Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo are joined by former running backs Nick Hill of MSU and Chris Howard of UM to talk about this weekend's big games, and Matt Charboneau breaks down his AP Top 25 vote. Detroit News
Greg Frey arrived at Michigan earlier this year assigned to share offensive-line coaching duties with Tim Drevno, also the offensive coordinator.
But along with coaching tackles, he also coaches the tight ends, adding a new element to his job.
“It’s been a blast,” Frey said of working with the tight ends.
Michigan has yet to identify its “next Jake Butt,” the Mackey Award winner last year and two-time Big Ten tight end of the year, but Frey likes this group of tight ends. As Michigan (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) prepares to play at Maryland on Saturday, it is clear the opportunities haven’t been there in the pass game for the tight ends this season, and, for that matter, the receivers.
Through nine games last season, Michigan had thrown for 2,212 yards, enough to spread around to veteran receivers like Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson and Butt. But this year, with the Wolverines on their third quarterback as redshirt freshman Brandon Peters is about to make his second start of the season and first on the road, the passing numbers have dwindled considerably.
Michigan has thrown for 1,507 yards, including the minuscule 56 Peters had last week in the victory over Minnesota and the 58 yards John O’Korn threw at Indiana. This, of course, means fewer receiving yards.
Still, the tight ends are making a mark.
Sean McKeon is the Wolverines’ second-leading receiver with 253 yards and a touchdown, while Zach Gentry, who arrived as a quarterback and has since moved to tight end, is fifth among receivers with 146 yards and a touchdown.
Although their roles in the receiving game haven’t been as dominant as some expected heading into the season, they’ve both improved as blockers.
“Sean is a very talented young man,” Frey said. “He uses his gifts very well. Very smart. He’s very serious about the game. Gets after it. Where I think I’ve been able to help him is in memorizing plays, doing those things, Sean’s extremely talented, just understanding what we’re trying to get done. Maybe a little different view of getting off a press.
“I tell those guys a lot, I say, ‘If you watch one-on-one pass pro, and you’re watching the speed rusher versus a tackle, it’s no different than you trying to get off a linebacker. It’s the same skillset. It’s attacking angles, it’s attacking leverage, it’s getting guys off-balance, and doing those things.’ So that’s really the focal point where I think I’ve just been trying to influence Zach and Sean and some of those guys. So, how do we use his strengths to leverage somebody to get open and to do those things I think that’s where I’ve been able to help him and develop him and understand a little bit more about the world of that first-level, second-level defense.
“And just help him, not that he didn’t know before, but just a different viewpoint maybe.”
Gentry, the 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore, recently said he’s finally feeling acclimated to the position. While he gave himself low marks as a blocker in the early days, he certainly has come a long way.
Frey knows blocking has not come naturally for Gentry but said he is making progress.
“He’s doing great,” Frey said. “He’s coming along. He was involved in some of those big runs last week where he really did a tremendous job of moving through. You know, he was a quarterback and then went to tight end, receiver, back to tight end, so his work ethic has just stood out.
“You can’t say enough good things about Sean and Zach and TJ (Wheatley) and (injured tight end) Nick (Eubanks), all those guys, Ian Bunting, just their work ethic, and they’re embracing it. It’s probably a little different spin than maybe what they had in the past, but I think they’re like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Sometimes you can bring that to them.”
MICHIGAN VS. MARYLAND
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md.
TV / radio: BTN / WWJ 950
Records: Michigan 7-2 (4-2 Big Ten), Maryland 4-5 (2-4)
Line: Michigan by 17