Jim Harbaugh, like any coach, loves to compliment his players.
So when the Michigan football coach was asked Monday at his weekly press conference, about the development of redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry, it was no surprise that Harbaugh had a lot to say about all of his tight ends — Gentry, along with juniors Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks. He even gave a shoutout to former Wolverine Jake Butt, now a tight end with the NFL’s Denver Broncos.
And then at the end of his response, Harbaugh quickly added a compliment to first-year tight ends coach Sherrone Moore.
“It’s just really good, good — tight ends, Sherrone Moore’s doing a heck of a job coaching this (group),” Harbaugh said. “… So proud of that.”
It’s a small gesture, but it still meant something to Moore, who joined the staff this offseason by way of Central Michigan. Does he get that praise often?
“From my wife,” Moore said Wednesday. “My mom, she’ll give me that sometimes. My wife actually told me about (Harbaugh’s comments), which was pretty cool. So, you know, I’m just blessed to be here and do whatever I can to make this team better and make this program better.”
Moore was dealt a strong hand when he arrived in Ann Arbor.
Not only does he have Gentry, McKeon and Eubanks, but Michigan also landed the No. 6 tight-end recruit in the 2018 recruiting class, Mustapha Muhammad.
And with Harbaugh’s fondness for two and three-tight end sets, Moore is experiencing a wealth of riches he hasn’t enjoyed before.
“Last year at Central, we were more of a spread operation, so really only in one-tight end sets a majority of the game. Sometimes two,” Moore said. “But, you know, here, as you guys see, we’re in three-tight end sets, we’re early in the game three-tight end sets. Then I’ve got all three of them yelling at us, ‘Don’t take us off the field, ‘cause you saw us score.’ And I’m like, ‘Guys, chill out.’
“But, you know, it’s really cool to be a part of a program that does that and to be a part of that. And when you have weapons like that, it’s good to use them like that.”
Last season, Gentry (303) and McKeon (301) had the second and third-most receiving yards on the team, and they had the most receiving touchdowns as well — two and three, respectively.
Those aren’t staggering numbers, but on a team that struggled to pass the ball, the tight ends were often the safety valve. That dimension was already in their repertoire.
This season, they’re contributing in the run game, too. That aspect was a major knock against the tight ends last season, but the improvement is something Moore has noticed firsthand.
“Their strength from the spring to now the gains that they get, you know, I hold the bag sometimes for them and feel a little bit of a different thump when they hit it,” Moore said. “So that was a pretty cool feeling, to feel the difference of their strength there. But to watch those guys really improve from a fundamental standpoint with their hands and their feet has been really cool and really has come to fruition on gameday.”
Moore is quick to deflect praise. He credits strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert for the tight ends’ improvement in blocking. He lauds wide receivers coach Jim McElwain for passing on some knowledge to him. And he credits the talents of his players for the rest.
But there is no doubt that Moore is doing something right. If he weren’t, his praise would still just be coming from his wife and his mom.