Michigan tight ends in 'really good battle' to replace Jake Butt

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

Ann Arbor – Jake Butt is now a tight end in the NFL, and he left a well-noted legacy for the position at Michigan.

Butt, a co-captain his final year, was the Mackey Award winner last season and a two-time Big Ten Tight End of the Year, and he left Michigan as the all-time leading receiver in yards for a tight end (1,618) and set a record for career receptions at the position (135).

In other words, his absence is substantial heading into this fall.

There are several candidates at tight end, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh gave high marks to all of them, particularly Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

“Ty Wheatley is running faster,” Harbaugh said. “He lost some weight, about 20 pounds. He’s been the most physical of the tight ends.”

At the conclusion of spring practice, Wheatley said he wanted to continue to lose weight. When the redshirt sophomore arrived in Ann Arbor in 2015, he said he weighed 275. His weight climbed to 290 last year and by the end of spring he was down to 270 with more, he said, to lose.

The competition at tight end has been close.

“Sean McKeon has been very athletic and Zach Gentry is just fighting like a madman and doing some really good things,” Harbaugh said. “Ian (Bunting) is back now and he’s practicing and getting himself back to where he was.”

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Greg Frey was added to the staff before spring practice to coach tackles and tight ends. He said Monday that facing Michigan’s defense every day in practice is only making them better.

“It’s been a really good battle,” Frey said. “Watching Sean McKeon develop in his run blocking and pass catching, just running routes. TJ’s (Wheatley) doing an awesome job.

“The tight ends are doing outstanding and each of them in their own way are really providing something for the offense, so that’s really been good to see. And they’re doing it against a high-level, talented defense. They’ve been really good.”