Last week I wrote my thoughts about the quarterback battle that is heating up in Ann Arbor. I gave the early edge to Speight based off his leadership and patience in the pocket, but believe O’Korn can just as easily be a great option. This week I’ll be previewing a few of the guys at the tight end spot. Senior Jake Butt is a proven option who had a chance to bolt to the NFL after last season. He tallied 51 catches, three touchdowns, and 654 yards for the Maize and Blue, and was awarded the Big Ten tight end of the year. I expect another solid performance out of Butt this season — but who else will the Wolverines rely on for production?
Wheatley is large…very large. Standing 6’6”, 280, the sophomore tight end sticks out in comparison to just about anybody on the squad. After spending his entire freshman season learning and developing behind some of the marque guys on the Wolverines’ depth chart, Wheatley is poised to make a big impact this season. A lower leg injury hindered his success all year, but when this guy is healthy — look out .
Coming out of high school, Wheatley was the number one ranked tight end in the state of New York, and was nationally ranked 13th among all tight ends. His pedigree is off the charts. As many Wolverine faithful remember, his father Tyrone Wheatley Sr., rushed for over 4,100 yards, 47 touchdowns as a Wolverine, earning the 1992 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award.
So what did I see out of Tyrone Wheatley at the spring game? For starters, I saw a big frame that could block really well. As a senior in high school, he was known for “muscling guys up” because of his size. To me it looks like he will have the ability to do the same in the Big Ten Conference. Wheatley appears to be one of, if not the best blocking options the Wolverines have at tight end. Aside from blocking, the dude looks like could be a great option as a pass catcher.
I noticed during Wheatley’s lone catch in the spring game (good for nine yards), that he has very soft hands, and can be a beast to try and bring down. Wheatley has surprisingly quick speed when he gets moving. As a high school student, he had 4.9/40-speed, and I would guess he is still right around that mark. Take for example this play from Michigan’s spring practice at Ford Field in Detroit.
— ap (@plurjuice) March 26, 2016
Wheatley lines up as a tight end, blows past the covering linebacker, Devin Bush, and makes a one handed grab as he pulls away from defenders. We already know Jake Butt is a great tight end, and is gearing up for an all American season and that Ian Bunting seems to be the likely candidate at this time to assume the number two role, but I see Tyrone Wheatley being a big name this year. He’s got the name, the talent, and like Gentry, is in a great offense where he will be put into positions to hurt defenses. Be on the lookout!
I was pretty high on this cat when he was coming out of high school. The 6’7” quarterback from New Mexico wowed me with every pass he threw. I watched highlight tape after highlight tape on this guy, and thought for sure he was going to be the next great Wolverine quarterback (one big reason I have stopped worrying about high school recruits). He had the size, the arm and the athleticism, but somewhere down the line something changed, leading him to the tight end position. It could be the coaching changes at the University of Michigan, it could be his leadership, or it could be the fact that the Wolverines have five other quarterbacks on the roster, and feel he could most benefit the team from a different spot.
Gentry tallied one catch during the spring game, as he scampered for 19 yards. Other than that, his night was pretty silent. To me he looked like a guy trying to learn a completely new position. His route running wasn’t terrible, but some of the patterns were definitely unpolished. He looked lost at times and his blocking was poor, which is expected in the early goings from a former quarterback. Between learning blocking technique and how to slow down a powerful defense such as Michigan’s, he has a lot to learn and much to improve on. Luckily for Gentry, he’s able to learn under proven coaches, so I expect vast improvements over the summer. I have no doubt that Zach Gentry is an athlete, and he could prove to be a huge weapon for the Wolverines. He is a part of an offense that will always put him in great position to make big plays and he’s got the size and talent to execute. Gentry might not be a star this season, but with his work ethic and ability to develop, he will be a name worth mentioning in the future.
What are your thoughts about each of these two tight ends? What do you think about Ian Bunting? Let us know! Twitter: @craig_tbhr Email:firstname.lastname@example.org