time on the talented defensive line.  Eubanks and McKeon are both talented, but one, if not both, is destined to redshirt due to the depth here.  

OFFENSIVE LINE 

Depth Chart – Mason Cole (SO), Kyle Kalis (SR), Erik Magnuson (SR), Ben Braden (RS SR), Grant Newsome (SO), Ben Bredeson (FR), David Dawson (RS JR), Michael Onwenu (FR), Patrick Kugler (JR), Juwann Bushell-Beatty (JR), Nolan Ulizio (RS FR), Jon Runyan Jr (SO) 

Overview

With four of the five starters returning from last year’s offensive line, Michigan will start its most experienced and talented line in several years.  Though given the offensive line woes in 2013 and 2014, that isn’t saying much.  With center Graham Glasgow now in the NFL, sophomore Mason Cole will slide over from left tackle to fill that role.  The starting guards from last year, Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis are slated to start again, though both have been a little banged up with lingering but not significant injuries and its possible one or both will sit out the opener.  The right tackle spot has been solidified by senior Erik Magnuson who has had a very good fall camp.  The left tackle is where the question mark remains however.  Sophomore Grant Newsome, who saw time last year and was solid, is being strongly pushed by true freshman Ben Bredeson.  While Bredeson is still a freshman who makes mistakes, the coaches love his intensity and aggression.  As of last week, it was a toss up as to who would start.  Now that there are some injuries to the interior of the line, its possible Bredeson will move inside for now.  But the left tackle spot could be an on-going battle as the season goes on.  

In terms of the backups, its clear Bredeson is the first man up should someone go down with an injury.  After that its a little unclear.  Juwann Bushell-Beatty saw the field last year in a reserve role and could help at tackle if called upon.  David Dawson is the most experienced guy after that, but has yet to show the promise that his ranking out of high school suggested.  If Mason Cole can’t go, the center would be Patrick Kugler who the coaches like, but not enough to keep Cole at tackle like last year.  Finally, the one reserve to watch out for could be Michael Onwenu.  The true frosh is a beastly 330 lbs plus but apparently moves like a guy half that size.  His agility and size have also gotten him reps at defensive tackle where he could very well end up.  Ideally they’d like to redshirt him, but in a pinch he could be called into action.  

This probably won’t be a dominant Michigan offensive line, but it should be an improvement over what was a very capable line from last year.  The biggest questions will shoring up the left tackle spot and whether or not Cole can replace the excellent work Glasgow did at center last year.  Everyone else is a year bigger, stronger, and smarter and should play that way.   If Cole can play at a high level and either Bredeson or Newsome show the ability to take over at left tackle, this line could be very good by the time the schedule gets tougher in late October and November.  

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