Sherrone Moore has never had this kind of depth in his meeting rooms.
The Michigan football team’s first-year tight ends coach went through a full season at Central Michigan with just two tight ends.
Now, he’s inheriting a position group chock full of talent.
“I’m extremely excited at the fact Coach Harbaugh loves tight ends that much,” Moore said.
On last season’s offense that failed to impress in multiple areas, the tight ends were one of the Wolverines’ lone bright spots.
Junior Sean McKeon led the team with 31 catches and three receiving touchdowns and finished third on the team in receiving yards, with 301.
His position-mate, senior Zach Gentry, finished with 303 receiving yards and two touchdowns, both good enough for second on the team.
Needless to say, the pair combined to provide a spark to a passing game that otherwise struggled.
That duo returns for Michigan, and with questions and health issues surrounding other parts of the offense, Gentry and McKeon’s proven productivity will act as a safety blanket.
“Outstanding threats in the passing game,” Moore said. “Obviously, with Zach being (6-foot-7), he’s a mismatch nightmare with his size, with his strength. And he’s 265 right now, so he’s just getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger. And then Sean, he’s just so cerebral and strong … He’s so athletic.
“Both can play multiple positions in the group.”
Gentry and McKeon aren’t alone, either.
Junior Nick Eubanks looked promising in the Wolverines’ first game last season, catching two balls for 61 yards against Florida. But an arm injury sidelined Eubanks after just four games. Now, he’s back too, sporting a new accessory and all.
“Nick looks good,” Gentry said on Mar. 27. “Nick’s flying around and doing a lot of good stuff. Nick’s ready to go. He’s got the Gronk elbow brace on now.”
Senior Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is a bigger, more run-blocking-oriented player, the foil to the rest of the unit’s finesse. Though he suffered a foot injury that has kept him out of spring ball, Wheatley is scheduled to return by the summer and provide a much-needed run-blocking presence for an offense that struggled to pound the rock against good defenses last season.
That facet of the game is something all the tight ends have worked to improve. Gentry and McKeon, especially, have already proven themselves to be assets in the passing game. Now, especially for Gentry, the former quarterback, run blocking is emphasized even more.
“Really it starts with the run game,” McKeon said on April 5. “When he switched over my freshman year, he couldn’t block anyone. I mean, honestly. But now, he’s bulked up. He’s 260 now. He’s moving people off the ball. So that’s been the biggest improvement with him. And he still has his speed too, his route running. He looks great out there.”
All the factors combine to give hope for improvement on a unit that didn’t leave much room to improve.
Moore joked Tuesday that he just learned the names of all the players in his meeting room.
It’s hard to blame him. It’s something he’s never seen before.