Sunday, July 12, 2015

2015 Season Countdown: #49 Chase Winovich

Chase Winovich
Name: Chase Winovich
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 230 lbs.
High school: Jefferson Hills (PA) Thomas Jefferson
Position: Tight end
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #44
Last year: I ranked Winovich #74 and said he would redshirt. He redshirted.

Winovich was lanky and undersized for the linebacker position last year. He was also his high school team's quarterback, so he had not been concentrating full-time on defense before last year. With Michigan's stable of experienced linebackers, it would have taken a rash of injuries to put Winovich on the field. Fortunately, everyone but Desmond Morgan stayed healthy, and Winovich was able to learn from the sideline.

Then this spring came along, and Winovich was moved to tight end. He was a standout runner in high school, and quarterbacks often have very good hands, so the move makes a little bit of sense. I have also heard through the grapevine that Michigan's coaches have high hopes for him at tight end, perhaps even more than what a lot of fans realize. However, he is only a redshirt freshman, he's light for a tight end, and he did not look very comfortable catching the ball in the spring game. Michigan would have to use him as an F-back (the new term for Al Borges's U-back or a standard H-back) to catch passes on crossing routes or in the flat, because he's just not ready for in-line blocking. Joe Kerridge is a solid blocker at fullback, but Winovich has some more dynamic abilities as a runner. And if the F-back thing doesn't work, he can still play special teams or move back to defense, since the Wolverines will be pretty thin at linebacker in 2016.

Prediction: Backup F-back


  1. wow, we are in the 40s already!

  2. Undersized, position-switching freshman, at a position with some experienced depth (Williams, Butt, Hill) and more highly regarded talent (Bunting, Wheatley)?...I don't see it. Williams is almost certainly going to get more snaps. Kerridge and Houma will almost certainly get more snaps if you want to focus on F-U-H backs and Hill, especially, would seem to be an obstacle to playing time for Winovich. I believe he might have passed Bunting. Beyond that...

    Tthe LB corps thin out significantly after the season and it wouldn't surprise me if this move to TE is a temporary one. Maybe even fall camp of this year. Michigan needs more than 5 guys to man the LB positions (Gedeon, McCray, Gant, Wangler, Furbush). Freshman will certainly contribute here, but still - TE is loaded up and LB is decidedly not.

    1. Oh.. if you don't see it then it's not happening.

      TE has 1 talented body there right now: Jake Butt. If we're going to be running 2, or maybe even 3 TE sets, there is an opportunity to be the second or third tight end. Hill hasn't shown much. Williams is what he is. Winovich, Bunting, and Wheatley are unknowns at this point.

      LB has several talented bodies. Ross, Morgan, Bolden, and Gedeon. Jenkins Stone could step in if need be. Then there are a ton of other bodies there as well. Gant, McCray, Furbush, Wangler, and there are 3 incoming freshmen. We're not losing bodies at the position.

      The bodies at linebacker will be young next year, but they're going to be young regardless if Winovich is there or not.

    2. Gant is a redshirt junior and hasn't played meaningful time on defense yet. Furbush has been injured for his entire time at Michigan so far. McCray and Wangler are unproven. There are three incoming freshmen (and there will be more), but they're freshmen. Regardless, the linebackers are going to be young, but a guy in his third year (like Winovich) might still be superior to a true freshman, even if the third-year guy switches positions.

    3. Gant was a safety given a scholarship because Hoke and legacy. He's a slow safety bulking up to play the only position he's fast enough to play - linebacker.

      McCray, and Wangler are unproven. Winovich is also unproven.

      We're staring down two options:

      Option 1
      Putting a good athlete at the linebacker position, coaching him to play the position. (Winovich)

      Option 2
      Killing it on the recruiting trail, and putting a good linebacker at the linebacker position. Early playing time is going to be a good selling point for this. Hopefully we land one of the two highly touted linebackers we're currently recruiting.

    4. @ Anon 1:33 PM

      This is a good breakdown of the situation and exactly why I think Winovich ends up back at LB. McCray and Gedeon have shown promish. Wangler and Furbush are young, so too soon to judge them, but both were recruiting reaches.

      Gedeon is the one guy returning that Michigan can feel comfortable putting into the rotation. They need 3 or 4 more guys to contribute in 2016.

      Meanwhile, over at TE, they will be pretty loaded up not only with bodies(Bunting), but experienced vets (Butt), other guys who have played and contributed already (Hill) and nationally pursued freshman (Wheatley). Michigan has landed big time recruits at TE and is trying to get several more in 2016.

      TE is barely 2 positions, while LB is 3. One position will be well-stocked, the other is a glaring need.

  3. I can't keep track of all these X-back positions. Is there a good description of the various backfield positions? U-back, H-back, Y-back, F-back, etc.?

    1. I'm with you Don - but a lot of it is just nomenclature. There's a lot more to it of course, but here's a simpler way I like to think of it:

      There is a "blocking" back - who lines up right next to an OT and catches a handful of passes during the year. He is typically a mini-OL like Williams or Wheatley or Mike Kwiatkowski. He should be taller and heavier (260-275 pounds).

      Then there is a "receiving" back - who can line up along the OT at times but is usually offset from the line and often goes in motion. There's a wider range as these can be FB, H-backs, or more traditional TEs. He can be shorter and weigh 240-260 pounds. This is where Aaron Hernandez and Eric Ebron fit.

      Butt is a good solid TE who can fit into either role. Michigan would love to have two of him, but he a better receiver than blocker. Hill is moreso a receiver more than a blocker. That's why Williams keeps playing - nobody else has demonstrated an even basic level of execution at being the blocking guy. Michigan even went with Magnuson here for a while because they didn't have another good option. That's why there's a good chance Wheatley plays this year and that's why Williams still matters, even though he is nothing special as a player.

    2. I should say "blocking guy" and "catching guy". TEs are generally not "backs".

  4. I'll take Winovich wherever he can contribute, but glad to see I'm not the only one who wants him back at LB.

  5. I like this kid and hopefully he will contribute not this year but when he is an upper class man.

  6. I really liked Winovich coming out of HS. OSU apparently really wanted him, despite having a few LB's already locked up in that class. For a taller OLB, his quickness and savvy jumped out on his HS film. At the major college level, athleticism is obviously not enough to be a good defensive player. Whether or not Winovich has the mentality for defense, I am comfortable with JH and his staff figuring that out.

    Winovich had a rough spring game. He alligator-armed a nice pass and he got obliterated when tasked with blocking down on guys like Wormley. But I think this spring was his first time playing the position and he obviously brings some athleticism to the TE position. As mentioned in other profiles, AJW and Butt could be gone after '15, and the position is wide open behind them. Coaches will be looking for young TE's to make impressions this fall.

    1. Sorry, but why does everyone keep predicting early departure for Butt? He's done NOTHING. Michigan fans assessment of what constitutes NFL level talent and performance has become so screwed up, it's unbelievable. People were seriously predicting Gardner to go early, for pity's sake. Butt may still turn out to be a good player, but you don't project entering the draft early for something a guy has never done.

    2. I am not predicting it, but the coaches need to develop depth in case. Butt is already a good player - any comparison of Butt's to Gardner's pro prospects is absurd. He is poised for a pretty big year with UM not having stud WR's and Rudock coming aboard. I could easily see a 500+ yard season under the circumstances. He has had two knee surgeries. And receiving TE's are somewhat of a hot commodity in the NFL at the moment. That's all. If Butt plays in '16, great.

    3. I'm with anon when it comes to Butt. Good player, but nothing about him says early entry to the NFL. Just being a good quality college player isnt enough to get drafted in the first 3-4 rounds unless you have off-the-charts physical measures/athleticism.

      Wheatley is very highly regarded and Hill looks like a solid contributor. Then you have Bunting, McKeon, and almost certainly another commitment coming too. TE is well stocked.

      As for Winovich, there was a lot of after-the-fact talk about OSU wanting him. They really didn't go hard for him until a lot of others were off the board -- and that goes Michigan too. If OSU had gone for him earlier in the process (before they landed a bunch of A-list LBs) they probably could have had him. It almost looked they wanted to steal him from Michigan as much as they wanted to land him. That said, his offer list was pretty impressive, so everyone has hope here.

      Over the last decade, most good LBs have played within their first 2 years on campus. Winovich's experiment at/shift to TE isn't necessarily a great sign, but Michigan has so many veterans at LB in 2015 that he would not see the field much anyway. I think they're just going to see what they have.

    4. @ Anonymous 9:49 a.m.

      You're confusing "predicting" with "the possibility exists." Numerous players in college football leave early each year, and Michigan has had its fair share. Not all of those players will necessarily be top prospects. So it's not about "Is he good enough to be a first or second round pick?" No, I don't think Jake Butt will be picked in the first two rounds. However, he is talented enough to be one of those guys who leaves early only to be a late draft pick or UDFA type. If Devin Gardner had played his entire redshirt junior season (2013) like he did the second half, there's no doubt in my mind that he could have left early with a shot at being picked in the draft. Going back further, look at guys like Donovan Warren, Ernest Shazor, etc. Hell, even J.T. Floyd explored the draft after his redshirt junior season. There are some people who think Devin Funchess should have waited another year. It happens all the time.

    5. If I wrote "Gedeon could be gone to the NFL after '15", it would be perfectly reasonable to call that into question. It's possible, but highly unlikely. Mentioning it in this context (a discussion about future positional needs) is not particularly constructive.

    6. Gedeon is a junior, has never been a starter, and probably won't be this year. Butt is a junior and has started 13 games, despite missing a chunk of time with a torn ACL. Apples to oranges.

    7. The "Well It's Possible" argument was raised by you, not me. Now you're going to go the other way on another player? A possibility is a possibility -- it doesn't really matter if it's a 1% chance or or a 0.1% chance in this context. It's VERY unlikely, and therefore not really pertinent to the discussion.

      It's not apples and orange anymore than Shazor and Warren. Different people, different qualifications, different circumstances, etc.

      We could get into the specifics of each case and debate their various qualifications going into the decision all day but it's pointless. You have to be consistent - either you take the "anything is possible / SMH at these crazy kids" attitude or you take the probabilistic approach and recognize that some guys don't have attributes that make them likely to go to the NFL early.

    8. Again, apples to oranges.

      Last year you said the Devin Funchess-to-the-NFL talk was "premature." (

      He went to the NFL.

      I don't think we can realistically look at every redshirt sophomore, junior, or redshirt junior and say "Well, he might go to the NFL." In Butt's case, Harbaugh uses tight ends well and the likely starting QB (Jake Rudock) has used CJ Fiedorowicz and Jake Duzey frequently over the past couple years, not to mention Butt's talent.

      The other guys mentioned (Warren, Shazor, etc.) were not backups going into their final seasons. Saying Gedeon might go to the NFL is like saying I might get struck by lightning today. Saying Butt might go to the NFL early is like saying Shantee Orr might go to the NFL early.

    9. On Funchess I was right in that his production was disappointing for a #1 receiver (733 yards and 4 TDs). I was wrong obviously about the NFL and demonstrating my skepticism about the topic is valid. BUT -- it goes to show you the disconnect between college production and what matters in the NFL.

      Butt can be productive (or not) and it may not change his non-existent draft stock very much at all. He doesn't have great size, great skill, or great speed - he's just a good solid college football player. Maybe he'll become an NFL player down the line but we haven't seen it yet.

      If Michigan had better TEs than Williams, Heitzman, etc. ahead of Butt he could easily be in the exact same situation as Gedeon. If Michigan didn't have Jake Ryan, Bolden, Morgon, Ross, etc. Gedeon might have been shoe-horned into a starting gig too. If one of our LBs goes down with an injury Gedeon could easily be elevated to starting role -- he may be used as an edge pass rusher anyway, and his athleticism has been praised consistently, even the 'freak' label has been used. That athleticism means he might have NFL potential...

      Warren and Funchess had a coaching change to consider. Butt will not. Shazor and Funchess had standout size. Butt will not. Shazor and Orr had off-field issues to address. Butt (AFIK) will not.

      Butt will be back. His NFL departure is not worth considering anymore than another player leaving due to some other form of attrition. It's more likely Gedeon tears an ACL (or something) than Butt goes to the NFL. It is more likely that McCray, Gant, or Furbush transfers than Butt going to the NFL. Factoring this into 2016 depth chart calculations is impertinent.

  7. As someone who once considered Gardner an early entry candidate, I must say the above commenter is correct. Our expectations as a fan base have gotten way out of whack.

    Jake Butt has had two 50-yard games his whole career, one of them against Miami (Ohio). He may be a player but let's actually see him do it a few times first. The same goes for Darboh, Lewis and the rest of the handful of players that we think we can rely on. The fact is, no one on this team has proven much of anything beyond competence yet.

    1. The catch is the term you used - he was an "early entry CANDIDATE." Nobody ever said he was a lock to leave early or that he should. In fact, given what we saw in 2014, one might argue that Gardner would have had a better chance at getting drafted if he left after 2012 or 2013. Obviously, not many people could have predicted that his performance would decline like it did.

  8. Bottom line, you really need more than one high quality starting LB (and some decent backups) to have a great defense. You don't need more than one good pass catcher at TE to have a great offense, as long as you've got a couple others who are decent blockers. If Winovich can be equally productive at either, I'd much rather see him at the position where you need more bodies.