In the first game of the 2000 football season, Michigan”s star tight end Shawn Thompson went down with a knee injury that would keep him out of action for the entire season.
As a result, the tight ends did not seem to fit in much with Michigan”s offensive plans. With David Terrell and Marquise Walker catching nearly everything in sight, tailback Anthony Thomas powering through the line and Drew Henson standing in the pocket and creating positive situations out of nothing, the tight ends served primarily as blockers.
So it has come as a bit of a surprise this year that after two games, Michigan”s tight ends are finding their way into the box scores.
“It”s exciting to finally be an important part of this offense,” senior Bill Seymour said. Seymour has already caught five passes for 65 yards after making only eight catches for 95 yards all of last season.
The Wolverines” are still waiting for Thompson to make a full recovery. The fifth-year senior Michigan”s offensive captain has yet to catch a pass this season and has seen very limited time.
In his stead, Seymour, Bennie Joppru and Eric Rosel have become “the strongest, deepest position on our team,” coach Lloyd Carr said. Joppru has caught four passes for 26 yards.
“We have great talent at tight end,” Thompson said. “Our tight ends are getting the job done.”
Against Miami (Ohio) and Washington, Carr has made the tight ends an extremely important part of the Wolverines” sets.
Generally having them run a fade pattern on a play action, quarterback John Navarre has seen the ends and gotten them the ball nine times so far this season. Joppru caught the winning touchdown against Miami (Ohio) on fourth and goal from the two yard line.
“We”ve been doing our best trying to get open and John”s been doing a great job of feeding us the ball,” Seymour said. “We”re just hoping that continues throughout the rest of the year.”
More than the positive yardage that they”ve gained on their catches, Carr sees the improved tight end play opening the offense.
“If you can throw the ball to the tight end off the play action, that really helps your running game,” Carr said.
In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how the group adjusts to the increased role that Thompson will be playing. Still the leader at the position, Thompson feels like he”s almost back to where he was before the injury.
“Each week I”m getting better and better,” Thompson said. “I”m just going out there and doing whatever I can to help the team out.”
Seymour knows that whenever Thompson does get back to 100 percent, the tight ends should continue to pace the offense.
“Shawn is one of the best tight ends in the country,” he said.