Spring Football Preview: Tight Ends

Tag: Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

25Feb 2016
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Spring Football Preview: Tight Ends

Jake Butt 750x

Jake Butt

Projected starter: Senior Jake Butt. Butt (51 catches, 654 yards, 3 TDs) has been Michigan’s leading tight end for the past two seasons, and last year he was in the running for the Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s top tight end. He should once again be in the running for the Mackey Award and an All-America nod.

Departures: A.J. Williams (12 catches, 129 yards), who was mainly a blocking tight end, graduated. Meanwhile, redshirt junior backup Khalid Hill is moving to fullback this spring (LINK) and redshirt sophomore Chase Winovich is moving back to linebacker after spending one season at fullback/tight end.

Hit the jump for more on the tight end situation.

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9Jun 2015
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2015 Freshman Jersey Numbers

Grant Newsome is going to have to settle for . . . a better number. He’ll wear #77 in college. Redshirt
sophomore Logan Tuley-Tillman wears #72 currently.

The incoming freshmen have jersey numbers. And, boy oh boy, this is an exciting time and we’re all nerds.

Reuben Jones: #4
Last worn on defense by: Linebacker Cameron Gordon from 2010-2013.
Currently worn by: Running back De’Veon Smith.

Keith Washington: #6
Last worn on defense by: Cornerback Raymon Taylor from 2011-2014.
Currently worn by: Quarterback Brian Cleary.

Tyrone Wheatley, Jr.: #8
Last worn on offense by: Quarterback Russell Bellomy from 2012-2014.
Currently worn by: Quarterback Joey Hewlett and cornerback Channing Stribling.

Grant Perry: #9
Last worn on offense by: Wide receiver Martavious Odoms from 2008-2011.
Currently worn by: Linebacker Mike McCray II.

Zach Gentry: #10
Last worn on offense by: Wide receiver Da’Mario Jones. Jones wore #11 in high school, which is the Wistert brothers’ retired number.
Currently worn by: Da’Mario Jones?

Alex Malzone: #12
Last worn on offense by: Wide receiver Roy Roundtree from 2009-2011.
Currently worn by: Linebacker Allen Gant.

Andrew David: #16
Last worn on special teams by: Kicker Peter Elezovic in 1992.
Currently worn by: Wide receiver Jack Wangler.

Tyree Kinnel: #17
Last worn on defense by: Cornerback Tony Anderson from 2008-2011.
Currently worn by: Wide receiver Freddy Canteen.

Karan Higdon: #22
Last worn on offense by: Wide receiver Darryl Stonum from 2008-2011.
Currently worn by: Safety Jarrod Wilson.

Jon Runyan, Jr.: #75
Last worn on offense by: Offensive tackle Michael Schofield from 2009-2013. Runyan’s father, who played for Michigan in the 1990’s, wore #69.
Currently worn by: Runyan only.

Grant Newsome: #77
Last worn on offense by: Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan from 2009-2013.
Currently worn by: Newsome only.

Brian Cole: #81
Last worn on offense by: Wide receiver Csont’e York in 2013.
Currently worn by: Only Cole.

The following players’ jersey numbers have not been released yet (previous number in parentheses):

Shelton Johnson (#7)
Wayne Lyons (#2)
John O’Korn (#5)
Blake O’Neill (#39)
Jake Rudock (#15)
Nolan Ulizio (#70)

8Feb 2015
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2015 Recruiting Grades: Offense

Zach Gentry (image via Maxpreps)

With the 2015 class about wrapped up, I’ll offer some final takeaways from the recruiting cycle. With something like this, it’s difficult to separate Brady Hoke’s recruiting efforts through early December from Jim Harbaugh’s efforts over the last five weeks of the cycle. So the grades and feedback I provide are geared toward the program’s job of recruiting, not necessarily a specific coach.

Starters are listed in italics.

Lost from 2014:
 Russell Bellomy (transfer), Devin Gardner (graduation)
Commits: Zach Gentry, Alex Malzone
Grade: A-
Comments: Michigan needed to add talent and numbers to the quarterback position to engender competition, and they did that. Gentry (#8 pro-style quarterback, #175 overall) is the raw talent at 6’7″, 230 lbs. with a reported 4.6 forty and a strong arm. Malzone (#13 pro-style quarterback, #295 overall) is the local field general with good skills all around but nothing that really stands out. Other than getting a truly elite prospect, Michigan did about as well as they could. Toss in the possible arrival of Houston transfer John O’Korn, and all these guys won’t finish their careers at Michigan, but at least one should emerge looking good.

Lost from 2014:
 Justice Hayes (transfer)
Commit: Karan Higdon
Grade: C
Comments: The unfortunate thing here is that Michigan had two top-150 running back talents committed at different times, and the Wolverines let both of them slip through their fingers. The first one, Damien Harris, ended up signing with Alabama. The second one, Mike Weber, was darn close to flipping from Ohio State to Michigan at the last minute, but he ultimately stuck with the Buckeyes around 10:30 a.m. because Higdon had committed to Michigan at 8:00 a.m. Michigan stole Higdon (#40 running back, #479 overall) himself at the last minute from Iowa, so there’s something to be said for getting someone on the board, at least. Still, this could have looked better.

Lost from 2014:
 Devin Funchess (early NFL draft entrant)
Commits: Brian Cole, Grant Perry
Grade: B+
Comments: Michigan might have hit a home run with Cole (#5 athlete, #75 overall), who was a jack-of-all-trades player in high school and will have to learn the receiver position in college. Perry (#109 wide receiver, #864 overall) is a solid role player plucked from Northwestern at the last minute. Otherwise, both Hoke and Harbaugh swung and missed at the big-timers in the class.

Lost from 2014:
 Keith Heitzman (transfer)
Commit: Tyrone Wheatley, Jr.
Grade: B
Comments: Michigan let Chris Clark slip through their fingers, although Clark was wishy-washy and seemed to be all over the place with his recruitment. The Wolverines may have dodged a bullet, because Wheatley – as the son of a coach on staff – might be less likely to flake out if things don’t go smoothly from day one. Wheatley (#12 tight end, #313 overall) has a fair amount of talent himself, although some think he’s better suited for defense. It would have been nice to get two tight ends with Heitzman transferring, A.J. Williams being a senior in 2015, and starter Jake Butt a junior who could possibly go pro if he stays healthy.

Lost from 2014:
 Kyle Bosch (transfer)
Commits: Grant Newsome, Jon Runyan Jr., Nolan Ulizio
Grade: B
Comments: The offensive line recently went from being “way too young” to being “maybe too old” now that four projected starters will be fifth-year guys (2) or fourth-year guys (2), joined by sophomore left tackle Mason Cole and redshirt junior utility man Erik Magnuson. With a couple backups looking stuck there for a reason, Michigan needed to bring in some fresh talent. Newsome (#22 offensive tackle, #235 overall) is a possible star, whereas Runyan (#122 offensive tackle) and Ulizio (#137 offensive tackle) look like they could be passable players in a few years. This probably isn’t the class that will turn around Michigan’s fortunes immediately, but they’re functional. Michigan essentially ignored a national prospect with high interest (USC-bound Chuma Edoga) and a local, guru-approved guy with high interest (Wisconsin-bound David Moorman), so hopefully they picked the right ones to pursue. If Newsome pans out like I think he should, he’ll make this class look pretty good.

5Feb 2015
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Tyrone Wheatley, Jr., Wolverine

Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. with Tyrone Wheatley, Sr. on National Signing Day

Manlius (NY) Canisius tight end Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. committed to Michigan on Wednesday afternoon. He chose the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, UCLA, and USC, among others.

He’s a 6’6″, 260 lb. prospect. As a senior in 2014, he caught 11 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also making 68 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 3 pass breakups, and 2 blocked punts on defense/special teams.

ESPN: 3-star, 79 grade, #12 TE
Rivals: 4-star, #13 TE
Scout: 4-star, #25 DE, #279 overall
247 Sports: 4-star, 90 grade, #13 TE

Wheatley was offered early on by the previous Michigan regime, and it looked for a while like it would only be a matter of time before he committed to the Wolverines. The longer he held out, the lower those chances got. When Brady Hoke’s staff was on its way out, Wheatley was considering the likes of Alabama, USC, etc. Even after Jim Harbaugh was hired, Wheatley said that he had not heard from Michigan’s staff in a while and they dropped out of his top four. Then his dad – former Michigan great Tyrone Wheatley – was hired, and Junior seemed destined to join his dad. Except he still seemed lukewarm on the idea of attending Michigan, did not make plans to visit Michigan, and scheduled a visit to Oregon. Then he surprised everyone with a late-January, mid-week visit to Ann Arbor. Michigan’s odds had a pulse once again, and his final two – Michigan and UCLA – resulted in a pledge to the Wolverines on National Signing Day.

Wheatley has a large frame with a solidly built lower body. Looking at him without pads, his upper body seems a little undeveloped as of now. As a pass catcher, Wheatley shows some decent hands and catches the ball away from his body. He shows a couple nice adjustments to passes thrown over his head, which is pretty impressive when considering that he only caught 11 passes during his senior year. Playing in a run-heavy offense, he didn’t get a ton of options to showcase his abilities. He shows decent speed that should be able to challenge linebackers vertically and to split out wide or in the slot at times. I think Wheatley shows the most upside (on the offensive side of the ball) as a blocker, where he could use some technique work but shows the knee bend, footwork, and leverage to be very effective.

I do not think Wheatley shows a great deal of promise as a receiver. He does not wow you with his athleticism, and his speed is adequate but not extremely impressive. He also does not seem to be a natural pass catcher and is somewhat mechanical in that phase of the game. Furthermore, he does not run crisp routes, but that’s not much of a surprise since he’s in high school and is not in a pass-heavy offense; that is correctable.

At least based on his junior highlights, I like Wheatley’s physicality more as a blocker than I do as a defensive end, where he seems like too much of a finesse player. Unfortunately, there’s more to playing tight end than blocking. If the aggression could translate to defense, I would like him even more on the defensive side of the ball. On a bit of a side note, I have seen it suggested elsewhere – and I somewhat agree – that Wheatley could play offensive tackle in college. Considering Michigan’s current roster makeup, I think he needs to play tight end to start his college career, but I would not be surprised if he switches to defensive end or even offensive tackle by the time all is said and done. I think he can have a good career as a tight end, but I do not see him as a game-changing mismatch. He looks more like a Martell Webb type of player to me.

Wheatley was Michigan’s fourteenth and final commit in the 2015 class, barring a change of heart from Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, who verbally committed to UCLA but remains unsigned. Wheatley is the only tight end in the class and joins a depleted position group that has junior Jake Butt, redshirt sophomore Khalid Hill, and redshirt freshman Ian Bunting. He’s the first signee from the state of New York since lineman John Ferrara in 2006, and the first ever from Canisius.

There’s also a younger brother named Terius Wheatley, a 2016 prospect with no offers yet (HIGHLIGHTS). Terius played for Orchard Park this past season but will presumably be joining a team in the Ann Arbor area for his senior year, so keep an eye out for him at the likes of Saline, Ann Arbor Pioneer, etc.

TTB Rating: 82 (ratings explanation)

Here are Tyrone Wheatley, Jr.’s defensive highlights from his junior year (LINK), and below are his senior tight end highlights: