Entering the 2022 season, the Michigan football team seemed poised to tout a two-headed monster at tight end. Seniors Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker each returned after posting productive campaigns in 2021 and serving as the backbone of the Wolverines’ passing game.
Three games into this season, though, that vision went by the wayside.
All played in the non-conference slate, totaling three catches for 36 yards, before being sidelined with an undisclosed injury; on Oct. 21, All posted pictures of himself in a hospital bed on Instagram, revealing that he had “life-changing” surgery. His season ended before it really even started.
The title of TE1 officially belonged to Schoonmaker.
“It was just understanding that I was gonna have more of a workload now,” Schoonmaker said Tuesday, recalling his reaction to the news of All’s surgery. “So just making sure that I’m on top of my game and confident every week, playing the best that I can. … It’s just been a call to do higher things and more things.”
Schoonmaker’s role in the offense has expanded accordingly. On a team heralded for its wide receiver talent in fall camp, Schoonmaker is second in receptions (28) and receiving yards (299), trailing graduate receiver Ronnie Bell in each category. He has seemingly developed a stellar rapport with sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy, becoming a preferred target.
That chemistry is intentional.
“Just making sure I’m in the right place at the right time and, you know, he makes the right reads and he gets the ball to me,” Schoonmaker said. “So we’ve definitely clicked pretty well together, and we’ll just continue to do that.”
Schoonmaker’s production increase is a byproduct of All’s absence. Through three games, Schoonmaker managed just three catches, playing second fiddle. In the five games since, he has 25 receptions, including two games with over seven receptions.
Schoonmaker was quick to credit the entire tight end room — fifth-year Joel Honigford, sophomore Max Bredeson and freshman Coleston Loveland — for adapting to fill their new roles. And he’s right, each of them have contributed, whether it be via blocking or pass catching. Michigan’s success is in part predicated on strong play from all of its tight ends.
But Schoonmaker’s emergence is most pivotal.
“It’s been a blast,” Schoonmaker said. “Just kind of doing my job, making sure I’m supposed to be where I’m at in the passing game and the ball is thrown at me, I’ve gotta make a play with it. So just doing those simple things has gotten me to be here.”
All of that was on display Saturday against Michigan State. While the offense slogged at times, Schoonmaker emerged as a reliable option, notching five catches and 70 yards.
Schoonmaker’s approach is simple. A seasoned pass-catcher and route-runner, he hones in on the smallest details of his game, like footwork and timing.
It’s a practice he draws from tight ends coach Grant Newsome. After each game, Newsome offers critique and grades to his tight end room, with the feedback geared towards the minutiae.
That mindset has helped turn Schoonmaker into a bona fide TE1, but so has All’s continued presence. Since his surgery, All has remained a constant face around the program. He assists with the scout team defense and, according to Schoonmaker, “hasn’t changed at all” since the injury.
Neither has Schoonmaker.
“I tried to stay level-headed,” Schoonmaker said. “Not too high, not too low.”
His production mimics his mindset, and the Wolverines are benefitting as a result.