Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #11 Jake Butt

Jake Butt
Name: Jake Butt
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 249 lbs.
High school: Pickerington (OH) North
Position: Tight end
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #88
Last year: I ranked Butt #40 and said he would be the backup tight end with 3 catches for 35 yards. He made 20 catches for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Butt was a pleasant surprise in 2013. He enrolled early in January, but he looked physically unready during spring ball. When fall came around, he had added some weight and strength. Meanwhile, Michigan's tight end duo of A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess struggled mightily to block anyone. Butt stepped in to start eight games, and Funchess stepped out . . . to wide receiver. Now that change has seemingly been made permanently, and Butt looked the part of a future star while catching 5 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State.

Frustratingly, that leads us to his torn ACL suffered in the spring. Michigan appeared to have its receiving group sorted out pretty well up to that point, and Butt's injury severely weakened the group. The Wolverines are back to A.J. Williams as an option to start, and they have also moved Keith Heitzman from defensive end to tight end in order to shore up the blocking. Williams - who has 1 career catch - has reportedly improved his receiving skills this offseason, but he's unlikely to match Butt's abilities or production. Head coach Brady Hoke has been saying during the offseason that Butt should return by the Big Ten season, so hopefully they can make do for the first few weeks of the year. Even when he returns, Butt will probably not be back to where he was last year, but he offers the blocking, receiving, and running combination that no other tight end on the roster currently possesses.

Prediction: Starting tight end once he returns from injury; 20 catches, 200 yards, 3 touchdowns


  1. This is the one slot that I would have chosen differently and would have dropped Butt somewhere into the mid 20s. If he were healthy, I probably wouldn't quibble.

    Years ago, we had a big, heavy kid on our basketball team at that age where everybody has to play. After a lot of trial and error, we found a thing that kid could do pretty consistently, so we built it in. When he was in there, we ran it over and over and over and over and over while mostly ignoring him until two, maybe three times a game, his guy got tired of nothing happening and would loaf across the lane after him and that would be two for us. The kid ended up averaging just under 6 a game which is huge at that age group where the score is frequently 34 - 26.

    I don't know why we can't find Williams a catch or two a game following a similar approach. Yeah, yeah I know, college football is a lot more sophisticated, but there is some route or two that this kid can learn to run perfect, and there is a ball that he can catch every time. I'd be looking for it and drilling it until it's as built in as raising a spoon to his mouth.

    1. Butt is important because defenses will need to pay some attention to him. Whether AJ Williams has one or five catches is irrelevant. Defenses will not need a good coverage guy to match up with him, so the safeties/OLB's can cheat up when he is in the game. With a receiver like Butt who can get over the top or take a pop pass and run for good YAC, UM has an effective countermeasure against aggressive defenses. An excellent receiving TE (who also is at least an acceptable blocker) is a very useful weapon for a pro-style OC.

    2. I don't think the biggest issue with Williams is his ability to make a few catches. It's his lack of success blocking. Unless that improves markedly, I expect to see more of Heitzman.

  2. To counter Roanman's point, I'd put him a couple spots higher. I think TEs will be used a little less often this year, but there's simply no viable alternative to Butt in terms of being able to block AND forcing the defense to pay attention to him as a pass-threat. He may not be 100%, but Butt at 80% is still a lot better than Williams.