Broncos hoping they’ve found their TE with Michigan’s Jake Butt

Jeff Legwold
ESPN Senior Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the last nine seasons, the Denver Broncos can put the role of the tight end in their offense into two categories:

The seasons of Healthy Peyton Manning.

And All The Other Seasons.

The Broncos want to change that. Enter Jake Butt.

“We like the potential there, we like what he can bring to the offense,” president of football operations/general manager John Elway said earlier this offseason.

In Manning’s three healthy seasons with the Broncos, the team’s offense bordered on historically ridiculous, including 2013’s run as the first 600-point offense in league history. In those seasons, a tight end caught at least 43 passes and the Broncos got 7, 14 and 15 touchdowns at the position.

David Zalubowski/AP

In the other six years, including 2017, they haven’t gotten more than five touchdowns from the position in any of those seasons, and in 2010, no tight end caught a touchdown. And their struggles last season might be best summed up by the fact A.J. Derby led all of the Broncos tight ends with 19 receptions and the team waived him in November.

The result last season was the team’s top two wide receivers — Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders — were usually surrounded in coverage because opposing defensive coordinators just weren’t that concerned about any other players in the passing game.

“We know we need to make defenses play us fair,” said Broncos coach Vance Joseph. “To do that, we have to force them to honor other receivers, away from [Thomas] and Emmanuel. Our tight ends are part of that.”

Again, enter Jake Butt.

“We understand — [Thomas] and [Sanders], they’ve been doing it a while now,’’ Butt said. “They’re two really good top-notch receivers. They’re going to be getting a lot of attention on the outside. They’re going to be drawing some double-teams. So it’s our responsibility as tight ends and slots to win in these one-on-one matchups on the inside. Whatever that means … just to take a little bit of pressure off those guys on the outside.’’

The Broncos drafted Butt in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. He then spent his rookie season on injured reserve due to a torn ACL suffered in his final game at Michigan. The only reason a player like the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder, who was one of the most proficient route runners at the position on the draft board, was available in the fifth round was the injury.

Whether Butt, or even Jeff Heuerman, a third-round pick in the 2015 draft, can change that remains to be seen. But that’s certainly the Broncos’ bet, because they didn’t dive into free agency at the position and used just one of their 10 draft picks this past April on the position. They used it to take Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli, who has not taken part in the offseason workouts as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

The Broncos allowed Butt to practice briefly last season, just before the deadline to move a player from the non-football injury list to the roster, but elected to move him to injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

The Broncos like what they’ve seen to this point in the offseason work but have tempered their public expectations for Butt in the slightly retooled offense.

“He looks healthy, finally,” Joseph said. “ … Right now, he’s totally healthy … We haven’t played a game yet, so I don’t know what Jake is going to be, but he’s very engaged, he’s worked hard, and he’s here every day.”

For his part, Butt has maintained the swagger of a starter. In his final two seasons with the Wolverines he was a first-team All-American, catching 97 passes in 2015 and 2016.

“You have to have that kind of confidence, and I think we all do in the tight end room,” Butt said. “You’ve got to have a confidence to play in this league. That’s my goal … That you can be on that No. 1 spot.”

http://www.espn.com/blog/denver-broncos/post/_/id/31527/broncos-hoping-theyve-found-their-answer-at-tight-end-with-jake-butt

Spanish soccer player draws inspiration from…Michigan basketball?

ESPN Staff

Spain defender Gerard Pique cited an odd precedent for Spain’s World Cup hopes in the wake of firing their coach on the eve of the tournament — University of Michigan basketball.

The Spanish federation on Wednesday decided to sack coach Julen Lopetegui after he agreed to take over as manager of Real Madrid once the World Cup ended.

The move has threatened to push the team into turmoil just two days before their opener against Portugal, but Pique found inspiration in American college basketball.

“University of Michigan. Basketball. 1989. NCAA Champion. It wouldn’t be the first time it happened,” Pique wrote on Twitter. “All together, now more than ever.”

Almost 30 years ago, Michigan faced nearly the same situation as Spain when coach Bill Frieder announced before the NCAA tournament that he would leave after the season to take over Arizona State.

Michigan decided to fire Frieder immediately and promoted assistant coach Steve Fisher, who led the 3-seeded Wolverines to the national title.

“I don’t want someone from Arizona State coaching the Michigan team,” athletic director Bo Schembechler famously said of his decision. “A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan.”

Spain replaced Lopetegui with sporting director Fernando Hierro, who said he hopes to change as little as possible within the team as they prepare to face Portugal, Iran and Morocco in Group B.

Former Spain great Xavi Hernandez said he believed the national federation made the right move.

“I think [federation president Luis] Rubiales acted correctly and was looking out for the federation, which should be above any single individual,” Hernandez told Marca. “It wasn’t an easy situation but I think he did the right thing. The players have seen things like this before and I am sure they are going to have a good World Cup.”

http://www.espn.com/soccer/spain/story/3524899/gerard-pique-draws-inspiration-from-michigan-basketball-after-spain-fire-coach

Interview: Phil Steele, college football expert, June 12, 2018

National college football expert Phil Steele joined the SportsPen to talk Michigan and Michigan State and who has the best chance to make the College Football Playoff.

0:00-1:15 – What goes into making magazine every year
1:16-2:13 – Thoughts on MSU QB Brian Lewerke
2:14-2:37 – Ranking Big Ten QBs
2:38-4:20 – MSU’s defense one of the best in the country
4:21-5:18 – MSU set up for regression because of close wins?
5:19-6:40 – Impact of Shea Patterson for Michigan
6:41-8:07 – Michigan’s “nasty” defense
8:08-10:14 – Who is set up for CFP run, UM or MSU?

Mock draft roundup for Bridges, Jackson, Wagner

By Blake Froling

The NBA Finals aren’t technically over yet, but we’re already turning our attention to the NBA Draft, coming up June 21. Everywhere you look, someone has a new “Mock Draft 27.5” that promises “big changes at the top!”

Instead of making you sift through dozens of websites just to find the players you care about, I decided to do the work for you. The three players we are really interested in are Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges and Michigan’s Moe Wagner. The rest is just filler.

Here is what some of the “experts” are saying about these local stars in their latest mock drafts.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Unsurprisingly, Jackson’s draft stock is by far the highest of the three. He’s been consistently hovering around the 2-5 range since he officially declared for the draft. Teams love Jackson’s defensive prowess and inside-outside offensive game. Plus, he’s not even 19 years old yet and has barely scratched the surface of his true potential.

CBS Sports – No. 5 (Dallas Mavericks)

Gobs of upside here. Going to Dallas would allow him the room to grow but also get playing time fairly immediately.

Sports Illustrated – No. 3 (Atlanta Hawks)

He possesses a critical duality for modern bigs: he can step out and shoot from outside, while also defending in space and protecting the rim. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally before he can become a mainstay, but with the strides he’s made over the last couple years, he’s worth a substantial investment.

Bleacher Report – No. 5 (Dallas Mavericks)

Jackson averaged 5.5 blocks and 2.0 threes per 40 minutes during his lone season at Michigan State, which is a rare, valued mix of abilities. The Mavericks will be thrilled with that skill set and can bet on the rest of his offensive repertoire to develop over the next few years.

Miles Bridges

After returning for his sophomore season, Bridges’ stock has remained pretty much the same. He was never projected as a top-five pick and he likely won’t last past the lottery. Bridges’ fit in the NBA will be different than at Michigan State. Instead of being criticized for not taking over games and settling for 3-pointers, Bridges’ value will be directly tied to how well he hits threes and he won’t be asked to take over games yet.

Teams love wing prospects who can shoot, rebound a little and play some defense. Bridges fits the mold. His ceiling might not be as high as Jackson, but his floor is that of a solid role player.

CBS Sports – No. 14 (Denver Nuggets)

I think he falls to 14 due to players ahead of him offering up a bit more well-rounded, NBA-style skills. This is not a knock on Bridges, though, who if anything might be a tad underrated at this point.

Sports Illustrated – No. 11 (Charlotte Hornets)

Bridges immediately makes their rotation more athletic, and has enough scoring ability to conceivably contribute right away. He’s a strong, powerful player who rebounds, thrives in transition and can knock down open shots.

Bleacher Report – No. 11 (Charlotte Hornets)

Bridges should be a draft-night target for the Hornets, who need offense from both forward spots. He would work best as a small-ball stretch 4 alongside Dwight Howard, though continued progress on his shot-creating and off-the-dribble scoring should mean Bridges could also play next to Marvin Williams.

Moe Wagner

Wagner made nice strides in his game this season, but what you see is what you get. Many experts think he’s pretty close to his ceiling right now. Good shooter, not so good defender. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Shooting big men are all the rage in the NBA. Wagner will likely find a home somewhere in the second round or late first.

CBS Sports – No. 36 (New York Knicks)

The vision of a Wagner-Porzingis international team-up playing in Manhattan seems like a ton of fun.

Sports Illustrated – No. 37 (Sacramento Kings)

Bleacher Report – No. 29 (Brooklyn Nets)

The Nets could use a big man to stretch the floor, which will be Wagner’s NBA calling card. He struggles defensively, but his shooting (39.4 3FG%) and ability to attack closeouts are valued in today’s NBA.

John Beilein staying at Michigan, reportedly with a contract extension (update)

By Blake Froling

**update**

The University of Michigan has almost finalized a two-year contract extension with John Beilein, according to The Athletic. It is reported to be worth just shy of $4 million per year with a rolling option.


Michigan fans, you can relax now.

It looks head basketball coach John Beilein will be staying in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future after he tweeted this earlier today:

Beilein was one of three rumored candidates to become the next Detroit Pistons head coach, along with former Toronto Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka.

(Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Beilein and the university have also been reportedly working on a contract extension after he led the Wolverines to their second national championship appearance in six seasons back in April. In his 11 seasons in Ann Arbor, Beilein is 248-143 and the school’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach.

This is the smart move for Beilein. The NBA is tempting for many college coaches, but more often than not it ends poorly. Beilein has an impeccable legacy at Michigan and he’ll have a job there as long as he wants it. Heck, they might re-name a building in his honor once he retires.

What would have been the upside to taking the Pistons job? Possibly more money, even though he just received a lucrative extension at Michigan. If things went perfectly and he brought a championship to Detroit, he’d be considered the greatest basketball coach in the state of Michigan. But the odds of that happening were very slim based on the current Pistons roster.

It seems like there was genuine interest on Beilein’s side regarding the Pistons job, but at the very least he used the rumors to secure an even richer contract extension. A win for Beilein, a win for the school, a win for Michigan fans, and possibly a win for the Pistons if they hire the right coach now that Beilein is off the table.

Michigan State-Louisville, Michigan-North Carolina among 2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups

Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer

A North Carolina vs. Michigan rematch, Michigan State visiting Louisville, and Duke hosting Indiana highlight the 2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, announced Friday by the two leagues.

2018 ACC/Big Ten Challenge Schedule
Monday, Nov. 26
Minnesota at Boston College
Nebraska at Clemson

Tuesday, Nov. 27
Illinois at Notre Dame
Indiana at Duke
Michigan State at Louisville
Pitt at Iowa
Virginia Tech at Penn State
NC State at Wisconsin

Wednesday, Nov. 28
Purdue at Florida State
Rutgers at Miami
North Carolina at Michigan
Virginia at Maryland
Georgia Tech at Northwestern
Syracuse at Ohio State

Michigan, the 2017-18 national runner-up, will host North Carolina on Nov. 28. The teams met last year in Chapel Hill — their first meeting since the national championship game in 1993 — with North Carolina winning 86-71. On Nov. 27, Michigan State will make its first trip to Louisville since 1995. The same night, Duke will host Indiana in a rematch of last year’s Challenge game, which the Blue Devils won.

Former ACC rivals Virginia and Maryland will meet Nov. 28 in College Park.

The schedule includes three first-time pairings in Syracuse at Ohio State (Nov. 28), Minnesota at Boston College (Nov. 26) and Pittsburgh at Iowa (Nov. 27). Other games include Florida State, a 2018 Elite Eight participant, hosting Purdue on Nov. 28 and Illinois visiting Notre Dame on Nov. 27.

The ACC won last year’s event and has a 12-5-2 record in the all-time series with the Big Ten.

http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/23669112/north-carolina-michigan-michigan-state-louisville-indiana-duke-2018-acc-big-ten-challenge-matchups