Last season, a steady diet of tight end targets fed the Michigan football team’s offense.
Senior Erick All had 38 catches for 437 yards, both second most on the team. Meanwhile, senior Luke Schoonmaker emerged as a formidable red zone threat, with his three touchdown receptions tied for the team lead.
Through three games this year, though, the tight ends haven’t quite had their appetite satisfied. No player in the position group has more than four catches, and the only tight end with more than 50 receiving yards is sophomore Max Bredeson, who accumulated all of them in garbage time.
While the offense appears to be looking in their direction less, Michigan tight ends coach Grant Newsome isn’t concerned. He believes their involvement will come — and there will be a lot of players in the position group eager to seize the opportunity.
“I think that’s one of the things we’re really lucky to have,” Newsome said Wednesday. “We feel like we’re five, six, maybe even seven deep who can go in at tight end and win us games.”
The tight ends haven’t put up major numbers yet, but Newsome appears to be overseeing a deep group. Six different tight ends have registered at least one catch and have contributed in other, less flashy facets of the game such as downfield blocking.
It requires a willingness to adapt, which the Wolverines embrace.
“I know the focus for us has been making sure the team wins and having team success,” Schoonmaker said Tuesday. “So that’s what I love about me and Erick — and the rest of our room too — is just that selflessness for the team and not worrying about individual success.”
That mentality starts from the top and Newsome, more than anyone, understands the need to constantly adapt. He played along the offensive line at Michigan for two seasons before having to medically retire in 2018, when he quickly pivoted to coaching the tight ends.
Newsome has now worked with many tight ends in his burgeoning coaching career, but few have taken more strides than All. This season, All has experienced growth on and off the field, becoming a father and being voted as one of Michigan’s captains.
“He’s been impressive, I’ll tell you that.” Newsome said. “It’s the type of thing where if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t really know. He hasn’t let (being a father) affect his play or affect his mindset or his attention in meetings or practice. He’s done a heck of a job handling it all.”
All has been a contributor for the Wolverines since his freshman season. Schoonmaker has been there alongside All throughout their entire collegiate careers, but he’s played more of a second fiddle to this point.
Last year, though, Schoonmaker began to show his chops as a player the defense had to respect in the passing game. This season, he seems primed to step into a larger role.
“I think it’s always been our opinion in the building that this guy’s got an incredible ceiling,” Newsome said. “We think he can be this top level tight end. I think it was kind of just going out there and putting it all on tape, putting it all together.”
All and Schoonmaker joined Michigan at a time when the program was in limbo, but they’ve now helped the Wolverines achieve success they hadn’t witnessed in decades.
Having two reliable contributors at tight end is a luxury for offenses, one that Michigan has certainly benefited from. The duo’s presence will be missed once they move on, but it’s evident that the tight end bunch will be in good hands.
One player turning a lot of heads is freshman Colston Loveland, a former four-star recruit from Idaho who has already flashed his potential with four catches in three games.
“We realized pretty quickly that he had the tools,” Newsome said. “And on top of that, the mindset was very, very mature for his age — not just physically, but also mentally.”
So far, other position groups have received most of the praise, with the quarterbacks and running backs stealing many of the headlines.
But in a long season with many twists and turns to come, opportunities are bound to pop up for the tight end unit.
And Newsome knows that when they do, he’ll have plenty of weapons at his disposal.