There’s a lot that we could get into with the new offense, so I think it might be best to just go position-by-position on that side of the ball.
The two-quarterback thing needs to be nixed. Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis are probably trying to make Dylan McCaffrey happy by putting him on the field with Shea Patterson, but it’s a bad move. The offense isn’t in sync when both are on the field. Whoever’s behind center is late getting the play off, and then they threw an inside screen to McCaffrey, who was immediately swarmed under by big guys. Why put your lanky backup QB in a situation where he catches a ball three yards away from 250+ pound defensive linemen and linebackers?
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Name: Sean McKeon Height: 6’5″ Weight: 246 lbs. High school: Dudley (MA) Shepherd Hill Position: Tight end Class: Senior Jersey number: #84 Last year: I ranked McKeon #20 and said he would have 25 catches for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns (LINK). He made 14 catches for 122 yards and 1 touchdown. TTB Rating: 77
After leading the team in receptions in 2017 – during an abysmal passing year – McKeon took a step back in 2018, catching fewer than half as many passes (31 to 14) and going from an unimpressive 9.7 yards per catch to an even less impressive 8.7. One factor in those unimpressive numbers stems from the fact that Michigan had a 6’8″ future 5th round pick in Zach Gentry. Gentry was the downfield threat (16.1 yards/catch in 2018), while McKeon was the underneath guy.
The buzz on McKeon has been positive. He reportedly dropped weight this off-season to improve his speed, and he has turned into a leader. I expect improvement from year one to year two or even year two to year three, but by the time you’re a third-year guy going into your fourth year, I have a hard time buying marked improvement. On top of the mediocre athleticism McKeon has shown, he also has some big gaffes (Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina) and bad drops. While the Outback Bowl thing wasn’t his fault, sometimes McKeon just looks like a deer in headlights whenever he’s out of his comfort zone.
Can he flip the mental switch from part-time player to big-time dude? I think my comments above probably indicate which direction I’m leaning, but the possibility exists. McKeon is a solid blocker but I have yet to see evidence that he can do much more than that. We might see a similar role for him in 2019 while the more athletically gifted Nick Eubanks takes on the Zach Gentry role of downfield threat from the tight end position.
I posted this tweet a few days ago:
#Michigan had a damn good TE squad in 2016. Devin Asiasi (Mackey Award watch list at #UCLA), Ian Bunting (3 catches, 77 yards last night), Zach Gentry (drafted by Steelers), Sean McKeon (Mackey Award watch list), Nick Eubanks (19 yards/catch), and Jake Butt (drafted by Broncos).
Jim Harbaugh knows how to find good tight ends. Gentry, Bunting, and Butt are all in the NFL; Asiasi and McKeon are regarded as a couple of the top tight ends in the nation; and Eubanks could very well be on that Mackey Award watch list going into 2020. McKeon does not appear to be on the path to getting drafted like Butt and Gentry; he’s a good guy to have on the roster but not someone other teams have to gameplan around.
Prediction: Starting tight end; 30 catches for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns
I always like to look back at my predictions for the previous season to see how well I judged the year beforehand. Here’s the link to my 2018 Season Predictions (and the comments): LINK.
LEADING RUSHER Prediction: Karan Higdon, 1100 yards Actual: Higdon, 1178 yards Thoughts: Higdon was about as effective as I thought he would be, although he would have ended up with more yardage if he didn’t miss one regular season game (due to injury) and then the bowl game (due to selfishness). I was surprised he was named First Team All-Big Ten, but there were some other backs in the conference who were not as effective as I thought they would be.
LEADING RECEIVER Prediction: Donovan Peoples-Jones, 750 yards Actual: Nico Collins, 632 yards Thoughts: Collins had a breakout season, going from 3 catches for 27 yards in 2017 to leading the team in receiving yardage (and being #2 in receptions) in 2018. Peoples-Jones was just behind Collins by a mere 20 yards and led the team in receptions (47), but Collins was the big downfield target.
LEADING TACKLER Prediction: Devin Bush, Jr., 95 tackles Actual: Bush, 79 tackles Thoughts: As the middle linebacker, Bush was an obvious choice, but his instincts and sideline-to-sideline speed ensured that he would make plays all over the field. Safety Tyree Kinnel was not far behind with 74 tackles in one more game, since Bush missed the bowl game.