The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
[NOTE! This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: moderate. 1: difficult. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]
|Devin Funchess||Jr.||Amara Darboh||So.*||Dennis Norfleet||Jr.||Jake Butt||So.|
|Jehu Chesson||So.*||Freddy Canteen||Fr.||Bo Dever||So.*#||Khalid Hill||Fr.*|
|Da'Mario Jones||So.*||Moe Ways||Fr.||Ross Douglas||Fr.*||--||--|
[NOTE: though flex tight ends are listed above since they will fill some of the WR snaps they are addressed in the TE & Friends post, not here.]
It's not often you lose a guy who broke the single-season receiving record and think that things could get better, but it's not often you come across a guy like Devin Funchess, either. Behind Funchess there's not a whole lot that's proven but there are sufficient numbers and hype to believe that Michigan goes five or six deep in quality options, especially after Jake Butt gets back.
If things break right, this unit could hearken back to the Breaston/Edwards/Avant days where you had the NFL-level ludicrous deep threat, the possession ninja, and the screen merchant all in one receiving corps, getting all mother/maiden/crone in your face. It'll take some luck… but not that much luck.
everybody get up [Fuller]
The charade is over. Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, 100%. Not that you had to be told that after he spent 87% of last year split wide, faking bubble screens and occasionally catching them and oh right running downfield and leaping over dudes. Funchess put his hand in the dirt in passing situations only, and no one has tried to suggest he might do even that much this year.
This is pretty terrific. Michigan had a guy break Braylon Edwards's single-season receiving record and there was still enough left over for Funchess to rake in 49 catches for almost 750 yards. By the Big Ten opener he was just, like, running right by cornerbacks.
At the end of the year Michigan was handing him the ball on end-arounds and watching him nearly break them for touchdowns, if only Devin Gardner could ID the safety he needs to block. Oh, and this!
A man that large should not be able to move that fast. Take it from someone who played against him:
"I can't believe he's that big and that fast. He made us look silly. You can't get around him. He's just such a big body that he's going to block you from making a play on the football. …
"He could be like Calvin Johnson in the red zone. Just throw it up and let him go get it. I bet we see a lot more of that this year."
I didn't say it! I may have thought it, but I didn't say it. I did call him Minitron a few times, and I may have wondered privately about whether Funchess could be, like… him. But naw. I mean, Calvin Johnson ran a 4.35 at his NFL draft combine.
Funchess proved last season he's capable of being an elite-level receiver. There were some dropped passes here and there, but his combination of size and speed (he clocked a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash in the spring) remains unmatched on the U-M roster.
FAKE! FAKE, I say! That is not a real thing, because physics. Only… you know, it's only almost impossible. Because Calvin Johnson. And when you watch him go up against top corners like Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a second round pick last year…
…or Trae Waynes, a projected first rounder this year…
…it's just like… maybe I should make this comparison I should not make. Because he is smoking those dudes. Not every time, because it never happens every time, but enough. A lot. At 6'5".
BUT WHAT ABOUT HANDS, the bits of the internet with short attention spans ask. Okay, yes. The one catch was a late-season spate of dropped balls. He derfed three in the Iowa game alone, greatly contributing to Michigan's inability to move the ball. One of those was a very conspicuous one on a screen, and that is currently playing an outsized role in people's brains. Because the last thing that's happened is the thing that is always going to happen, Funchess now has a rep for having shaky hands. Once you see the first derf it is a natural inclination to start judging harshly, like when he gets hit in the back by Gardner because of a bad blitz pickup.
This is why we track the numbers, and the numbers say Funchess is anything but a problem:
But once you get a reputation in this area people start looking at anything you don't catch as a drop. This is probably one of the plays that stick in skeptics' minds:
That's crazy tough! That's low and behind him and it's only his freaky long arms and Brad Nessler that even give that pass the semblance of a drop.
Until the Iowa game, Funchess's catching ability was unquestioned. Don't let one bad game in the bitter cold overwhelm a large sample size that indicates Funchess's hands are in fact an asset, especially when you consider that the chart above doesn't take the fact that he's 6'5" and can leap over defensive backs into account.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT CALVIN JOHNSON IS A UNIQUE UNREPLICABLE HUMAN WHO IS PROBABLY PART ALIEN AND BITTEN BY A RADIOACTIVE SPIDER, says the tiny bit of the internet with common sense. And… okay, well, yeah. You should never project anything at the extremes of possibility because probability is going to make you pay for that, son.
So Devin Funchess probably isn't Calvin Johnson. Michigan should try to prove that assertion wrong. Expect something between first team All Big Ten and an All-American followed by an early entry into the NFL draft. He may even win the Mackey award, because people don't pay attention.
[After THE JUMP: refugees, JUNGLE BEATS, and tiny dancer.]
Not in Ohio. Via Bo Dever's twitter account, Michigan's footballs have taken to redundancy:
I kid, I kid. Ohio is our most special state.
No words. I take that back Plaxico Burress is our most special state.
Where are the exit wounds? Are you telling me Burress is going to be a sock magnate and does not have a sock with exit wounds on it? Life! What a waste!
Batten the hatches. So those hockey games against BC and BU that were rumored but unconfirmed? Yeah, they're at Yost. Michigan has dropped the full hockey schedule and it's a doozy. In addition to the home-and-away against all the Big Ten teams, Michigan's signed up for this nonconference schedule:
HOME: BC, BU, Lowell, Michigan Tech (2x), Niagara, Ferris State
AWAY: RIT, UNH(2x), UNO(2x)
NEUTRAL: WMU, Tech or State
If you stopped paying attention to college hockey out of self defense last year, Lowell was a one-seed, BC and UNH twos, Niagara a three. BU was third behind Lowell and BU in HE last year and got squeezed out of the field. UNO was a middling WCHA team, Tech not so good. There are no Bentley-level patsies at all, as both RIT and Niagara have reached the NCAA tourney in recent years.
Combine that with Minnesota/Wisconsin/MSU/OSU/PSU and that is the opposite of football's 2014 schedule. Michigan chose to thin out its fall schedule with the extra two weeks the Big Ten's hockey-spiting playoff system provided, taking a bye the week of the Nebraska game and playing only once the week of the Iowa game.
I'll take it. ESPN's reporting that the Pizza bowl is dead and will be replaced by another event at Ford Field matching a Big Ten team against an ACC team, which everyone is going to hate except M and MSU fans. But I'm one of them so woo.
George Perles isn't phased. I mean, what's better than Detroit in December? Detroit outside in December.
Keep up with the Joneses, plz. One of pleasant surprises from a couple of trips to the SEC has been the presence of both bands at the game even for non-rivalry matchups like (mediocre) Auburn versus LSU. The second time I asked around to see if I had gotten a fluke, and southerners looked at me with horror and pity once they realized Big Ten football usually has one band involved.
Ohio State's going to change that, mostly:
Gordon Gee, Gene Smith and the powers that be at Ohio State got together and determined that the College of Arts and Sciences and athletic department would continue financing the band. But one key change would be the addition of the Development Office of the President. Instead of a miniscule $220,000 operating budget – ninth in the Big Ten – the Buckeyes will have $1 million, which vaults them to first. With it comes more travel.
The band will attend road games at California, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan.
Meanwhile Michigan scrounges for pennies to send the MMB to a game against friggin' Alabama and the Uber Alles subset of the fanbase praises that decision as sly money-grubbing genius instead of a slap in the face to the band and fans. If only this was true:
When Michigan’s band traveled to the Cowboys Classic in Dallas last season for the Wolverines’ game with Alabama, it cost the university an estimated $400,000. The decision to send the band came after heavy criticism when it was announced they would not make the trip. Less than a year later, it appears two of the nation’s premier marching bands have earned a spot near the top of their university’s hierarchy.
The MMB is the same as it ever was. They will travel probably once this year, the free trip to East Lansing. State College, Evanston, Iowa City not so much, let alone UConn.
Pay attention to Mike Hart, plz. Hart on his quick ascension to the top of the depth chart and what Derrick Green can do to replicate that feat:
"The biggest thing I tell my guys is I didn't get all the reps (when I was a freshman), but I made sure I watched every rep," Hart said. "There's freshmen on my team over there talking, and they don't know the playcall or what's going on.
"You can process these things without getting a physical rep. I think that's kind of what helped me transition, is I was only getting a couple reps, but I was really getting 15 reps per period. A new playcall, I was thinking about what I had to do and how I had to do it."
Draft order set, now we can wince at what will happen. SI has Trey Burke going to New Orleans at #6 while the Pistons get the flashing red light that is Shabazz Muhammad. Hardaway does not appear. Glen Rice Jr. does, though, and a year after he got booted from GT's team.
Hated Chad Ford($) has Burke #2 to Orlando, has the Pistons taking walking red flag Anthony Bennett—LOSE GAMES AT THE END OF THE SEASON FOR PANTS SAKE—and puts Hardaway at the tail end of his first round, going to Denver after "one of the best performances of anyone at the combine." He brought "an intensity with him that few players could match"?!?!?
Do we think Mitch McGary and Hardaway pulled a Derrick Rose-SAT-swap here maybe? I do. I think Hardaway convinced Mitch McGary to pretend he was Hardaway at the NBA combine. This is a thing that happened.
UMHoops breaks things down in more detail.
Etc.: Michigan has two Parade All Americans, equalling the rest of the conference combined. MSU has two quarterbacks. Uh oh? Softball ace Sara Driesenga profiled. The News on Patrick Biondi's stellar senior season. Denard Robinson is not exactly a trekkie. Michigan State fans looking for love.
Sione Houma and Chris Wormley Go Blue
Local commitment article as UT FB Sione Houma kicked off the commitment pair on Monday, picking Michigan over offers from Utah, Washington, and Utah State. Another local article is a bit more fleshed-out. His high school coach insists he has the skills to play FB or RB. (HT: UMGoBlog). The Wolverine Blog talks about his development down the road:
Houma could be able to get up to 240 without losing anything…or maybe he won’t be able to surpass 225. It’s hard to tell at this point. If he can gain a solid 20 or so pounds, I’d be much more enthusiastic about this commitment.
Touch the Banner on his game:
he probably doesn't have the speed to break 50-yard runs or receptions, but he does have the ability to outrun linebackers and turn a 4-yard swing pass into a 10- or 15-yard swing passes. That skill won't turn him into a superstar, but having a fullback who can gain some yards after the catch will be a valuable commodity when Michigan runs split backs
For more on Houma check out Hello: Sione Houma.
OH DE Chris Wormley ended his actually-not-that-long recruitment (it felt much longer thanks to holding Michigan as a favorite for so much of it) at the BBQ at the Big House on Saturday - local article from The Blade. Go Blue Michigan Wolverine tackles "the motor issue" with Chris:
Although it may be a bum rap, Chris has been the subject of many sites discussing a low motor. Many very talented athletes gain this perception because the observer expects super performance from a super athlete.
The Wolverine Blog is withholding judgment until after this season:
All in all, it seems like his attitude changed. Obviously, the physical potential is there. But is he still the thrashing, crashing, mauling pass rusher we saw two years ago? He wasn’t last year, but things change. That’s why I’ll be watching his senior film more intently than any other recruits.
For more on Chris, check out Hello: Chris Wormley.
Cookout Quick Hits
MO WR Jehu Chesson talked to Tom about the experience:
We mostly talked about that and he was straight up with me and said that if two wide receivers commit then the receiver position is done. I feel like they're letting me know in advance what's going on with recruiting, which I like. I'm going to stay on my own track because I want to make sure I see all the schools I'm interested in.
Ha also said he'd have a narrowed list by the time school rolls around.
Quality fluff on preferred walk-on IL WR Bo Dever (far left in the photo above). His sister Morgan, a rising junior field hockey player, has also committed to Michigan.
MO DT Ondre Pipkins was making noise about nearing a decision ($, info in header) coming into the BBQ, but obviously his visit came and went with no commitment. Making that particularly odd is that it was better than he'd been expecting ($, info in header).
MI DT Danny O'Brien narrowed his focus to a top 6 coming into the weekend:
TrieuA Flint Powers (MI) DT Dan O'Brien's top 6: Michigan, Iowa, Alabama, Florida, Michigan State & Tennessee. In no order. More later.
He talked shop with Rivals readers Thursday night.
2013 QB Commit Shane Morris (center, in brown) gets some love at the Gridiron Kings 7-on-7 tournament. Ron Thompson and Dwayne Stanford (who was only available for some games due to AAU basketball) were among the top targets on his team. More on Morris.
2013 IL RB Ty Isaac was there ($, info in header).
2013 RB/DE Ath Wyatt Shallman was there, and told Tom what he thought:
This visit was pretty sweet, I liked it a lot. Anytime you go on a visit and get good food and get to go on the field it's going to help. Plus the coaching staff is awesome, they're all really funny guys.
Michigan fans were cautiously hopeful for a Shallman commitment, but he'll remain true to his timetable for now.
“He’s a guy who’s been kind of earmarked (by colleges) since his freshman year,” said Wright, who believes college programs view Gedeon as a linebacker prospect more than an offensive player at the next level.
Ben’s older brother, Alex, who also starred at Hudson, is captain of the football team at Harvard University. Wright said that could help the younger Gedeon navigate the recruiting process. as “his parents aren’t rookies to this situation. They know what they’re doing.”
Looks like good bloodlines from both a football and an academic perspective.
Since we've been focusing on the BBQ lately, some of this stuff may be just a little old. Phil Steele's top 200 prospects list is out, including a few Michigan commits:
- #33 Kyle Kalis
- #73 Royce Jenkins-Stone
- #74 Terry Richardson
- #91 Erik Magnuson
- #97 James Ross
- #161 Tom Strobel
- #163 Chris Wormley
- #197 Joe Bolden
A solid group of top-200 talent, though I'm surprised to see Magnuson that low.
Local fluff on MI DE/DT Commit Matt Godin. Relevant snippet:
While Godin said individual glory is not as important to him as team success, he also hopes to improve his statistical totals from last season. In 2010, Godin registered 66 tackles, 28 tackles-for-loss and two sacks. “I’m looking to double my tackles-for-loss, just get a ridiculous amount,” Godin said. “I’d also like to up my sacks to around eight.”
Godin plays defensive tackle for Detroit Catholic Central because he is the biggest defensive lineman on his team, but will likely play defensive end with the Wolverines.
Mixture of FNL-y stuff and future position news-type-substance.
Rivals fluff ($) on where OH DE Commit Pharaoh Brown will play in college.
Fluff on MI DE/LB Commit Mario Ojemudia.
PA RB Greg Garmon has Michigan in his final five, but not in the top three within that group. HOWEVA, that group may be shaken up by the axing of North Carolina coach Butch Davis. The Wolverines may have a chance to join Illinois and Iowa now. It does sound like he's been put on the backburner by Michigan's staff.
I feel a lot better with [the coaches]. They all seem like really nice guys and they have a great staff there. This visit helped Michigan a lot, and it also helped with my comfort level, so yeah... I think this is going to help speed up the process a little. I still want to take official visits, but there's certain schools now that I know that I fit in with, so it helped that part.
He's taking his time, but Michigan seems to be in good position.
Cal and Michigan seem to lead for CA WR Jordan Payton - and he may be nearing a commitment.
Michigan may be back in the mix for MD WR Stefon Diggs, as they were named to his top 15.
MI TE Ron Thompson plans to announce a decision on Friday at Lifting as We Climb Fundation's High School Media Day in Southfield. He seems solidly in "Sad Josh" territory at this point, so don't expect him to pick the Wolverines - although Shane Morris has been in his ear.
IL DT Tommy Schutt does not mention Michigan in a video interview with Tom Lemming. With Ondre Pipkins and Dany O'Brien both high on Michigan, it seems unlikely that he's an option for the Wolverines.
PA DE Noah Spence will cut his list to 7 soon (then to 5 within a month). Michigan's needs on defensive line are minimal at this point (aside from a true tackle or two), so Spence probably isn't a realistic option for the Wolverines.
Steve Wiltfong says Michigan is giving attention to MA CB Armani Reeves. As you may recall, Michigan and Reeves originally parted ways when the Wolverines landed other DB commits. Tom talked to Reeves, who sounds torn, because he likes Michigan but wishes they hadn't parted ways with him in the first place.
Onetime silent commit NY CB Wayne Morgan is not mentioning Michigan among his top schools. With limited spots, it's unlikely there's room for him anyway.
IN QB Gunner Kiel - notoriously quiet about his recruiting process - told ESPN that he planned to announce a decision before the start of his high school season. Shortly thereafter, he committed to Indiana. I'll fess up: I was secretly rooting for the Hoosiers (if not Michigan).
FL QB Bennie Coney committed to Cincinnati.
FL QB Tyler Cameron picked USF.
MI WR Aaron Burbridge committed to Michigan State, ending the Wolverines' hopes up pulling in the Farmington Hills Harrison triumvirate.
MN OL Jonah Pirsig picked Minnesota. With Michigan's current OL haul, I doubt he held a committable offer anymore.
OH DE LaTroy Lewis committed to Tennessee.
PA QB Damion Terry has Michigan interest.
TX WR Jake Oliver will "take his time" coming to a decision. He has Michigan interest, but with everyone in the Big 12 after him (and his dad on A&M's staff), it's tough to see him coming North.
Cass Tech CB Jourdan Lewis loves Michigan ($, info in header). That's infinity classes in a row with a D-1 corner out of Cass Tech.