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Michigan Football 2023 Position Preview: Tight Ends

michigan tight ends

Michigan has leaned heavily on the tight end position within its offensive scheme. Luke Schoonmaker was the primary starter and a safety blanket for Michigan quarterbacks the past few seasons. With Schoonmaker’s departure to the NFL and some transfers, Michigan will be looking for a new go-to target at the position. Colston Loveland is in line to start in 2023 after a standout freshman season. However, Michigan’s depth at tight end doesn’t stop with its talented sophomore. Loveland is a star in the making, but Michigan enters 2023 with plenty of talent at the position. Here is what to expect from the tight ends this season.

Michigan Football Tight End Preview: Loveland is an Emerging Star

Who is in and who is out?

Returners: Colston Loveland, Max Bredeson, Matthew Hibner, Marlin Klein, Josh Beetham, Noah Howes

Key Additions: A.J. Barner (Indiana Transfer), Deakon Tonielli, Zack Marshall

Key Losses: Luke Schoonmaker, Erick All, Louis Hansen, Joel Honigford

There has been a ton of movement at the tight end position this off-season. The Wolverines lost Erick All and Louis Hansen to the transfer portal along with Schoonmaker and Joel Honigford to the NFL. Michigan brought in Indiana transfer A.J. Barner to offset some of their veteran losses, and he is expected to have a relevant role in the offense. Both Max Bredeson and Matthew Hibner are two notable returners that rotated in and played special teams last year. Marlin Klein is an intriguing returner with a chance to see the field more this season. The 6-6, 245-pound redshirt freshman has the frame Michigan covets and has good athleticism for the position. He is originally from Germany and still developing, but there is a lot to like about his profile.

Other additions to the room are freshmen Deakon Tonielli and Zack Marshall. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh compared Tonielli to Loveland after the early signing period. There are definitely some similarities in their games. Listed at 6-5, 230 pounds, Tonielli is a big target with good speed and smooth athleticism for his size. He presents a mismatch as a receiver to both linebackers and defensive backs. After aligning as a wide receiver in high school, Tonielli will likely need time to develop as an inline blocker in addition to adding strength. As for Marshall, he early enrolled in the spring to get a head start on his development. Like Tonielli, Marshall mostly aligned as a split out and will need to grow as an all-around tight end. He doesn’t have the frame that Tonielli possesses, but he has the speed, athleticism, and ball skills to develop into a quality receiver.

Projected Depth Chart

Starters: Colston Loveland

Backups: A.J. Barner

Key Contributors: Matthew Hibner, Max Bredeson, Marlin Klein

Despite Michigan’s losses at the position, this is a much deeper group than expected. Loveland is a budding star poised for a true breakout after a strong freshman season. He has all the talent to be not only one of the best tight ends in the conference, but in the entire country. Michigan’s staff is high on Barner and he should serve as the backup behind Loveland. Barner’s athleticism and receiving skills give Michigan some flexibility in deploying their top two tight ends.

Hibner feels like one of the biggest sleepers on this Michigan team. He had a strong Spring and brings a good mix of athleticism, speed, and receiving talent. Bredeson is a strong blocker and more of a hybrid fullback than a true tight end. Expect Hibner and Bredeson to provide valuable depth behind Loveland and Barner. Don’t expect significant playing time from Michigan’s freshman tight ends this season. The Wolverines have enough talent and depth to allow Tonielli and Marshall to develop at their own pace.

Read more Michigan Football position previews here: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers 

Outlook At Tight End In 2023

While speaking with the media at Michigan’s pro day, Honigford said Loveland could be the best tight end to ever suit up for the Wolverines. Loveland showcased that potential as a true freshman after making key plays down the stretch. With Schoonmaker off to the NFL, Loveland will be directly in the spotlight with big expectations for his sophomore season. He has all the talent to be a fixture in Michigan’s offense and become one of the best tight ends in the nation.

Michigan likes to use multiple tight end sets and has the depth needed to mix up its packages. The Wolverines lost some talented players at the position, but there shouldn’t be a drop-off in production this season. Barner is a solid backup with the all-around skillset to make an impact as a blocker and receiver. Additionally, Hibner and Bredeson are quality role players ready for expanded playing time this season. Could offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore get creative with up to four tight end sets? Time will tell, but the Michigan offense should once again be productive and explosive with the tight ends playing a crucial role.

 

michigan tight ends

Photo courtesy: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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