Sophomore Jake Butt is on his way to becoming one of the Big Ten's top tight ends, but with the second-year Wolverine out at least the first few weeks recovering from a torn ACL, where should he rank among the league's best?
1. Tyler Kroft - Rutgers: The 6-6, 240-pound senior was an honorable mention All-American a year ago and a first-team all-conference performer for Rutgers after making 43 grabs for 573 yards and four touchdowns. He could become an even bigger playmaker this fall, but he will, at the very least, remain a consistent target, catching at least one ball in all 12 starts last year.
2. Maxx Williams - Minnesota: Admittedly, the Gophers were not a good passing team last year, but as a redshirt freshman, the 6-4, 250-pound Williams led the Gophers in receptions (25), yards (417) and touchdowns (five), and he is expected to blossom even further as the go-to guy for quarterback Mitch Leidner.
3. Jesse James Jr., - Penn State: A 12-game starter in 2013, James was third on the team with 25 receptions, good for 333 yards and three touchdowns, and now has eight scores among 40 career receptions. He's not as accomplished as teammate Kyle Carter (54 career grabs) but the 6-7, 254-pound James is considered to have the brighter future.
4. Jeff Heuerman - Ohio State: The senior continues a strong tradition of dual-threat tight ends at OSU, guys noted for their blocking but also showing the soft hands to be formidable in the passing game. The 6-5, 255-pound Heuerman is already good at both, helping to block for tailback Carlos Hyde a year ago while snagging 26 balls for 466 yards and four scores.
5. Jake Butt - Michigan: Butt's 235 yards receiving are the most ever recorded by a true freshman tight end at Michigan, and he tallied that on 20 grabs, with two touchdowns. Considering his late-season performance - 11 receptions for 138 yards and two TDs in U-M's final three games - there is reason to believe he would have been a huge factor this fall if not for the injury.
Butt will sit out at least the first two weeks, and likely the first four, and then will still need time to return to form, but there is no denying the immense talent of the 6-6, 250-pounder.
The Best of the Rest
6. Justin Sinz - Purdue
7. Kyle Carter - Penn State
8. Matt LaCosse - Illinois
9. Jake Duzey - Iowa
10. AJ Williams - Michigan