2017 Season Countdown: #15 Ian Bunting

2017 Season Countdown: #15 Ian Bunting


August 17, 2017

Ian Bunting (image via Gannett)

Name: Ian Bunting
Height: 6’7″
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

28 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Aug 17, 2017 at 9:02 AM

    Those numbers might have been more accurate, but the kid can’t stay healthy. I expect him to be passed by conference play (McKeon or Wheatley)
    “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”

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1364
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Aug 17, 2017 at 9:22 AM

    The numbers you’re projecting for Butt WOULD be a huge breakout year, frankly. Not quite as good as Butt’s, but much better than any other tight end in the last 15 years. I doubt he gets that high, frankly, even if he stays healthy.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 182
      Joined: 9/15/2015
      ragingbull
      Aug 17, 2017 at 10:00 AM

      35 catches would be quite impressive for bunting…not sure if “star” worthy but certainly “huge breakout”…id be surprised if he puts up those #s since theyll likely spread it around to a variety of receivers and TEs not to mention backs like hill (i think hill will and should be a larger part of pass O, even if its just play actions into the flat)

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1364
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Aug 17, 2017 at 10:05 AM

      Bunting, not Butt

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Aug 17, 2017 at 10:50 AM

    I’d like to see Bunting get 25 or so balls and the TEs as a group somewhere close to 50 … that includes H backs. That would be a real nice start on a very diverse and possibly nightmarish offense to have to pass defend against.

    I think Speight is a guy who wants to throw to a TE and/or possession receiver more so than his downfield leaper type. If indeed it is Speight.

    I really do wish Bunting blocked better probably mostly because that’s just how i’m wired ….. but maybe Frey.

  4. Avatar
    Comments: 528
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Aug 17, 2017 at 11:37 AM

    What stood out was the projected number of catches and yards which would make Bunting potentially All Big Ten. Quite a leap. I hope it happens. I can almost assure you that if Bunting reaches those numbers it’s going to be great year for UM football. I would halve those numbers.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 17, 2017 at 1:40 PM

      I think you can tentatively pencil in Michigan’s starting TE as all conference any year that we have Harbaugh. Anybody else getting it will probably be a real standout.

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 17, 2017 at 12:32 PM

    Good post. For those doubting the numbers – there were about 60 TE catches last year but over 70 the year before. Even if you bump down 10 or so to account for Butt’s excellence as a receiver, there are about 55-60 TE catches to go around at least

    I think 35 might be a bit high but not by too much. I would expect Wheatley to get AJ Williams type numbers 10-20 catches. Gentry/Ubanks can’t block and are mostly specialists it’s sounding like. So the real threat for Bunting to be below 35 catches is McKeon. There’s buzz around McKeon but it sounds like it’s more a question of pushing Wheatley than threatening Bunting.

    I think working in Bunting’s favor is that the WRs are going to be inexperienced and it will take some time for Speight to switch from looking for his big TE target – if he he ever does.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 528
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Aug 17, 2017 at 12:43 PM

      I can’t disagree with anything you said but I will wait to see if Bunting can consistently get open. He is a little quicker than Wheatley but Speight is a guy that needs receivers who have great hands because he doesn’t throw a great ball and I don’t know if Bunting can make difficult catches consistently and may lose the confidence of Speight with a drop here and there.

      Not saying the projections are crazy but I haven’t seen the sign yet that Bunting is a high end TE. As the one poster said above, I would think Hill is going to be the preferred target because he is reliable and proven.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 17, 2017 at 1:46 PM

        They didnt throw to Hill last year – they did throw to Bunting when he stepped in for Butt.

        It kind of doesn’t matter if Bunting is not quite as good as Butt. For Michigan TEs – the expectation is for the position.

        You don’t have to be a high end talent to get 30-35 catches in this offense. You just have to play enough more downs than your backups.

        As for the Speight stuff I disagree. Most of Butt’s catches weren’t especially difficult. Anyway Bunting is 6’7. I think they know what they have.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3849
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 17, 2017 at 12:49 PM

      The other thing to remember is that the starting receivers are all new, too, except Perry (who’s a quasi-starter). Bunting played some and was a target, has practiced with Speight for the past few years, etc. When you’re looking for a guy in crunch time, are you going to look for a true freshman who has only been on campus for two months or eight months, or are you going to look for a 6’7″ guy you’ve known since your freshman year? I would think Speight and Bunting have built up some level of chemistry and trust.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1364
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Aug 17, 2017 at 1:09 PM

        Have they? Bunting only made 5 catches last year, and even if all of those were from Speight, that’s not any real chemistry. How many times has Speight gone to Bunting in a critical sutuation? How can “trust” be built up without that?

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 6285
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 17, 2017 at 1:43 PM

          Most chemistry is getting developed in practice. There’s a lot more to it than catches.

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1364
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Aug 17, 2017 at 1:57 PM

            Chemistry breaks down fast if the guy isn’t consistently catching the balls you throw his way in real games. And trust never gets off the ground. The guys who consistently make plays in the regular season, against real defenses, will be the ones Speight keeps going to, practice notwithstanding.

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1863
            Joined: 1/19/2016
            je93
            Aug 17, 2017 at 3:17 PM

            Didn’t this get talked up by speight & Harris last year? It never showed where it counts, on the field

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 6285
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Aug 17, 2017 at 3:37 PM

              The context there was the guy breaking into relevance, as a backup. Nobody expected Harris to usurp Darboh or Chesson going into last year.

              Bunting’s already a proven player! The question is the extent to which he can replace Butt’s production now that he’s the starter.

              Yes “chemistry” talk can be taken with a grain of salt but here we have plenty of evidence beyond it to expect Bunting to have a big role in the offense.

              Butt was Speight’s security blanket. Bunting is Butt’s replacement. How Speight reaches for his blankey will depend on both WRs and Bunting, but Thunder’s point about the WRs being inexperienced speaks to that. Bunting is not inexperienced even if he hasn’t started many games he’s been around the block and is as proven as new starter can be.

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 17, 2017 at 3:30 PM

            There’s no reason to think Bunting is dropping balls in practice.

            If Bunting drops them in games – yes – the trust won’t be there. It’s a hypothetical and not a particularly likely one. If he was dropping balls in practice he wouldn’t be the 1st team TE and he wouldn’t have been Butt’s replacement against FSU.

            • Avatar
              Comments: 1863
              Joined: 1/19/2016
              je93
              Aug 17, 2017 at 3:31 PM

              What’s not hypothetical is his health. Dude missed a ton of time

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Aug 17, 2017 at 3:40 PM

                He missed 2 games last year. He has played 23 (of 26 possible) games over the last 2 years.

                http://www.mgoblue.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=1410

                • Lanknows
                  Comments: 6285
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Aug 17, 2017 at 3:44 PM

                  That bio isn’t real consistent in how many games he has played FWIW. Regardless, this concern seems more in the “something to watch” category than a “worry”.

                • Avatar
                  Comments: 1863
                  Joined: 1/19/2016
                  je93
                  Aug 17, 2017 at 4:56 PM

                  He also missed the last two spring games. In an interview this fall, Harbaugh said something to the effect of “having Ian back,” I took that as him missing a few days

  6. Lanknows
    Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 17, 2017 at 1:52 PM

    Hot take 1: Butt was overrated. Bunting won’t be quite the pass receiver but won’t be too far off and will be slightly better as a blocker. Michigan won’t see a drop-off at TE. With Wheatley improving, they should be better overall at the position than they were in 2016.

    Hot take 2: Poggi will be used an H-back more often and often function as a quasi-TE2. If Wheatley takes a step forward as a blocker this wouldn’t be needed but it sounds like it’s still an issue.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 528
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Aug 17, 2017 at 5:52 PM

      That isn’t a hot take but a scorching take. Wow. No drop off? Butt can definitely be replaced on the line when running the ball. I hope you are right. I don’t believe Bunting is that important to the success of this team because you have Wheatley who is a similar player and then McKeon who should be a matchup problem for a lot of teams. UM has TE insurance. At least right now.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 17, 2017 at 7:37 PM

      hot take 3: blocking matters

  7. Lanknows
    Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 17, 2017 at 3:46 PM

    For a guy who started 7 games as TE2 through his RS sophomore season this seems like a lot of negativity from the peanut gallery.

    There’s no real reason to doubt Bunting will be a solid to excellent TE this year. If his production disappoints it’ll likely be because McKeon or Wheatley breakout.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1364
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Aug 17, 2017 at 5:30 PM

      And in those seven starts, how many plays did he make that impressed you?

      • Avatar
        Comments: 528
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        michymich
        Aug 17, 2017 at 5:56 PM

        Didn’t Bunting have a good OB? I think he did but I am with you on this one WCB. When it comes to passing I think Speight will look to Crawford, Black, Perry and probably Hill/Evans. I hope Lanknows is correct.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 17, 2017 at 7:40 PM

      I am impressed when young players play at all when they are behind NFL draftees. I am not big on analysis-by-highlight.

      If you only trust high performing players, new blood is never going to impress you.

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