Michigan Football: How Loss of Jake Butt Will Impact Wolverines' 2014 Offense

Andrew CoppensContributor IFebruary 14, 2014

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Tight end Jake Butt #88 of the Michigan Wolverines runs with the football against the Kansas State Wildcats during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Wolverines 31-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome the annual offseason event at the University of Michigan—a big player tearing an ACL. On Thursday, it was announced that sophomore tight end Jake Butt suffered a torn ACL during winter conditioning drills. 

Michigan and this injury seem to go hand-in-hand. For the second straight season, the Wolverines have had a major player suffer this injury, and under Hoke, they have had nine players suffer a torn ACL. 

While last season's news of linebacker Jake Ryan was a major blow to the defense, the news of Butt's injury may not be nearly as big of a deal.

It's less about Butt and more about how different the tight end will be used under new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. 

Yes, Butt was third on the team in receptions in 2013, and losing those 20 receptions will be missed. However, let's not pretend that Butt's loss can't be overcome, either. 

He wasn't the Wolverines' No. 1 tight end last year; that honor belongs to Devin Funchess, who racked up 49 receptions for 748 yards and six touchdowns. 

Tony Ding/Associated Press

What Butt's injury does do to Michigan's offense is maybe not allow Funchess, a pure mismatch in the passing game, to slide out to more of a wide receiver role. In fact, Butt's injury may have more impact on the wide receiver battle than what happens at tight end. 

Had Butt been healthy, it would've allowed Nussmeier the chance to experiment with Butt as the No. 1 tight end and Funchess out wide. 

Given the lack of production from anyone not named Jehu Chesson at wide receiver, having Funchess as a second option out wide would've been helpful. 

Could that experiment still take place before the season starts? Some will point to Ryan's six-month recovery a season ago, but that was a freakishly quick turnaround, and no one's recovery time is the same. 

If Butt is able to make a quick recovery like Ryan did, there's a chance to see him back during summer camp or near the start of the season. Butt's return will all depend on how he responds to surgery. 

The bigger issue for Michigan is that no tight end currently on the roster has more than one career catch. In fact, between fifth-year senior Jordan Paskorz, junior A.J. Williams, redshirt freshman Khalid Hill, only Williams has recorded an actual catch. 

However, the Wolverines are also bringing in a massive option at tight end in the fall, as 4-star tight end Ian Bunting will join the program. 

Is losing a player who showed promise last year a big deal? Yes, but at the same time, there was zero guarantee that Butt was going to be a go-to player for the Wolverines with more playing time. 

If Butt could come in as a freshman and make an impact, what is to say Bunting or Hill couldn't do the same. 

Additionally, there is a lot of doubt as to just how deep the tight end position really needs to be under Nussmeier. His history at Alabama suggests that the tight end group won't be used nearly as much as it was under Al Borges at Michigan. 

There won't be two tight end sets as often, and if that's the case, Nussmeier can get by with finding one good blocking option at tight end. 

Ultimately, Michigan will miss Butt's potential, but there is plenty of time to figure out what to do should he not be ready for the start of the season. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens