3 Tight ends from Michigan schools named to Mackey Award watch list

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The third preseason watch list for college football that was made public was the John Mackey Award watch list. The Mackey Award is given to the nation’s best tight end.

This year’s crop of players features three players from Michigan-based programs in Division I.

Tyrone Wheatley Jr. will be a junior come the fall at the University of Michigan. After not seeing the field as a freshman in 2015, Wheatley played in two games last year for the Wolverines, catching three passes for 35 yards and one touchdown.

Wheatley is expected to compete for first-string duties with two other tight ends on the Michigan roster, senior Ian Bunting and redshirt freshman Sean McKeon. Whoever assumes the lead role will be suceeding All-American and 2016 Mackey Award recipient Jake Butt.

Wheatley joins three teammates who were named to prior watch lists for the upcoming season. Defensive lineman Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst were named to the Bednarik Award watch list, while quarterback Wilton Speight was slotted in the Maxwell Award watch list.

Ty Conklin for Central Michigan will look to follow up a breakout campaign as a junior in his final year of collegiate eligibility. Conklin played in all 13 games for the Chippewas a season ago, totaling 560 yards on 42 grabs, including six touchdown receptions. One of the six was this ‘highlight reel’ worthy one-handed grab.

Donnie Ernsberger will be a senior at Western Michigan this season and will be expected to help pick up where the Broncos’ passing game left off in 2016. WMU had an embarrassment of riches at the wideout position, leaving little opportunities for Ernsberger, who caught just nine passes for 112 yards and a score last season. But look for the Battle Creek native and Lakeview High School product to have a possible breakout season.

Wheatley, Conklin and Ernsberger are just three of 55 tight ends across college football named to the Mackey Award watch list. The award has been handed out since the 2000 season.