Story by Eric RutterANN ARBOR, Mich.— Sophomore tight end Jake Butt finally broke the starting lineup as Michigan’s top tight end as the Wolverines toppled visiting Miami (Oh.) by a score of 34-10. Butt had missed most of fall camp after suffering a torn ACL this past February.
“You know, sometimes the worst things that happen in your life are some of the best lessons you can learn from,” Butt explained. “Just having that bad taste in your mouth.”
Butt is not referring to the knee injury that sidelined this fall, but rather the 31-0 thumping Michigan received from rival Notre Dame the week prior. Much like his knee injury, last week’s result left Butt with much to prove heading forward.
“That’s not the result of the game we wanted,” said Butt. “We really took it to each other this week in practice and had a really good week of practice, then we went out and executed this week as well.”
This execution and attention to detail was especially evident during the third quarter on a fake screen pass. Once the Miami defense was drawn to sophomore wide receiver Amara Darboh at the line of scrimmage, Butt squeaked past the Miami secondary and hauled in a 29-yard touchdown pass.
“The offense as a total, we were going to stress getting the ball to a lot of different guys,” said Butt. “Once they called that play, I knew I was going to get into the end zone.”
After missing the majority of fall camp, Butt was met with jubilation upon his impactful return.
“[My teammates were] fired up on the sidelines,” said Butt. “Especially coming back from the injury they know how hard I’ve worked. Everyone was excited for me and excited that we could get that touchdown too.”
While Butt contributed mightily with three catches for 59 yards and one touchdown, the 6-foot-6, 249-pound tight end is not quite fully recovered. Still, he insists that he is ready for game action.
“I’d say I’m real close,” said Butt. “Once I get out there, the adrenaline starts flowing and you really don’t think about it. I feel just like myself. I have always been a positive guy and a real hard worker. With how much I’ve worked since my surgery and just my mental outlook on everything… I really feel good.”
Butt’s health is an important aspect of the Michigan’s offense that hung 460 total yards of offense on a beleaguered Redhawks defense Saturday afternoon – without junior wide receiver Devin Funchess.
“Devin is a great player so obviously we are hurt a little bit not having him out there,” said Butt. “I think we did a good job. A lot of guys stepped up in his place and I think as a offense we played a pretty good game.”
A key component of that success was Michigan’s ability to move the football on the ground to the tune of 276 rushing yards. Derrick Green led the pack with 137 yards, but DeVeon Smith and Justice Hayes also added 44 and 24 yards respectively.
“We always talk about how we want our running backs to run angry and I think Derrick did a good job of breaking some of those big runs out today,” said Butt. “DeVeon came in and had some great caries as well. Once you get the running game going, that’s going to open up everything. That starts with our line, then the second effort by the running backs as well.”
For Michigan to perform as effectively as it did at times on Saturday, certain areas still require careful attention moving forward.
“Just turning the ball over,” said Butt. “We can’t have turnovers. That’s something we talked about time and time and time again. We moved the ball, that was the thing. We just shoot ourselves in the foot when we turn it over.
“Last week, we moved the ball,” stated Butt. “That wasn’t the problem. It was just the turnovers again. Once we can clear that up… we don’t really have a problem moving the ball. We’ve got talent. We are so deep in talent on the edges with the receivers. We have a bunch of great running backs and a great o-line. Just a matter of execution.”
Without Funchess in the lineup, Michigan’s depth on the outside was put to the test. In Funchess’ place, the Wolverines started sophomore Amara Darboh, who has been on a recovery path of his own after missing all of the 2013 season.
“Darboh was the guy, it goes all the way back to last camp we were real excited about,” said Butt. “He’s one of those guys that has real strong hands. If it hits his hands, he’s going to come down with it. We were real excited about it.”
On Saturday, Darboh embraced his enhanced role in the offense and responded by pulling down six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.
“Obviously he had that injury last year,” said Butt. “But we’ve all known his ability. He put that on display.”
Video by Sam Webb