Name: Jake Butt
Weight: 248 lbs.
High school: Pickerington (OH) North
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: #88
Last year: I ranked Butt #11 and said he would be the starting tight end with 20 catches, 200 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He caught 21 passes for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Well, that wasn’t a bad prediction for last year. Butt was 1 catch, 11 yards, and 1 touchdown away from hitting my mark. I would have expected more from Butt if not for the fact that he was coming off of a torn ACL he had suffered in the off-season. He played in just ten games last year and started only five as the coaches tried to work him back into the lineup gradually. Other than an early-season demolition of Miami-OH (3 catches, 59 yards, 1 touchdown for Butt in a 35-10 win), Butt was relatively quiet on a weekly basis until he caught 8 passes for 53 yards and 1 touchdown over the final two weeks of the season (against Maryland and Ohio State).
I have high hopes for Butt this season in an offense that will certainly look to take advantage of tight end mismatches, multiple tight end sets, and the play action pass. Jim Harbaugh does a very good job of developing tight ends, but his tight ends at Stanford were not extremely prolific. Coby Fleener’s best season under Harbaugh was as a senior in 2010, when he caught 28 passes for 434 yards (15.5 yards/catch) and 7 touchdowns. The thing to note about those statistics is the yards per catch and the touchdowns, the latter of which counted for 25% of Ertz’s receptions. (Also noteworthy is that backup Zach Ertz had 16 catches for 190 yards and 5 touchdowns that year.) The tight ends are a big part of the offense all over the field, but they become especially prominent in the red zone. I think Butt is a player who could flourish under Harbaugh and with the right quarterback at the helm (which should be Jake Rudock, in my opinion).
Butt is a solid blocker, runs good routes, has plus speed, and has shown soft hands. He could be an All-Big Ten player, and perhaps an All-American if he gets enough targets. Michigan should establish the running game early in the year, and since Butt is a three-down tight end, he can be a threat in almost any situation. Throwing to tight ends takes some extra touch and recognition of defenses, and I think Shane Morris would struggle to find Butt more than Rudock would. We should see an emphasis on the tight end that we have not seen since Bennie Joppru wore the winged helmet in 2002 (53 catches, 579 yards, 5 touchdowns).
Prediction: Starting tight end; 40 catches, 550 yards, 6 touchdown