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January 23, 2014

Top 10 tight end recruits of the past 20 years

Michigan has enjoyed incredible recruiting success at a number of positions, landing at least one five-star offensive lineman, defensive lineman, linebacker, defensive back, quarterback and running back. However, U-M has not landed a five-star tight end during the past 20 years.

Here is a look at the top 10 tight ends the Wolverines have signed since the 1995 class, in order of their Rivals Rating (players pre-2002 received a rating based on Rivals criteria) and chronologically when there was a tie.

  • 5.9 - Bennie Joppru - 1998: Rankings were still coming together back then, but Prep Football Report had the native Minnesotan as the No. 6 tight end nationally, and he was ranked the No. 4 player in the Midwest. The 6-5, 243-pounder was productive in his first three seasons, catching 32 balls from 1999-2001, and then he exploded as a senior, setting a Michigan single-season tight-end record with 53 receptions for 579 yards and five touchdowns.

  • 5.9 - Mike Massey - 2004: Perhaps it is unfair to include Massey on this list (and to put him second) considering no recruiting site ranked him as a tight end - he was rated as a four-star defensive end - but he was recruited to play tight end by the Wolverines and would spend his entire career there. The Cleveland native battled through an injury-plagued career, finishing with 20 catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns, both in his redshirt freshman campaign. He was voted team captain in 2008.

  • 5.9 - Kevin Koger - 2008: Michigan's first official four-star tight end of the current Rivals.com era (2002-present), Koger was ranked the fourth-best tight end in the country and the No. 144 player overall. He seemingly arrived at the worst possible time, as Rich Rodriguez did not even recruit a tight end in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 classes, but Koger made the most of his first three seasons anyway, hauling in 36 balls for 512 yards and five scores. As a senior in 2011, a team captain, under first-year head coach Brady Hoke, the Toledo native had a career-high 23 receptions for 244 yards and four TDs.

  • 5.9 - Jake Butt - 2013: Butt's recruiting resume was very similar to Koger's: a four-star, the No. 5 tight end in the country and the No. 144 player nationally. And for good measure, they were both from Ohio. The 6-6, 237-pound Butt started five games this past season, setting a Michigan freshman tight-end record with 20 receptions, good for 235 yards and two touchdowns.

  • 5.8 - Tyler Ecker - 2000: Rated by an early version of Rivals.com back then, Ecker was a four-star considered the No. 9 tight end nationally. He redshirted in 2000 and then spent two years on a Mormon mission before returning to Ann Arbor. The 6-6, 249-pounder enjoyed a solid career with the Wolverines, catching 57 balls for 695 yards and six TDs during his four seasons.

  • 5.8 - Martell Webb - 2007: Webb is also a little bit of a cheat, as the Pontiac, Mich., native was actually ranked as a wide receiver coming out of high school - billed as a four-star and the No. 29 wideout nationally - though he would not spend one moment of his career at that position, moving to tight end immediately. The 6-4, 268-pounder also played during the Rodriguez era, neutralizing his use significantly; he caught nine balls for 111 yards and two scores.

  • 5.8 - Brandon Moore - 2008: There were some recruiting services at the time that had Moore ranked ahead of Koger, but Rivals listed Moore slightly behind, at No. 187 nationally and the No. 8 tight end in the country. The four-star was rumored to be a future offensive tackle, but he stayed put at end for five seasons. He played much like A.J. Williams does today, as more of a blocking end, tallying only two catches in his career. He was awarded Ron Kramer's No. 87 Legends Jersey in 2012.

  • 5.8 - Chris Barnett - 2011: In the limited window Hoke had upon being hired by Michigan in January and Signing Day in early February, he managed to snag Barnett. The four-star, ranked the No. 224 nationally and the No. 14 tight end by Rivals.com, was considered quite a coup but he would not survive his first fall camp with the Maize and Blue. His current whereabouts are unknown.

  • 5.8 - Ian Bunting - 2014: This year's soon-to-be signee will be the ninth tight end in the last 20 years to receive a grade of 5.8 or higher. He is a current four-star and the No. 8 end nationally. Though Michigan is not as desperate as it was in 2012 and even this past fall, now boasting a TE depth chart with four players, Bunting still could see the field early in his freshman campaign.

  • 5.7 - Devin Funchess - 2012: One of five tight ends to earn the 5.7 designation (and one of two from his class, along with Williams), we include Funchess because of his production through two seasons. Though he is now largely a wide receiver (in lining up if not by name), Funchess has accrued 64 catches for 982 yards and 11 scores in two seasons. A year ago, as a tight end, he had 15 receptions for 234 yards and five TDs.

    Top Tight End
    Chad Carpenter
    Shawn Thompson
    Bennie Joppru
    Tyler Ecker
    Kevin Murphy
    Mike Massey
    Carson Butler
    Martell Webb
    Kevin Koger
    Chris Barnett
    Devin Funchess
    Jake Butt
    Ian Bunting

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