Michigan Tight Ends In 2020: Nick Eubanks And Who Else?
Senior Nick Eubanks: 35 career receptions
Redshirt sophomore Luke Schoonmaker: 2 career receptions
Senior H-Back Ben Mason: 1 career reception
Sophomore Erick All: 1 career reception
Redshirt sophomore H-Back Ben VanSumeren: 0 career receptions
Whoever starts at quarterback for Michigan should take comfort in knowing he has a security blanket and a dynamic red-zone presence with the return of Eubanks. The senior tight end possesses the skill set to challenge for the Big Ten's Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award in 2020.
He's good enough to warrant the targets necessary to become just the seventh Wolverine TE in school history to record 40 catches in a season, though U-M hasn't featured a single tight end that prominently since Jake Butt in 2016.
The Wolverines' tight ends did not go the way of the do-do bird in the first year of Josh Gattis' spread offense, catching 41 balls - just 13 fewer than when U-M was a pro-style offense in 2018 - and there should be a bevy of opportunities for Schoonmaker and All, while Mason (defensive tackle and fullback) and VanSumeren (tailback) are both transitioning from previous posts, though it remains to be seen how often Gattis employs an H-back.
The 6-6, 242-pound Schoonmaker looks to be Sean McKeon's heir apparent. The two both hail from the under-recruited East Coast (McKeon from Dudley, Mass., and Schoonmaker from Hamden, Conn.,) while they were lowly-rated three stars, Nos. 854 and No. 796 in the 2016 and 2018 classes, respectively. Schoonmaker, however, appears to be a bit faster and more natural athlete than McKeon.
We recently named All to our Michigan Top 20 Under 20. He appeared in 11 games last season and had a single catch at Penn State. He was widely considered a better pass catcher than blocker yet was almost exclusively featured as a blocker in 2019.
Someone will have to take McKeon's targets unless the staff just loads up more on Eubanks, and VanSumeren is an interesting possibility, though, again, no one knows what to expect from an H-back in a system that would prefer to throw to a speedier, quicker tailback (or sophomore receiver Giles Jackson) out of the backfield than a de facto fullback.
Prediction: Michigan's No. 1 tight ends have caught an average of 37 balls in Jim Harbaugh's first five seasons, though admittedly four of those were in a pro-style, two-tight end heavy offense. His No. 2 tight ends have caught an average of 11 balls per season, which means it's very possible that Eubanks dominates the stat sheet in 2020 at the expense of Schoonmaker and/or All.
However, everyone seems to be anticipating a more prolific passing attack for the Wolverines - Michigan threw the ball 42 more times in 2019 than its five-year season average of 378 pass attempts per season - and U-M could jump to around 450 attempts next fall (68 teams reached that mark in the 2018-19 combined campaigns). Plenty of those targets will go to receivers and running backs, but tight ends should experience a bit of a bump too.
I think Eubanks gets 35-40 catches next season with his Nos. 2 and 3 catching 15 and 10, respectively.