Koger and tight ends will play important role in pro-style offense

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Michigan senior tight end Kevin Koger took the cake with two straight days with Michigan's top suit-and-tie combo. Buy this photo

By Kevin Raftery, Daily Sports Editor
Published July 29, 2011

CHICAGO — “Sleepy.”

It’s not the first adjective most might think of to describe a 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end. But for some reason, it stuck on redshirt junior tight end Brandon Moore.

“(Redshirt junior cornerback) JT Floyd’s been calling him that since freshman year,” Michigan senior tight end Kevin Koger said with a smile at Big Ten Media Days on Friday. “I don’t know why.”

It’s appropriate, though, that a tight end was tabbed with the nickname. In the past three years under former coach Rich Rodriguez, the tight ends’ role has been about as lively as a bear in hibernation.

It’s been sleepy.

But this year, it looks like the bear will wake up with a vengeance in Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s pro-style offense. And Hoke has a plethora of bears to work with.

Koger, who started in eight games last year and tallied 14 catches, 199 yards and two touchdowns, seems to be the leading candidate to nab the starting job in the fall.

And junior quarterback Denard Robinson can’t wait to get him the ball.

“Oh yeah, Kevin is gonna be a good target to throw to,” Robinson said, excitement in his voice. “In 7-on-7s we’ve been getting the tight ends the ball a lot.”

Koger has made strides this summer to emerge as the No. 1 tight end.

“From a physical standpoint, muscle mass and strength and that, I think (Koger) has made some really good gains,” Hoke said.

But right behind Koger is fifth-year senior Steve Watson. Watson, who has bounced around different positions throughout his career, is back to his natural position — the position he dominated throughout high school.

Watson spent last season as a defensive end and saw limited action.

“He’s happy to be (back) on offense,” Robinson said. “He loves playing tight end, he loves getting the ball in his hands. He’s got good hands.”

But Robinson made sure to not compliment Watson too much.

“I wouldn’t say he’s got wheels, ‘cause then he’ll get a big head,” Robinson joked.

Hoke, though, had no problem praising the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Watson.

“I think (Watson) compliments Kevin very well with what he does and how he approaches every practice,” Hoke said. “He’s one of those guys that really is truly a leader for us. “

But the deep well of talented tight ends doesn’t stop there. Moore, incoming freshman Chris Barnett, and redshirt freshman Ricardo Miller all could see time on the field this season.

Robinson also specifically mentioned Moore as someone who has really stood out this off season.

And Miller has made big strides this off season, especially in the weight room.

“Ricardo’s about 233, 234 now,” Koger said. “He’s bulked up. He’s completely dedicated. If they tell Ricardo to gain 10 pounds, he’ll gain 10 pounds. If they tell him to do two back flips and land on his head, he’ll do that.

“He’ll do whatever it takes to be a good player … He’s going to be a great player for Michigan in the future, or even this year.”

While the offense's ability to adapt to a new offensive scheme is still a major question mark this fall, one thing is clear: don’t sleep on the tight ends come September.