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The tight end position has been a staple in the Michigan offense for a very long time, maybe not entirely during the Rich Rodriguez tenure, but the Wolverines have been known for their tight ends in recent years.
Since Jim Harbaugh took the head coaching job back in 2015, he’s made sure to utilize the tight end and fullback positions into the Wolverine offense. Even when Harbaugh hired Josh Gattis – a spread offense man – as the offensive coordinator, we still see the usage at a high level for tight ends. During the shortened 2020 season, Erick All had the third-most receiving yards on the team, and was targeted a good amount during games.
We’re now going into our fourth installment of ranking the top 10 players at each position since 1995. Now onto the tight ends, and the Wolverines have had some good ones in that time frame. Not all of them may be the top playmakers like what the wide receiver and running back positions have given us in recent years, but all ten of these players had a huge presence on the team they played on.
In case you missed them:
Aaron Shea (1996-1999)
Photo By Matthew Emmons- USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 68 catches, 574 yards (8.4 yards/catch), and 5 TDs; 27 rushes for 104 yards Best performance: 1999 vs Michigan State; 7 catches, 75 yards, and 1 TD Why the rank? Shea was a four-year player at Michigan, but saw significant playing time his last two years in Ann Arbor. Shea had to sit behind Jerame Tuman for a few years, but he shined his senior year when he was third on the team in receptions with 31. Shea was All-Big Ten honorable mention in 1998. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.
Nick Eubanks (2017-2020)
Career statistics: 45 catches, 578 yards (12.8 yards/catch), and 6 TDs Best performance: 2020 at Rutgers; 5 catches for 43 yards Why the rank? The most recent Wolverine on this list, Eubanks decided to come back for his senior year in 2020, but it was a letdown for him - he only caught 10 passes for 117 yards. Eubanks had a great 2019 season where he was third on the team with 4 receiving touchdowns. He was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2019. Eubanks signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent.
Tyler Ecker (2003-2006)
Photo By Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 57 catches, 695 yards (12.2 yards/catch), and 6 TDs Best performance: 2005 vs Notre Dame; 7 catches for 74 yards Why the rank? Ecker never had any 'game changer' in him, but he was a really good run blocker with solid hands. His junior year, he was able to grab 21 catches, which was fourth on the team. During his senior year, he fell in production with only hauling in 12 passes during an injury filled year. Ecker was selected in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins.
Kevin Koger (2008-2011)
Michigan quarterback Steven Threet (10) rushes with the football, pursued by Toledo safety Barry Church (8) and Michigan tight end Kevin Koger (86), in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008, in Ann Arbor, MI. Toledo won 13-10. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Career statistics: 59 catches, 756 yards (12.8 yards/catch), and 9 TDs Best performance: 2011 vs Ohio State; 4 catches, 40 yards, and 1 TD Why the rank? The only tight end that made the top 10 that played during the Rich Rodriguez era. It's pretty amazing that Koger has the stats that he does considering Rich Rod liked to deploy four wide receivers in a ton of his sets. I believe Koger would have excelled in todays current offensive scheme. Koger was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2011 before tearing his achilles in 2012. He is currently the tight ends coach with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Sean McKeon (2016-2019)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Career statistics: 60 catches, 668 yards (11.1 yards/catch), and 6 TDs Best performance: 2017 at Purdue; 5 catches for 82 yards Why the rank? McKeon had an up and down career at Michigan, but he should be viewed as one of the better tight ends in recent memory. In 2017, he led the team in receptions with 31, and was also third on the team with 301 receiving yards. McKeon was a very good blocking tight end during his tenure in Ann Arbor, which is why he signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys. He made the active roster out of the gates and appeared in games throughout the season.
Bennie Joppru (1999-2002)
Photo by Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 85 catches, 800 yards (9.4 yards/catch), and 8 TDs Best performance: 2002 at Illinois; 7 catches, 74 yards, and 2 TDs Why the rank? Joppru saw plenty of playing time during his sophomore and junior years, but the stats finally came in his senior season. He was second on the team in 2002 with 53 receptions, and was also second on the team with 5 receiving touchdowns. Joppru was an AP-All American third team after his senior year. He was selected in the second round of the 2003 NFL draft by the Houston Texans.
Zach Gentry (2016-2018)
DPJ helps tight end Zach Gentry celebrate a big play.
Career statistics: 49 catches, 817 yards (16.7 yards/catch), and 4 TDs Best performance: 2018 vs Maryland; 7 catches for 112 yards Why the rank? Gentry had an interesting journey: he committed to the Wolverines as a quarterback, but after his freshman year, he switched to tight end. I would say it was an excellent switch: Gentry was third-team All-Big Ten in 2018, and he also was third on the team with 32 receptions. Gentry was a big frame that Shea Patterson loved to throw to. Gentry was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jerame Tuman (1995-1998)
Photo: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Career statistics: 98 catches, 1,279 yards (13.1 yards/catch), and 13 TDs Best performance: 1997 vs Colorado; 5 catches for 126 yards Why the rank? Tuman was the complete package at tight end: he could run, catch, and block. The play-action pass from Brian Griese to Tuman was a bread and butter player for the Wolverines during their 1997 National Championship run. Tuman was a first-team All-Big Ten player in 1996, 1997, and 1998 - as well as an All-American in 1997. Tuman was drafted in the fifth round of the 1999 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Devin Funchess (2012-2014)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Career statistics: 126 catches, 1,715 yards (13.6 yards/catch), and 15 TDs Best performance: 2013 at Penn State; 4 catches, 112 yards, and 2 TDs Why the rank? Technically, Funchess came to Michigan as a tight end, and played the position for the first two years on campus before switching to wide receiver in his junior season. If you want technical stats: as a tight end, he caught 64 passes for 982 yards and 11 TDs. I would say he was a pretty explosive and impactful tight end for Michigan, which is why he ranks second on this list. Funchess was second-team All-Big Ten in 2013 and 2014. He also won Kwalick-Clark tight end of the year in 2013. The Carolina Panthers selected Funchess in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Jake Butt (2013-2016)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Career statistics: 138 catches, 1,646 yards (11.9 yards/catch), and 11 TDs Best performance: 2016 vs UCF; 7 catches, 86 yards, and 2 TDs Why the rank? The fan favorite, and award getter has to be No. 1 on this list. Jake Butt was a monster on the field, and overcame a torn ACL early on his career to go down as arguably the greatest Michigan tight end of all time. Butt was a two-time All-Big Ten awardee in 2015 and 2016, first-team All-American in 2016, won the John Mackey Award in 2016, and he won the Kwalick-Clark tight end of the year award in 2015 and 2016. Butt was a fifth round pick in the 2017 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos, having slid after tearing his ACL again in the Capital One Orange Bowl.