The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, and while Michigan doesn't have a long list of potential draftees, at least a couple former Wolverines will hear their names called this weekend. The first of them will almost assuredly be Devin Funchess, who's projected as a second- or third-round pick with a small chance of sneaking into the end of the first round. What should an NFL team expect to get from Funchess? Here's a look at one of the draft's most intriguing boom-or-bust prospects.
By The Numbers
Position: Wide Receiver (or Tight End, if you're not into the whole blocking thing)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 232
40 Time: 4.70 (combine), 4.47 (pro day)
Junior stats: 100 targets, 62 receptions (62% catch rate), 733 yards (7.3 YPT/11.8 YPC), 4 TDs
Sophomore stats: 92 targets, 49 receptions (53% catch rate), 748 yards (8.1 YPT/15.3 YPC), 6 TDs
The most striking aspect of Funchess is his physical talent. He pairs solid, though not elite, wideout speed with a tight end's frame. He's too fast and fluid in his movements to be defended by most linebackers and safeties, while his size can prove overwhelming for smaller cornerbacks—at least, it did when Michigan actually decided to take advantage of his mismatches.
Despite his size, Funchess isn't ponderous in his movements. He reaches top speed in a hurry, and when he's at his best he can be a sharp route-runner who gains separation with quick, fluid breaks and some nice deception:
Funchess' size helps him on his routes; he's tough to jam at the line, and he uses his hands well to disengage from defenders on his breaks.
A former basketball standout, Funchess can get up—he boasts a 38.5-inch vertical—and high-point the ball. While he's not the most natural pass-catcher (more on that later), he's able to make very difficult catches look relatively easy because of his athleticism.
Funchess is dangerous after the catch, capitalizing on his speed/power combination to run through opposing defensive backs—or occasionally leap right over them. While he's more of a straight-line runner than a dynamic open-field juke threat, he covers ground in a hurry and utilizes a solid stiff-arm in the open field.
Funchess too often allows the football to get too close to his body, which leads to some awkward catches and, with frustrating frequency, flat-out drops:
His route-running needs more consistency. The sharp, fluid breaks mentioned above weren't always apparent last season, though much of that may be due to the toe injury that lingered for most of the season.
Then there's the reason Funchess moved to wide receiver in the first place: his blocking, or lack thereof. He simply couldn't hold up as an in-line tight end, and his blocking didn't improve much when he moved outside. When putting together this post, I asked Brian for a canonical example of Funchess blowing a block:
Brian: there isn't one because there are so many
Brian: there are three in the ND UFR
That's referencing the 2013 Notre Dame game, when Funchess still played tight end; his blocking performance in that game may have expedited his move to receiver. Unfortunately, that move didn't mask Funchess' issues with both technique and effort as a blocker:
While most of Funchess' efforts weren't that egregiously bad, he's got a long way to go as a blocker.
If you asked me after his sophomore season, I'd say without hesitation that Funchess is on his way to being a very productive NFL receiver. When healthy, he's a matchup nightmare, and NFL offenses are finding more ways to incorporate oversized, TE-like receivers. Then last season cast a lot of uncertainty over Funchess for reasons both within (drops, blocking) and outside (playcalling, QB play, injuries) of his control.
I still think Funchess can be an impact player worthy of an early-round selection. He can be a red zone threat right off the bat, and if he limits his drops he can be an every-down player. I like the CBSSports comparison of Funchess to Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin, who has a similar build (6'5", 240) and profile—Benjamin was the Panthers' go-to receiver as a rookie of out FSU, and while he was very productive (73 catches, 1,008 yards, 9 TDs), he had issues with drops (52% catch rate) and route-running. I'm not sure Funchess is as ready to be an instant-impact player; replicating Benjamin's rookie season is likely a best-case scenario.
I think Funchess is at the mercy of which team selects him more than a lot of receivers. If he's drafted by a franchise that tries to turn him back into a tight end, he's likely to be a bust. If his new team lets him go to work on the outside, he's got the chance to develop into a productive downfield threat, especially if he's paired with a receiver who works well underneath.
Jaylenbits? Maybe not quite but it is by far the most interesting thing going on right now. The latest:
- Scout's Brian Snow has been saying this is a top two of UK and M for weeks and reiterated that, with Cal running third. Feels like the Bears would be a surprise but not an all-caps SHOCK.
- Sam Webb did not offer a gut feeling on WTKA this morning but did reiterate that Michigan was very much in this recruitment; he's got an article coming up in the News on why that is. As a guy who's badgered him about this recruitment for months I can say that Sam is getting more hopeful as we move along here. He is not playing coy, though: nobody knows.
- Kentucky offered 2015 6'6" wing Shaun Kirk yesterday just hours after he committed to NC State. Kentucky needs a lot of guys, yes; they already have a commitment from a 6'6" wing out of Chicago and are about to get a JUCO shooting guard, Mychal Mulder. A 247 Kentucky staff member suggested this was "more indicative" of where things are with Jaylen Brown than Cheick Diallo, the 6'9" power forward who is the other major prize Kentucky is after.
- Even if Kentucky sweeps Kirk/Mulder/Diallo they will still have a spot for Brown, FWIW. Adding Jamal Murray, the Canadian combo guard who is considering reclassifying from 2016, and all those guys would fill them up but even then a guy like Marcus Lee could get Creaned.
- Crystal Ball predictions continue to roll in for Michigan, including one from Jerry Meyer, 247's head of basketball recruiting. Michigan now has the last 13 picks, with 247 staffers at their Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, and UNC sites amongst those to pick M in the last couple days. Again, I wouldn't take this as gospel since this recruitment has been cloak and dagger. Somebody is hearing something.
- College coaches don't seem to be among that group, as several said they have "no clue" and/or "no feel" for what Brown was going to do.
- The OSU staffer told his message board that after some texts it looks like it's "headed UM's way" and that the Adidas thing was "huge". Steve Lorenz also mentioned something along those lines. I will call them Competent Germans for a week if this happens.
- Rivals, which has been pessimistic the whole time, suggests that Kansas writers in their network are "beginning to believe" they have a real shot. That's at odds with what their 24/7 guys are saying.
- There's no scheduled commitment time but people expect that that Brown will choose within the next couple weeks.
Meanwhile VA combo guard Kenny Williams is planning to take an official to Michigan. UNC and Virginia are the other schools he'll visit after using two of his officials earlier in the year; those schools and maybe VCU appear to comprise his list. Obviously if Brown does happen, Williams will no longer be an option.
Other basketball things. During the Hatch press conference, Beilein touched on a couple personnel matters. On DJ Wilson's position:
Beilein: 'If DJ (Wilson) plays in the middle, it'll probably be the only year he plays in the middle.' Not a center. But can be, apparently
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 27, 2015
That is no surprise with Teske and maybe Davis scheduled to enter in 2016 (Davis may prep), but it is an indicator where Michigan stands this year. They may need a third C and it sounds like Wilson will be the guy playing Bielfeldt/Smotrycz when foul trouble looms.
Spike Albrecht will undergo a second surgery. Beilein expects full recovery by the start of fall practice.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) April 27, 2015
That does not put talk about Spike redshirting to rest but it should at least dampen it considerably. Given the composition of the roster Michigan should want to add a point guard in 2016; a Spike redshirt prevents that. And having Albrecht available is a very good thing for a team with aspirations.
On other potential roster moves:
Beilein still expects every other player currently on the team to be back next season.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 27, 2015
There was some speculation that Chatman might light out for greener pastures; happy that is not the case. He is still a guy who can develop into an excellent player. Just get that corner three down and get mean on the boards and we're in business.
1925 sounds exactly as fun as you would expect. The roaring 20s of football:
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) April 28, 2015
Several years later mud would obscure key numbers in the New York Stock Exchange, and the rest is history.
Nyet. Mike Spath reported a week or so ago that Michigan would look to add a grad transfer wide receiver or two over the coming months, space permitting, and thoughts naturally turned to Devin Lucien, the UCLA receiver who Michigan essentially turned down (they asked him to play D) days after Hoke took the job. Lucien is no longer available:
WR Devin Lucien is transferring to ASU. Grad transfer. Eligible immediately. Nice get. 29 catches, 225 yards, 2 TDs last year at UCLA.
— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) April 28, 2015
Cut to the chase. The Final Four—two spectacular games and Duke punking MSU—put the "COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS DEATH" meme to the sword, or it least it should have. But at the same time the tournament was going on, basketball was experimenting with a 30 second shot clock in their B- and C-tier postseason tournaments. Those increased scoring without a commensurate decrease in efficiency, so you may as well do it. It appears that people are going to do it:
Men's basketball is likely heading toward reducing its shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd told ESPN.com on Monday.
Byrd, the coach at Belmont, said a year ago that there was a 5 percent chance of the change happening, but he changed his tone Monday.
"Now there's a real decent chance," Byrd said. "It's pretty evident a lot more coaches are leaning that way. The opinion of coaches on the shot clock has moved significantly to reducing it from 35 to 30. And all indicators are pointing toward that."
Byrd also said there was a 90% chance college basketball would adopt the NBA charge circle. It does sound like other changes are on the horizon:
Byrd said coaches have told him the game is too physical and too rough. He said that will come up quite a bit in the meeting.
Byrd also said there will be discussion about altering the timeout rule to create better flow. He said he would like to mimic the rule in women's basketball where if a coach calls a timeout within 30 seconds of a media timeout, then that becomes the TV timeout.
He said too often coaches will call a timeout, knowing they are getting a media timeout 15 seconds later, and that creates an even longer downtime for the fans in the stands and the TV audience.
"You can have the last few minutes take 20 minutes," Byrd said. "It doesn't bother coaches, but it does for those watching at home and in the arena. We need to try to get the games within two-hour windows."
All of that sounds excellent. From a selfish perspective I think the shot clock reduction hurts Michigan since they use their time on offense so well, but if it's part of a package that includes improving offensive flow by reducing the Spartanizing of the game I'll take it in a hot second.
Now just implement my coaches-must-cut-off-a-digit-to-call-timeout plan and we are cooking with gas.
The unbundling. ESPN has sued Verizon for attempting an end-around of their contract. ESPN thinks it says Verizon can't offer "basic" packages without its family of channels; Verizon is like nah.
Verizon Fios has just shy of six million cable subscribers -- making it the fourth largest cable company and sixth largest cable or satellite company in the country. Verizon recently announced a new cheaper alternative to a basic cable package. That offering allows consumers to subscribe to a basic cable package for $59.99. Unlike Dish Network's recent Sling TV offering which includes ESPN in its basic tier, the new Verizon Fios package doesn't include ESPN in its basic tier pricing. Instead ESPN -- along with ESPN2, FS1 and NBC Sports Network -- are included in a sports tier package which consumers can purchase for the additional price of $9.99 a month. That is, it's possible to subscribe to Verizon's new cable package without receiving ESPN.
That's actually a great deal for that sports package since ESPN and ESPN 2 alone cost Verizon seven dollars. I am not a law-talking guy but I can't see how this is going to fly in the courts; it is an indicator of where we're going. Right now sports is being subsidized by people who don't care about it at all. In an a-la-carte world that no longer happens.
Then what? Then ESPN takes a bath, with sports leagues next on the chopping block. ESPN costs 6 bucks a month for a channel 20% of people are interested in; it will not cost thirty bucks a month in an a-la-carte world because a lot of people will forgo it. There's only so much you can do by strong-arming customers in an environment where ten bucks a month gets you a virtually infinite pile of content. The people who don't care will opt out.
This is why adding questionable fanbases to the Big Ten in the pursuit of short-term cable dollars was so incredibly foolish even beyond the deleterious effects of adding a bunch of games nobody in the world cares about. Every time I see someone hail Jim Delany as some kind of visionary I want to laugh/cry.
it could happen?
We normally don't do minute-by-minute updates on specific recruits, but when it's crunch time for a guy who might be the #1 player in the country that's an exception worth making. So: UCLA sources are reporting that Brown has dropped the Bruins and Scout's Evan Daniels says that his list of eight is now five:
Jaylen Brown is down to five schools -- California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan & North Carolina -- a source confirms to Scout.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) April 27, 2015
The other teams cut are the two Georgia schools that seemed like courtesy listings for the locals.
In the wake of that news and Austin Hatch going on medical scholarship, Michigan has scored a bunch of Crystal Ball predictions. I wouldn't put too much stock into that, as Brown's recruitment has been extraordinarily tight-lipped, but it's better than the alternative. A staffer on 247's Kansas site thinks Kansas is all but out as well and that the three schools with a real shot are Cal, Michigan, and Kentucky.
I've been scouring the relevant message boards and Kentucky guys have not been particularly optimistic despite their recruiting proficiency… but again, nobody seems to have a feel for how this recruitment will go. After all, many thought UCLA was the leader.
That's One Way To Get An Exclusive
Shortly before four-star NC RB Robert Washington was set to announce his college choice on Saturday afternoon, Bleacher Report released an exclusive commitment video in which Washington, somewhat surprisingly, pledged to Florida. Then things took a turn to Classic Weird Recruiting Story:
But at 3 p.m., Washington announced his pledge to Syracuse at Ascending Faith Church in Dallas, N.C. He explained the bizarre sequence in a brief phone interview.
"I did the report on Thursday," Washington said. "I had my mind set for the report, but I changed my mind the next day to Syracuse."
The last-minute switch caught all coaching staffs involved off-guard:
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) April 25, 2015
Either way, Washington isn't a Michigan commit. Right now, at least. Happy trails to the young man, though it might be worth keeping tabs on this recruitment until he enrolls somewhere.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
our very own MarktheNomad leads the way
Well done. The EDSBS charity challenge has completed, with Michigan once again lapping the field several times over:
By collectively cracking 30k, the commentariat has forced Spencer into getting a Michigan-themed tattoo. He reports being interested in some sort of wolverine-in-profile wearing a top hat. I am taking submissions, both good and bad. Load up the photoshop and do your best. Or worst! Either way.
Jeff Goodman's on the bandwagon. Hopefully this edition of the Big Ten can be as entertainingly proficient as the 2012-13 version that Indiana won (and Michigan did not win by a micron) with their Zeller/Oladipo outfit:
Big Ten is gonna be so strong next season. Not much separation between Maryland, Michigan St, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, even Purdue.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 26, 2015
You can make a legit argument that eight of the top dozen or so teams may come from Big Ten and Big 12 next season.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 26, 2015
Not sure I'm seeing it with Purdue but otherwise, yeah. How Wisconsin transitions away from the Dekker/Kaminsky teams is uncertain—they have Hayes and Koenig back but lose the kPOY, a lottery pick, Josh f-ing Gasser, and Traevon Jackson. That latter might be their secret weapon.
I assume they'll be good, because when have they not been good under Bo Ryan, but they should be taking a significant step back. I don't know who their 6'10" guy who shoots threes and looks like the perfect player for Beilein is going to be.
I am mildly surprised at this. Max Bielfeldt is transferring and getting interest from schools that are a bit bigger than hometown Bradley:
Bielfeldt confirmed to MLive on Saturday that he made his first visit on Friday, traveling to Ames, Iowa to tour Iowa State and that he's in the process of setting up more visits.
The current list of schools that have contacted Bielfeldt and are under consideration includes Boston College, Kansas State, Iowa State, Bradley, Stanford and DePaul.
Obviously Iowa State's Hoiberg Home For Lost Big Ten Boys was going to get involved here. Due to a bizarre footnote in NCAA regulations the city of Ames will be expelled from the surface of the earth if they do not have a basketball player who used to call a Big Ten school home.
The half-dozen other power conference schools are more than I thought would knock on Bielfeldt's door. He must fit better on teams that aren't averse to running out two posts at the same time—he's a lot more plausible as an old-timey power forward than a center.
And it is possible we are doing Johnny Dawkins a solid for keeping his kid stashed in witness protection long enough for Michigan to swoop in on him.
Could this be related to last year's injuries? Michigan is looking for a new basketball athletic trainer. People move on to new jobs all the time, etc., but the timing there suggests that maybe Beilein wasn't particularly pleased with the way Walton's injury was handled. Add Spike's hips, LeVert's twice-broken foot, and Mitch McGary's general unavailability and that's a lot of injuries for a basketball team comprised of 18-20 year olds.
Your parents must be very interesting. Remember Equanimeous St. Brown, the California wide receiver who speaks several languages and ended up at Notre Dame? There is another.
There is apparently a third St. Brown pass-catching brother who goes unnamed in that article. The possibilities are endless. Sahara? Odin? Vladivostok? Benzene? The mind boggles.
I'm just here on name patrol but FWIW, St. Brown says he's headed to Sound Mind, Sound Body and will visit Michigan as part of that trip.
UPDATE: Ace points out the younger brother is Amon-Ra!
Scouting Austin Davis. Scout's Brian Snow took a look at Michigan's latest commitment and came back reporting something in line($) with what everyone else is saying:
When on the floor in terms of actual skill, Davis is very good on the low block. He has pretty good footwork around the rim, soft hands, and a nice touch. Most of his damage comes close to the bucket, and he is able to overwhelm opponents with size and has the skill to go with it.
He's not a jumping jack of an athlete and has to compete at the 5 with Teske since neither has the ability to guard anyone on the perimeter. There's been some chatter that Davis might take a prep year and come in in 2017 if that is mutually agreeable, FWIW. That would somewhat ease the coming logjam at center and give a developmental big some more time to develop.
Rutgers: the team that gravity remembers constantly. Land-Grand Holy Land checks in with Rutgers first season of Big Ten competition. How'd they do? Fourth in women's soccer. Not so good in almost everything else:
So to recap, not only did Rutgers fail to capture a single league title in their first season,they haven't even come close, only cracking the top four in two sports. Rutgers finished (or is currently ranked) last or second to last in an astonishing eight sports. Their football program was their best male team sport, and they didn't crack the top six of the conference. Rutgers has been uniformly terrible at nearly every level.
Plus, not only has Rutgers been awful on the field, those mid-week flights from places like Nebraska and Iowa to New Jersey are probably just awesome for student athletes, right Delany?
But hey, TV sets. Location. National brand. Enjoy those hypothetical Nielsen ratings the next time you have to watch a terrible Rutgers sporting event in the near future.
Maryland is vaguely defensible. Rutgers is just an anchor.
Sounds good. Freshmen ineligibility isn't going anywhere. There are a thousand reasons for that. Here's one: even the NCAA's president, our nation's most skilled double-talk practitioner, is pretty much like nah.
"It's a really interesting notion that's worthy of debate," Emmert said. "It has all kinds of problems. It is highly controversial."
"It has all kinds of problems." This is a person who publicly states that the NCAA itself has no problems. DOA.
They're all over on satellite camps, BTW. They'll be banned by next year.
Etc.: Lax misses Big Ten tourney. Many Big Ten fanbases have no life balance. Robert Washington's weekend commitment was… interesting. Sling TV reviewed. Brian Kelly is "the worst coach Notre Dame has ever allowed to oversee its football team for at least 65 games." Nebraska adds satellite camp. Gasaway on early entries.
Jim Harbaugh is Jim Harbaugh and will remain being Jim Harbaugh. The parable of the donut shop.
The basketball program announced today that Austin Hatch will move to a medical scholarship and transition to a role as a student assistant. This means that while Hatch's playing career is over, he stays on full scholarship and enjoys all the other benefits of being part of the program. From the official release, which was accompanied by a longer feature:
"This is, and has been, a very difficult decision; one that we have been discussing with Austin over the last few months," said Beilein. "Together, we made this decision at the end of the season and have been waiting for approval from the Big Ten for his status change. With the request for a medical exemption waiver approved (April 27), we are ready to move forward with the next steps in Austin's career."
"Over the past year, we closely observed Austin's academic and athletic progress. In the end, Austin and our staff agree that the waiver is the proper next step. This change allows Austin to devote the necessary time he needs to be successful in his studies and obtain a Michigan degree. We also wanted to be sure we continued our commitment to Austin keeping his full scholarship in place for the next three years. This waiver allows for both.
"What makes this move equally important is, with NCAA rules, it allows Austin to continue to be a valuable asset to our team as a leader, mentor and assistant. As a student assistant coach, Austin will be allowed to continue to be engaged in our practice and training and to travel with us when it can fit into his academic schedule. The only real change will be that he will no longer be on our active roster or allowed to play in games.
"Austin remains an important part of our program and culture, even if we do not have that chance to see him compete again."
"Basketball has always been a huge part of my life; however, it is what I play, not who I am," said Hatch. "It was a goal of mine to return to the game that I love so much and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to play for Michigan. After all that I have been through, it was a dream come true for me to put on a Michigan jersey and get into a game at Crisler Center.
"As I have progressed through this first season, I know that I am not where I want to be, both academically and athletically. My priority is academics and I feel that it is in my best interest to devote more time to my studies. This decision honors my father, and it is something that I know he would agree with and be proud of me for making.
"Coach Beilein, the staff and my teammates have been so understanding of my situation. They have supported me through everything I have been through and I now view them as part of my extended family. My words cannot, and would not, adequately express my gratitude for all they have done and continue to do for me.
"I am honored to be, and will be, a part of the Michigan Basketball program going forward -- in whatever capacity my studies allow me to be. I am a Michigan Wolverine for life. Again, I am honored and truly grateful that I am in a position to say that."
Hatch played in five games during his freshman season, tallying points in an exhibition against Wayne State and a regular-season game against Coppin State.
Hatch's move to a medical scholarship opens up one scholarship for the 2015-16 season, and Michigan is in continued pursuit of 2015 prospects Jaylen Brown and Kenny Williams. The Wolverines have been rumored to be in Brown's top two, while Williams is planning an official visit. (Max Bielfeldt's imminent departure also opened up a spot, which was taken by Moritz Wagner.)
Ramifications for next season aside, it was an honor and a pleasure to cover the team as Hatch took the court last season, and it's great to see he'll continue to be an integral part of the program moving forward.