Led by Eubanks and All, tight ends have taken 'next step' in Michigan offense
As Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis rattled off the names of his receivers and what he expects from them this season, he made sure not to forget about the tight ends, or the guys he refers to as “big speed in space” in this offense.
Sean McKeon has moved on to the NFL, leaving Nick Eubanks as the leader of a talented room that includes Luke Schoonmaker, a redshirt sophomore, and sophomore Erick All. Added to the mix is veteran Ben Mason, who has played multiple positions during his Michigan career and is considered among the toughest and strongest players on the team.
“We’re just as excited about those guys as we are about all of our receiving corps,” Gattis said this week. “Those guys all together have really good chemistry and make some big plays for us.”
Tight ends coach Sherrone Moore said on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show Monday that the tight ends, entering their second year in Gattis’ system, have a greater grasp of the offense.
“It’s 100 times better,” he told the show. “It’s understanding what they’re doing, but they’re also understanding the why. They also understand if the defense does this, we can do this. They can tell us what the plays are, which is the next step.”
Two to three times a year Moore conducts what he calls “tight end school” and the first thing they work on is defense. He wants them to understand what the defense is thinking at all times.
Before the bowl game, McKeon said Eubanks would be the leader the tight ends need this fall, and he has embraced the job.
“He’s been a great leader for the group especially when we had the quarantine and we were doing Zoom meetings, and he’s answering questions left and right,” Moore said. “He’s telling us the why, telling us the how and really showing true leadership. When we all came back here, same thing. He picked up where he left off and continues to grow as a player and as a leader.”
Gattis raved about All, the 6-foot-4, 242-pound sophomore and said he’s stood out in practices. All was listed at 229 pounds last season.
“(He) is going to be a special talent at tight end,” Gattis said. “When you’ve got Erick, you’ve got Nick and you’ve got Schoonie and Ben in that room, our tight end (group) has been exceptional this camp.”
The biggest thing for All after last season, Moore said, was adding weight – he’s done that – and completely learning the playbook. He’s done that, as well.
“Erick All is a kid that the ceiling, I don’t know what it is, but it’s huge for him,” Moore said. “He’s going to be an exciting player to watch over the next years here. His real hang-up, when he first got here, he was a little light. He’s up to about 245 right now and he runs like a deer. He gets the playbook. Last year left was right, right was left. I’ve been there myself. But he’s really excelled and he’s going to do great things for us.”
Schoonmaker also appeared on the radio show and said he has gone from playing at about 248 pounds last season to 254. He said he worked in the offseason on improving his blocking and route running.
“I think I’ve certainly improved with the time we’ve had since being back,” Schoonmaker said. “I’ve taken some great strides and coach Moore has worked me and worked us to continue getting better.”
Moore mentioned freshman Matt Hibner, who is 6-4, 230 and learning his way. And then there’s Mason, a team veteran who brings plenty of intangibles to the tight end room. Mason has been a fullback who moved to defensive line last year and now is in this hybrid role.
“Ben is a true leader on the team,” Moore said. “He’s played all these different positions and he’s been an impact leader not only for our room but for the team. He understands everything that we do. He’s got a total understanding what his role will be and what we’ll do.”