Breaking down the tight end position

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football

On roster:
1.) Devin Funchess (So): 6-5, 235
2.) A.J Williams (So): 6-6, 265
3.) Jake Butt (Fr): 6-6, 237
4.) Khalid Hill (Fr): 6-2, 258

The State of the Position

It’s obvious when looking over the roster that there is an influx of youth. Though that might cause concern in some, the potential and talent in this group is now an area of strength. With it only becoming stronger in the future.

Sophomore Devin Funchess arguably has the highest ceiling in this group and also perhaps top five on the entire roster. Coming in to camp at 235 pounds, Funchess definitely has the frame to put on another 10-15 pounds if that is what the coaches wanted to do. Though would this potential weight game take away from his biggest strength, his speed? Probably. Faster than most receivers, Funchess could be setting himself up for a big season. Finishing the 2012 season with 15 catches for 234 yards and five touchdowns, he saw most of those catches come early in the season. With Michigan headed to more of a pro-style offense this season, the staff will definitely be utilizing the tight end position more than in years past.

But, with transforming to a pro-style offense, the need for a blocking tight end is an absolute must. Time will tell if Funchess can make the blocks necessary to be successful and by all means, it’s looking like it he can and will. If you add a polished blocking game to his already polished receiving game, Funchess is walking mismatch that is guaranteed to give defensive coordinators fits. You can pretty much fill Funchess wherever you wanted. In two tight end sets or outside on long yardage situations, it will be a problem finding a good matchup to go up against not on his speed, but his size as well. Funchess has been on my list to have a breakout season.

Another tight end that most seem to forget about is sophomore AJ Williams. With no statistical output to speak of, he was a quiet contributor for the Wolverines last season. His main role with the team was being a blocking tight end. With an inexperienced and weak – in terms of production – offensive line, he was needed to pick up the slack. Though he won’t be tearing up any offenses through the air, he is an excellent compliment to Funchess and Butt and is a very intriguing talent. The coaches continually say that he is capable of catching passes, so it will be interesting to see if that is indeed what happens.

Incoming freshman, Jake Butt, is a very intriguing prospect for Michigan if one wants to look towards the future. Not as speedy as Funchess nor as physical as Williams, one might argue that he is the best all-around player on the roster without playing a single down for the Wolverines.

As an early-enrollee, Butt has already familiarized himself with the offense as much as one possibly can before the season starts. The coaching staff have said that there are no plans to redshirt Butt, which means early playing time is a definite possibility. One of the tallest tight ends on the roster, his height will be put to good use. Though he won’t be burning any defensive backs, he can definitely out-muscle them, there is a definite mismatch if placed in two tight end sets with Funchess. Essentially, pick your poison.

If Butt shows that he can be a decent blocker and can haul in some catches throughout this season, it
might force the coaching staff to play him alongside Funchess. This move might force Williams to goal line situations as he is the more physical tight end. There is a possibility that Butt could pan out better than Funchess if utilized properly. But, only time will tell.

Our last featured tight end, Khalid Hill, will find his niche sometime during his career at Michigan. A probable redshirt candidate, Hill is an interesting specimen for the coaching staff to work with. The smallest tight end as far as height, he makes up for it by coming into camp at a beefy 258 pounds. Which is much larger than Funchess or Butt.

A definite pass catching tight end, Hill could be a great redzone threat with his size. Though he isn’t athletic enough to burn anyone, he can definitely out-muscle the defense on passing downs later in his career. Hill’s blocking needs some work as well, I don’t think he ready to block college-level lineman right now at this point.

Essentially, Hill is a “sometime in his career” type of guy. Though he is talented, his place in the tight end position gets cloudy when you have guys like Funchess or Butt on the depth chart. Though I do expect Hill to contribute to this team in some aspect. Considering how much Borges likes to shuffle players in and out, Hill should see some playing time in passing situations in the future.

Bottom Line

Bottom line, Funchess will have a bigger year. He has set himself up for a great season and with the offense going to a style more favorable for a tight end, he will excel there. If Funchess doesn’t at least double his catch total, it will be a very disappointing season and he is not being utilized properly. As he will create so many mismatches, to me, it’s pretty clear he will be seeing a lot of passes being thrown his way.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.