The Michigan Wolverines are in need of receivers who can step in this season and support the star role of Devin Funchess, who is going to be the easy No. 1 target for Devin Gardner this year. A number of potential fill-ins are on the board after the first week of fall practice, but it’s tight end Jake Butt who will need to become a more dynamic part of Michigan’s pass offense once he bounces back from an ACL tear suffered in February.
As a true freshman last season, Butt appeared in all 13 games, making eight starts, and ended the year with 235 yards and two touchdowns. After Funchess made the permanent switch to wide receiver, Butt became the undisputed top tight end and played like it for the most part. It was an extremely encouraging sign to see a true freshman excelling like that.
The ACL tear in February was dark enough news in itself. Couple that with the timing — Michigan had just lost a 1,000-yard receiver in Jeremy Gallon — and the receiving corps began to look unproven and shaky. Head coach Brady Hoke feels optimistic that Butt will see his first playing time this season at the start of Big 10 play which is where Michigan will need him most.
Athletes who suffer a torn ACL oftentimes come back stronger than before thanks to the advances of modern medicine and therapy. Butt, who has been working hard recently with blocking schemes and route-running, could be an enhanced option in Michigan’s offense this season.
Guys like Jehu Chesson, Dennis Norfleet and Amara Darboh are going to be tossed into this mix this year, especially early. But Michigan’s passing game won’t be able to fully take off until Butt returns to the field.