Name: Ian Bunting
Weight: 252 lbs.
High school: Hinsdale (IL) Central
Position: Tight end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #89
Last year: I ranked Bunting #40 and said he would be a backup tight end with 10 catches for 120 yards and 1 TD. He caught 5 passes for 46 yards.
TTB Rating: 75
Entering the 2016 season, the starting tight end position was solidified with senior Jake Butt, who would go on to win the Mackey Award. Bunting was never going to be more than a backup, and with a bunch of young options, his value as an alternate option waned a little bit, too. Michigan had Devin Asiasi, Tyrone Wheatley, Jr., and others to help out, and they did. The vast majority of tight end targets went to Butt (46 catches), and Bunting notched the second-most catches with 5 total; four other backups totaled 7 receptions. Bunting was relatively forgotten until Butt tore his ACL in the bowl game, and suddenly there was this unknown, athletic, 6’7″ kid catching 3 passes for 40 yards.
The heir apparent is Bunting. Athletically, he’s the most similar to Butt, and he even has the so-so blocking skills to seal the comparison. It doesn’t hurt that Asiasi transferred to UCLA in the off-season, further clearing a path to the starting gig. From a talent standpoint, I think Bunting is capable of matching Butt’s production, but I don’t believe the depth chart and play calling will allow it. I expect to see a few more wide receivers on the field, and I don’t believe the top three 2017 pass-catchers will get as large of a percentage as the 2016 triumvirate (Butt, Jehu Chesson, and Amara Darboh). This should be a solid year for Bunting, but not a huge breakout star.
Prediction: 35 catches, 425 yards, 4 touchdowns