Spring Preview: The Tight Ends

GBW continues to preview each position on the Michigan offense and defense -- both for the spring and in the fall. How do the tight ends stack up going into Spring Practice? Here is GBW's anaylsis, including comments from former Assistant Recruiting Coordinator Mark Ouimet.

Finally, an offensive position where Michigan doesn't return a regular starter from 2002. Bennie Joppru is off to pursue a career in the NFL, and the Wolverines will need to break in a new tight end. But as is said: "Michigan doesn't rebuild, it reloads." The departure of Joppru only opens the door for other talented players, who are expected to step up in his place.

Mark Ouimet agrees: "The tight end position is more solid than people may think. I don't think there are problems there. Michigan has six tight ends on scholarship, and there is a good mix of different types of players. Andy Mignery and Tim Massaquoi are the two main ones."

Tim Massaquoi is anticipated to win the starting job at tight end, having moved up the depth chart last year, while earning extensive playing time. That was an especially impressive accomplishment for Massaquoi, who converted to the position from wide receiver over the summer. In the Spring Game last year, he wowed observers with his skills as a receiver. However, given his great size and Michigan's need for tight ends, he decided to make the switch. While he only pulled in two catches for 20 yards in 2002, his time on the field was not wasted. He spent last year improving his blocking technique, and even earned time in goal line situations. But his greatest strength may still be his speed and hands, which will create match-up nightmares for Big Ten linebackers. Massaquoi was slowed in the off season by hernia surgery, but he will be able to participate in his first Spring Practice at the tight end position. This will give him the opportunity to further develop his skills, while likely securing his starting spot.

Mark Ouimet: "Massaquoi is more the pass catcher. Coming over from wide receiver, he has the best hands of the six tight ends. Tim will study what Joppru did and see how he became the great catching tight end he was last year. Joppru, and Tuman before him, did it by learning deception: faking the block, then going into a pass route. Massaquoi can be another Tuman/Joppru tight end. He is THE future tight end. Tim has to gain weight and strength of course. Moving from receiver to tight end ... tight end is more physical, blocking the defensive ends and linebackers. Tim needs to understand the blocking schemes -- I think he has learned this pretty well, he mainly just needs to get bigger."

Tim Massaquoi (Getty Images/Elsa)

Providing competition for the starting role and the probable number two tight end for 2003 will be Andy Mignery. Mignery converted to tight end last spring, after spending his first three years as a backup quarterback. He logged solid minutes in 2002, like Massaquoi, working to improve his blocking. He showed great potential on his only reception of the year, a very impressive 25 yard catch and run against Western Michigan. With Massaquoi recovering from injury, Mignery will have ample opportunity to receive repetition with the offense in the spring.

Ouimet: "Andy Mignery was the third tight end last year. Here's what I say: Thank God for Andy Mignery -- that he has stuck it out, and saw the opportunity at tight end. He is our most experienced tight end, and he is going to play a lot this year. A LOT. Mignery is a great run blocker. But he has to run some routes too. I think Mignery will get that done."

Andy Mignery (Getty Images/Danny Moloshok)

Following Massaquoi and Mignery, a host of players will compete to take over the number three tight end spot. Redshirt junior Jim Fisher is a solid athlete with good experience, and may be the early favorite to step up. But with talented redshirt freshman Kevin Murphy expected to be healthy and practicing in the spring, fans can expect a fierce competition. Converted defensive end David Spytek will also push for the job. During Spring Practice, the Wolverines will be without Tyler Ecker, who will return from his Mormon mission in Houston for the 2003 season. While Ecker may have to shake off some rust in the early going, the talented redshirt freshman has the potential to shoot up the depth chart in the fall.

Ouimet: "The number three tight end going in will be Jim Fisher. He's the biggest of the first three. He's a good run blocker. Fisher will play in jumbo sets. He will get a lot of work in the spring. Number four going in is Phillip Brackins. He can swing, between fullback and H-Back. He is a great role player. He'll play on special teams too. Kevin Murphy and David Spytek have to wait their turn -- only four get a chance to play. But both are good athletes and will get a lot of reps in spring ball."

"Murphy, Spytek, Massaquoi and Tyler Ecker are the future. Ecker will be there in the fall. He was a top tight end out of high school. He has great hands. He did his Morman mission in the USA so he was able to work out. I think he'll start slow in the fall and finish fast; he could be one of the top three by the end of the season."

"Tight ends are very highly prone to injury. So players tend to get moved into that position to make sure it is well-stocked. In fact, four out of the six current tight ends started at different positions: Massaquoi, Mignery, Brackins, Spytek. So don't be surprised if someone else gets moved to tight end from other position."

Jim Fisher (Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel)

Michigan signed Adam Kraus as a tight end for last year's recruiting class. However, given Kraus' size at this early stage in his career, there's a high probability that he will end up on the offensive line. If that's accurate, then expect Michigan to grab at least one tight end for the 2004 class, to fill that void. Traditionally, the Wolverines like to have several tight ends on the roster.

Ouimet: "Recruiting-wise, Michigan will need a legit tight end in this next class. They lose two (Mignery and Brackins), and gain one in Ecker. I'd say most important for next class are running backs, quarterback, and tight end, moreso than receiver."

Adam Kraus

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