2017 Season Countdown: #55 Nick Eubanks

2017 Season Countdown: #55 Nick Eubanks


July 8, 2017

Nick Eubanks (#18, image via USA Today)

Name: Nick Eubanks
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 236 lbs.
High school: Plantation (FL) American Heritage
Position: Tight end
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #18
Last year: I ranked Eubanks #82 and said he would redshirt. He played in one game.
TTB Rating: 44

Eubanks was skinny and raw entering college last year, so I was a little surprised when he trotted out late in the game against Central Florida last year and burned his redshirt. Then we started to realize that Jim Harbaugh doesn’t care too much about redshirting. Technically, Eubanks might be a sophomore this season, but considering he only played in one game, I imagine Michigan will be aiming to get this year back for him if they want him for a fifth year down the road.

This year the chance for Eubanks to play has increased. Not only is Jake Butt off to the NFL, but he was able to do some of the flex tight end stuff that Eubanks is most suited to run. And on top of that, Devin Asiasi – the top-rated tight end in Michigan’s 2016 class – ditched Ann Arbor for UCLA. Presumed starter Ian Bunting was a wide receiver for much of his high school career, and he might be able to flex out, but he’s mostly an in-line guy at this point. The two guys most likely to detach from the formation are Eubanks and Zach Gentry. Gentry, a former quarterback, is faster and more athletic, but he has struggled with his hands and still might need to add some weight. I was not impressed with Eubanks’s route-running or instincts in the spring game, but he’s still just a young’n.

Prediction: Backup tight end

25 comments

  1. Comments: 2532
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 08, 2017 at 10:39 AM

    Seems high for a guy who projects as the 5th TE (behind Bunting, Wheatley, Gentry, and McKeon). The 5th TE has not had a meaningful role under Harbaugh and the rumors of more WR-heavy packages would further enforce this.

    The biggest role I can imagine for Eubanks is something along the lines of what Bunting had in the regular season last year. It would probably take an injury for him to get there. It might take 2 for him to get any real snaps because, unlike Bunting, he’s not ready to step in for a starter.

    In terms of roles
    16 Butt becomes 17 Bunting
    16 Asiasi becomes 17 Wheatley *
    16 Wheatley becomes 17 McKeon *
    16 Bunting becomes 17 Gentry

    Eubanks is left as something like the 2016 version of McKeon or Jocz, a walk-on and freshman respectively.

    While neither Gentry nor McKeon are locks, Gentry is getting a good dose of hype for his receiving abilities and McKeon is a better blocker than Eubanks, while also generating more buzz.

    *Asiasi/Wheatley split snaps for much of the season but Wheatley/McKeon will probably be closer to 80/20. Though rumors of Wheatley still not locking in as a blocker could change that…

    • Comments: 2532
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 08, 2017 at 10:46 AM

      I know we’re still in the mid 50s but some the freshman defenders listed behind Eubanks are good bets to get meaningful snaps. Eubanks ceiling is low (for this year).

      • Comments: 544
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 08, 2017 at 3:10 PM

        Agreed…Anthony is much more likely to get prime time snaps than Eubanks. I don’t see TE being as much of a weapon as it’s been the last couple years, and I don’t see us using more than 2-3 when it matters, even for blocking. Our top 2 guys are in their third years, and neither has shown the kind of pass-catching talent that Butt did as a true freshman. The guys below them are not likely to see the ball coming their way at all, unless it’s 78-0.

        • Painter Smurf
          Comments: 191
          Joined: 8/12/2015
          Painter Smurf
          Jul 08, 2017 at 6:43 PM

          Real bummer that Asiasi bolted. Can’t remembering a freshman TE blocking as well as he did last year. I think Bunting is a potential breakout player this year. He flashed good all around skills. But the other guys are more one-dimensional at this point. Holding out hope that McKeon can become a “dual threat” TE.

          • Comments: 2532
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 09, 2017 at 11:31 AM

            Yeah Asiasi was a huge loss for this team. Yet TE is so loaded that we still don’t face any real depth concerns. 3rd string has 3 sophomore options — all 4-star caliber talents.

            This is part of why I have doubts that we’re suddenly going to transition to pro-style WR-heavy pass spread. If Asiasi was back, the narrative might be about how much we’re going to play 2 TE sets to take advantage of our personnel. And if Wheatley/Bunting are playing to their potential and one of these 3 younger players is breaking out you can see that being the case anyway.

      • Comments: 1951
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Jul 08, 2017 at 9:07 PM

        Perhaps some of those freshman linebackers are more likely to get meaningful snaps, but again, there are a bunch of them. We have linebackers aplenty (Ross, Singleton, Anthony, Mbem-Bosse, Wangler, Gil, etc.), and that’s outside of the top three (McCray, Bush, Wroblewski). Michigan has a couple flex tight end options, zero freshman tight ends, no capable walk-ons like in the past (Kwiatkowski, Jocz), and not much certainty ahead of him. They threw to Eubanks several times in the spring game, and he could conceivably be the #3 tight end overall (behind Bunting and Wheatley). I don’t think anyone really knows for sure how the Gentry/McKeon/Eubanks trio is going to shake out.

        • Comments: 544
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Jul 09, 2017 at 8:21 AM

          When has even our third string tight end (let alone fifth) ever been an important piece? And the fact that Eubanks looks pretty much interchangeable with at least two other guys for that spot means this is probably too high for him.

          • Comments: 2532
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Jul 09, 2017 at 11:20 AM

            I don’t think Eubanks is interchangeable if you put any stock at all in the spring stock. The buzz for Eubanks that I’ve seen is pretty minimal – making progress. Eubanks was always supposed to need some development and he seems on that track.

            Gentry meanwhile is getting more attention, albeit for being a big target in many cases – the kind of surface level insight you might expect from a reporter. There’s some parallels here though to Bunting in 2015.

            McKeon is still a bit light but seemed to earn back-up snaps almost immediately when he hit campus and has been praised as a promising every-down TE.

            • Comments: 1951
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Jul 09, 2017 at 7:27 PM

              I really haven’t seen much buzz on Gentry. Almost the lone positive evidence is the long TD catch where he juked a walk-on safety in the spring game. Otherwise, the word is that he’s inconsistent with his hands and has struggled with his blocking.

          • Comments: 1951
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jul 09, 2017 at 4:52 PM

            A guy in the mid-50s doesn’t really qualify as an important piece.

            • Comments: 2532
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 09, 2017 at 8:00 PM

              In theory, but last year’s countdown had guys below 50 who were certainly important: Evans, Bredeson, McDoom, Metellus. Wasn’t just freshman either: Watson, Bushel-Beatty, Higdon. These are guys who started and/or played meaningful downs in important games.

              • Comments: 2532
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 09, 2017 at 8:00 PM

                That’s not intended as a dig. Just a reality that you pretty much have to be clairvoyant to limit important players to the top 40.

                • Comments: 1951
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Jul 09, 2017 at 8:49 PM

                  I mean, you could argue that “clairvoyance” is the entire focus of this series. We’re all trying to be clairvoyant when we’re talking about who’s important for the upcoming season. Roughly the top 40 players are the important ones, whether they’re the guys we guess in the pre-season or not.

              • Comments: 1951
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Jul 09, 2017 at 8:47 PM

                That’s fine, but there were also guys higher than #50 who turned out not to be very important – Drake Johnson, Scott Sypniewski, Bobby Henderson, Drake Harris, David Dawson, etc.

                I would also argue that guys like Bushell-Beatty and Higdon weren’t that important, because their “backups” were as good as or better than them. Bushell-Beatty only played briefly before being replaced, and Higdon didn’t do anything that Ty Isaac or Chris Evans couldn’t have done. When you look back at a season, there really aren’t more than about 40 players who are “important” in the sense that they can’t be replaced without a significant drop-off. You’ve got your starting 22, a few special teamers, and probably about 50% of the second-teamers.

        • Comments: 2532
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 09, 2017 at 10:43 AM

          I don’t think I agree with the Flex thing. Butt should be (and was) replaced by Bunting. Asiasi/Wheatley rotation at blocking TE should be replaced by Wheatley and…maybe just Wheatley…or maybe more Poggi out of H-back sets.

          Our personnel is really more like 2015 when we had Butt/Williams/Bunting — and Bunting barely played.

          • Comments: 1951
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jul 09, 2017 at 7:07 PM

            If Bunting isn’t as good as Butt – which is very possible – then perhaps more people are employed to fill all the roles that Butt did last year.

            • Comments: 2532
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 09, 2017 at 8:02 PM

              I don’t think Bunting not being as good as Butt has as much to do with it as how good the 3rd, 4th, 5th guys are. Last year we had exceptional depth. This year we just have adequate depth. That may mean Bunting plays more, even if he’s not as good.

              • Comments: 1951
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Jul 09, 2017 at 8:38 PM

                It may mean that, but it may not. I’m of the belief that Michigan isn’t going to use Bunting in the exact same ways as they used Butt. He hasn’t proven to be as versatile, and frankly, he’s not as good as Butt. If you’re into making the most of your personnel, you’re not going to split Bunting out wide if Gentry or Eubanks is more of a problematic matchup.

        • Comments: 2532
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 09, 2017 at 10:46 AM

          Agree that the McKeon/Gentry/Eubanks thing is unsettled but in this countdown context one has to make some choices. You’re ranking Gentry and McKeon higher and I think that’s justified based on differences in buzz.

          Eubanks doesn’t sound close.

          There’s a small but not insignificant role available for a 3rd TE. If they prove themselves they can care make that role more significant, but it’s not a job that Michigan NEEDS to have filled. Particularly when you have Poggi/Hill (bigger than these young TEs anyway) and the staff isn’t afraid to use 6th OL.

          • Comments: 1951
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jul 09, 2017 at 7:08 PM

            FWIW, Steve Lorenz has been hyping up Eubanks for months as a potential breakout player. I’m not sure that Lorenz is a great evaluator of talent, but he has to be basing that on something – and maybe it’s a bit of inside information.

            • Comments: 2532
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 09, 2017 at 8:03 PM

              OK interesting to know. And good to hear!

              I’m optimistic on Eubanks as an option in the long-term. I just don’t think he’s going to do much this year.

        • Comments: 2532
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 09, 2017 at 11:04 AM

          The linebacker interchangeability assumption doesn’t seem like a good one.

          There’s a very good chance, maybe even a likelihood that one or two of them will stand out from the pack. This is particularly true if you’re inclined to view the sam, wil, mike as distinct skillsets.

          It’s likely that the non-freshman pack is going to get surpassed. This is based on them being way behind a walk-on through spring.

          So, again – the interchangeable assumption is a significant leap to make. It’s possible that happens, but it’ll mean that Michigan goes 0 for 3 on freshman impacts.

          If that happens we’ll be playing replacement level guys at 2 LB spots (probably a walk-on). The #3 TE spot is in better shape because not only are there talented young candidates, but they’ve been on campus and haven’t been passed over by a walk-on. You also can’t just elect to play 1 fewer LB (Michigan already does that). They’re not going to play Dime the entire game…I don’t think. But they might play 1 TE or even 4 WR if they need to.

          • Comments: 1951
            Joined: 7/13/2015
            Jul 09, 2017 at 7:25 PM

            I don’t think the linebackers are necessarily interchangeable. What I am saying is that the drop-off from one to another will probably not be that large. We saw something similar with Desmond Morgan, Brandin Hawthorne, and Brandon Herron several years ago. None of those guys was great (I think that was 2011), so there wasn’t much drop-off from Herron to Hawthorne and then Morgan. The coaching staff probably at least partially figured that they might as well develop the youngest guy (Morgan), all other things being relatively equal.

            Freshman linebackers are typically nothing exceptional, but again, Michigan rotated three ILBs last year. Aside from Bush, McCray, and Gedeon, nobody saw significant time during competitive moments. That was largely the case when Mattison and Durkin were the defensive coordinators, too.

            The #4 inside linebacker doesn’t usually see a lot of time, and I don’t see much reason to suspect that there’s a big difference between the #4 ILB and the #5 guy. You can argue about which one is better, but I still don’t think you have much evidence to counter my argument.

            • Comments: 2532
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 09, 2017 at 8:12 PM

              They could all be the same more or less, but it’s more likely that one of these freshman will be better than the others.

              Situations like last year are more common – Devin Bush was significantly ahead of the other freshman. Same thing at RB — Evans was way ahead of Davis and Walker.

              One of these freshman, at least, are probably going to jump Wrobo. We’re not talking about Morgan-level talents coming in, these are some of the best LB recruits in the country.

              If they all sit behind a walk-on and unexceptional vets, it’ll probably indicate that LB is an issue for this team.

              • Comments: 1951
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Jul 09, 2017 at 8:35 PM

                One will be best, and one will be worst. That’s certain. But the guy who’s the best probably won’t be exceptional. That’s the thing. Freshman linebackers generally aren’t good – they’re either bad or adequate. It’s not only a question of who will be best, but a question of how good will he be? If a guy is as good as Wroblewski, they’ll probably go with the younger guy because he has more upside.

                You keep talking about these guys comparatively, but the real question is this: Assuming Linebacker X is good enough to pass Wroblewski for that #3 ILB spot, how good will he be? Will he be a difference-maker? Will he be better than Devin Bush, Jr. in 2016? Will he be Desmond Morgan circa 2011? David Reese played at Florida as a freshman in 2016, and he ended up with 49 tackles and 2 TFLs. Darrin Kirkland, Jr. made 66 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and 1 INT at Tennessee as a freshman in 2015. They’re not lighting the world on fire, and I don’t think any of Michigan’s freshman linebackers is likely to be a standout immediately. So that’s the question. Who’s going to be The Stud out of this freshman group, and how awesome do you think he’s going to be?

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