I did not make this headline up
This should be how we remember Devin Funchess. It is not. [Fuller]
Losing isn't conducive to hero worship. This is, perhaps, an obvious point. For every Minnesota-era Kevin Garnett, a beloved star on a bad team, there are many New York Carmelo Anthonys, nitpicked and questioned to an unreasonable degree while surrounded by lesser talents, hampered by poor coaching, or both.
Which brings me to Devin Funchess. In 2013, Funchess could do no wrong as the matchup nightmare foil to Jeremy Gallon's production by precision. Expectations entering last season were so high Brian had to repeatedly clarify that Calvin Johnson comparisons weren't entirely reasonable:
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.
Funchess's 2014 initially met expectations; he looked like a man among boys while scoring a trio of touchdowns in the opener against Appalachian State. Funchess managed 107 yards against Notre Dame as Michigan got whomped, but the seeds of discontent were planted:
Devin Funchess tore ligaments, crack bone in a toe in the ND game. Took a shot in the toe before Utah. Re-injured it. Never got better
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 21, 2015
We didn't know this, of course, because Brady Hoke didn't talk about injuries. "He's fine," Hoke said, days before he'd hold Funchess out of the Miami (OH) game.
Funchess didn't look the same for the rest of the season. He didn't record another 100-yard game until the season finale at Ohio State; he reached the end zone just once after the opener. With the offense—and the season, and the Hoke era—crumbling around him, the focus turned to his occasional drops and a perceived lack of effort. Save for Devin Gardner and the coaching staff, Funchess drew more ire from fans than any other member of the program.
Never mind that he clearly played hurt. Never mind that his quarterback had the worst year of his career. Never mind that his catch rate actually improved from 53% to 62% despite him being targeted on nearly a third of Michigan's passes—and even more frequently on passing downs, when it became obvious to all that the ball was going his way. Never mind that when Gardner threw his second interception against Northwestern, Funchess blew through two block attempts, chased down Ibraheim Campbell after a 78-yard return, and laid a lick on him for good measure:
This didn't fit the narrative. Funchess wasn't an otherworldly talent gamely battling through injury in a lost season even if it meant hurting his draft stock. He was a prima donna wide receiver who hadn't earned that status, a guy who didn't care about winning, if you interpreted an unfortunate postgame presser soundbite as so many did.
When Funchess declared for the NFL draft, the reaction from many Michigan fans wasn't one of disappointment or sadness; instead, the news was met with indifference or, quite often, a list of all the reasons why he'd fail as a pro. That list got longer when he ran a disappointing 4.7-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine a month ago. It was only after, when his draft stock and earning potential had taken a serious hit, that we learned he was still recovering from an injury of which we never knew the full extent.
I can't say for certain whether Funchess will succeed in the NFL. If I had to guess, though, I think he will. At his best, his combination of size, speed, and body control is up there with anyone; we just didn't get to see him at his best last year for reasons almost entirely out of his control. If he works through his too-frequent battles with butterfingers, he's got the potential to be a defense-bending number one receiver.
In an alternate universe, Funchess may very well be Braylon Edwards, whose game was eerily similar right down to the frustrating drops. We remember Braylon in a very different light; winning helps quite a lot, as does avoiding injury and being surrounded on all sides by NFL talent. I hope we'll come around on Funchess and similarly celebrate his accomplishments instead of bashing him for failures not of his own doing. If, and hopefully when, he's skying over NFL defenders like so many Mountaineers, we'll be glad we did.
Stuff for a good cause. The UM Alumni Club of DC has an annual auction to raise money for the scholarships they endow. It's going on now, and includes things like signed Jake Long and Denard Robinson NFL jerseys, tickets to various games next year, and Michigan jenga. 100% of proceeds help kids go to M. Bid on everything.
Except the jenga. I will cut you if you try to take it from me.
Exit the one thing I liked. I liked the "Legends" jerseys for the most part. Having a QB wearing 98 was unique, and Michigan does not have much recognition of the guys who have had jerseys retired. While yanking numbers around annually was a bit much, I thought it was a nice reminder of those who had gone before. No more?
So, it sounds like Michigan's Legends Jerseys, a staple under Brady Hoke, are no more. pic.twitter.com/FZ5eNryUzJ
— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) March 23, 2015
I understand that we are going to discard many Brady Hoke staples with prejudice. Incessant second and eleven: seeya. Touching your armpits after observing another sack: GTFO. Allowing 400 passing yards to Rutgers: toodleoo. But in this one case I feel we may be throwing the staple out with the staplewater.
Also heavily rumored. Michigan may be rejoining the ranks of the bestickered helmets.
I'm in the middle here. I like throwback stuff; I like clean, simple stuff. I would prefer helmet stickers made occasional re-appearances for uniformz games, but that's not really how helmet stickers work.
Swat swat swat swat swat. If you follow me on twitter you know the existence of the UC Irvine Anteaters was killing me as they pushed Louisville to the limit in their first-round tourney outing. Irvine has a 6'8" guy… and two 6'10" guys… and a 7'2" guy… and a 7'6" guy. As someone who has pined for a rim protector ever since it became clear Michigan basketball was going to have a really good offense even if their center's game is limited to finishing around the hoop, I was having tiny little conniption fit about a tiny school that had never been to the tournament grabbing enormous people left and right.
Anyway, long story short Jon Teske is tall and alters shots:
Michigan pledge Jon Teske scored 12 points and blocked six shots in the loss, but had a much greater impact than the numbers might indicate.
Though he was credited for only six blocks, the seven-footer (Rivals.com's No. 96 junion nationally) altered at least a dozen shots near the rim with his ridiculous wingspan and was whistled for two fouls on which it appeared he had all ball.
The first two of those were against Esa Ahmad, a WVU-bound forward who Michigan recruited for a minute several months ago. Teske's currently enduring the usual crazy zone defenses that high school teams deploy when facing someone of his size, and he is a young guy who's still growing. Whatever he's going to be is still a long way off—hopefully that includes college-level rim protection duties.
If it isn't broke but could use some improvement, add gradually. Doesn't have the ring of "if it isn't broke, break it" but has the salutary benefit of applying to Michigan football instead of disruptive "sharing economy" Silicon Valley startups. And it's what DJ Durkin is doing to the defense:
"I wouldn't say we're doing 'most' of either (scheme), if there's a defense that fits a scheme and it exposes something with the offense, we'll play it," senior linebacker Joe Bolden said earlier this spring. "Some plays we'll be in 3-4, another we'll be in 4-3. Just depends on personnel, what the other team runs. The scouting reports in the fall will determine what we play. And, if we're playing a 3-4 better, why would we do a 4-3? And just the same the other way.
"I really don't think it's that hard to grasp, personally."
Michigan's defense won't be exactly the same next season, but it won't be drastically different either. More importantly for Durkin, though, the experience level is high.
And again it's what Michigan is going to try to do with that alignment that matters.
Neither option is good here. Funchess revealed that he had a boo-boo last year:
Devin Funchess tore ligaments, crack bone in a toe in the ND game. Took a shot in the toe before Utah. Re-injured it. Never got better
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 21, 2015
So either that happened when he was inexplicably playing in garbage time or had already happened by the time he was inexplicably playing in garbage time.
I mean, come on. I'd like to see the NCAA burn as much as the next guy but this is laying it on a little thick:
Khari Harding transferred from Auburn to Tulsa to be closer to his ailing father and maximize his dad’s chances to watch him play live next fall.
Under a new NCAA amendment ratified this week, the latter apparently won’t be possible. The NCAA eliminated immediate eligibility hardship waivers for Football Bowl Subdivision transfers.
The rule change is effective immediately, so it doesn’t matter that Harding — whose father Corie is battling cancer for a second time — has been taking classes at Tulsa for two months before the amendment was ratified.
Surely the ability to go to school for free in immediate proximity to your dad so you can see him all the time is the important thing here, not the fact that your football career is going to be delayed by a year. You could argue that the redshirt is actually a benefit.
Andy Staples disagrees with the above paragraph and proposes one weird trick for transfer rules that would handle cases like this by devolving the responsibility to people a bit less bureaucratic. In bullets:
1. Schools may not prevent athletes from transferring to another school and receiving financial aid.
2. The player must sit out the following season. (With only one possible exception.)
3. The athletic director at the previous school signs a form allowing the transferring player to play immediately.
I'd be fine with that. The NCAA couldn't do anything to prevent conference rules from kicking in further restrictions (IIRC the SEC does not allow grad transfers between its institutions; the Big Ten has some restrictions that may or may not apply to Jake Rudock), so if you are concerned about the dread specter of Smotrycz proliferation don't be.
Big Puppy, NBA edition. Just a matter of time before he has his own t-shirts and line of dog food and possibly several different breeds of dog all competing to be renamed McGary:
3. Mitch McGary Running
It’s like the Kramer painting: You can’t look away.
Look at all that churning effort, the weirdly stiff arms and hands, the eager glance backward that says, “Please pass me the ball, I’m open, I’m running really fast, so fast, like the wind, am I going to get the ball?” He’s like a dog looking for a Frisbee.
Jokes aside, big men who run the floor suck in defenders and open up shots for teammates. Good on the rookie for playing out the ball.
Yes, he's a purebred McGary. He generates possessions and feels at an elite level.
NO I WILL NEVER GET OVER IT STOP ASKING. Why has Al Borges never recruited a quarterback who could be considered successful*? Well, it may have something to do with his long-time association with Steve Clarkson, who seems to have fobbed off all his lower-level prospects on mister gullible. This Steve Clarkson as portrayed in Bruce Feldman's "The QB" and reviewed by Spencer Hall:
3. Dilfer's just one of the QB whisperers profiled, a group of guys who all come across with drastically different results. George Whitfield, the man on ESPN chasing guys around with a broom, comes off as half-cracked, but still seemingly legit. The guy who pronounced Tim Tebow's throwing motion to be fixed after three months or so of work, Tom House, might be the biggest beneficiary here: a flaky ex-pitcher with piles of data, a messy office to match, and a stellar roster of clients who quietly swear by him. In contrast, Steve Clarkson, the man who brought Jimmy Clausen to the world, comes off as a money-hoovering huckster prone to announcing any client as "the next [STAR QB GOES HERE]" if given enough cash. Feldman doesn't even have to try, really. You just write down Clarkson's quotes and they do their own work.
Clausen was actually pretty good, if not at all deserving of his hype level. The other guys…
*["successful" is here short for "was the clear starter for his team as an upperclassman."
I only kind of hate Wisconsin basketball. I apologize to that one guy whose entire question to me was a statement about said hatred, but Wisconsin is so fascinated by the NCAA stenographer that Nigel Hayes is answering questions like this:
I didn't know you had to capitalize xylophone. But that's why I'm not a stenographer.
Anyway, I still hate that they get away with the Wisconsin Chest Bump all the dang time but I have always coveted their bigs and I find them relatively tolerable when Michigan is not playing them. This has been a difficult confession. Share yours in the comments!
Etc.: Yes, please. Stopping taxpayer money from being spent on stadiums should be a bipartisan thing right? Jim Boeheim is just kind of this dude who doesn't like NCAA rules. Gasaway on the SCORING CRISIS. Relevant to our current situation: the rise of the vagabond QB. Congrats to Carol Hutchins on her 1400th win, a 20-0(!) bombing of OSU.
When I weep on national television I only get scorn.
Gentry vs Malzone: FIGHT
Quarterback recruiting policies.
I know that Harbaugh has every right to recruit his own personnel, but considering that Malzone is already on campus, did he just get royally screwed? If he never suits up, can he transfer without having to sit out?
The idea that a quarterback would be screwed over by the addition of another guy at his position in the same class is Hoke-era thinking that should be quickly discarded. Wilton Speight doesn't seem to mind:
Boom!! Loading the stable! #goblue
— Wilton Speight (@WiltonSpeight) January 25, 2015
sent in the immediate aftermath of Gentry's commit
Every other position sees fierce battles; QB should be no different. And even if Malzone is put off by the idea of sharing a spot in the class with Gentry, I think that's more than offset by the idea of getting coached by Harbaugh and Jedd Fisch.
FWIW, Malzone could transfer after his first semester at Michigan. He would have to redshirt and then would be a redshirt freshman wherever he ended up, as Steven Threet was when he fled Paul Johnson's triple option system at Georgia Tech.
The more likely exit scenario for the quarterbacks who find themselves down the depth chart in the midst of cutthroat competition is to get a degree in three years and then transfer with two years to play two. An increasing number of elite QB recruits are throwing themselves in grinders like Michigan's with that idea in their back pocket. If Michigan is going to take two QBs a year that should be part of the pitch: the least you leave here with is a Michigan degree and three years of kickass coaching. Malzone has a head start on that with his early enrollment.
By the way, with reports that elite CA QB KJ Costello is heavily interested in Michigan, this could be the respective first two QB recruiting years of Hoke and Harbaugh:
- Hoke: Russell Bellomy.
- Harbaugh: Malzone, Gentry, DeWeaver, Costello.
That's one three star previously committed to Purdue versus what is probably four four-star recruits. (Hoke did recruit Malzone but Malzone is a block-M true believer who stuck with his plan to enroll early despite Michigan not having a coach at that juncture.) One of the major reasons the Hoke list is so short is that in deference to Shane Morris they didn't take another quarterback in his year… or the year in front of him. That was a disastrous decision. Let's not do that any more.
Harbaugh won't: at Stanford he took an average of two QBs a year.
Two stars bad. More stars good.
@mgoblog with so many high end prospects out there showing interest,why are we pursuing 2 ⭐️players at any position right now?
— Tessmer (@TyTessmer) January 25, 2015
There are only a couple guys on the board who fit that description: recent OH OL commit Nolan Ulizio and as-yet-unoffered FL CB Markel Bush. Everyone else is at least a three star and—unlike many of the transitional Hoke recruits—courted by or committed to high level BCS schools. (Hoke got decommits from Indiana, Vanderbilt, and Minnesota; Harbaugh has flipped guys from Texas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.) So Harbaugh is already doing well.
As for the two stars, Bush is clearly a backup plan in case they don't get two of the four guys they've offered (Iman Marshall,
Will Lockett, Damon Arnette, and Jarius Adams). Ulizio is an offensive lineman. Offensive linemen are less likely to fulfill recruiting expectations than any other position, and as you say Michigan had opportunities to look at other, more highly-rated guys. They passed. Is that a concern?
…let's cool it on the judgy bits just yet.
[After THE JUMP: Marrow, length of tenure, Dymonte Thomas, sloxen, Gary Danielson email]
USE THE FORCE JIM. Daily article on Harbaugh's mentors with them all lined up…
…and the mind instantly puts them in this:
Sorry, Mr. Carr. Shouldn't have stood in the center.
MATTISON IS PRETTY MUCH IN. Man is still recruiting:
Isaac Nauta (@inauta24) said he talked to Greg Mattison: “He said I know you’re committed, but we’re going to recruit you until you sign.”
— Jeremy Crabtree (@jeremycrabtree) January 1, 2015
GET THIS MAN A TATTOO. Mark the Nomad has got to get some ink:
He's looking for the internet to fund it, in order to slightly reduce the chance this results in a divorce.
FIFTH YEAR OPTIONS. A quick glance at the roster will tell you that Michigan should be in the market for a graduate transfer QB. Their current options are either freshmen, Russell Bellomy, or Shane Morris. The former two have never played in college; the latter two have struggled immensely when they've gotten in the game. So this bit of news is intriguing:
A redshirt junior on track to graduate in June, [the Chicken Bowl] was probably [Kevin] Hogan’s last shot in a Stanford uniform. He hasn't addressed whether he'll return for his final year of eligibility, and head coach David Shaw intimated that Hogan didn't want to discuss it before the end of the season.
Harbaugh recruited Hogan, and he's obviously got he academic chops to make a smooth transition.
Hogan wasn't a world-beater this year (or he wouldn't be transferring) but he did finish with a 66% completion rating, 7.9 YPA, and a 19-8 TD-INT ratio. He's also a decent runner. He would almost certainly be an upgrade on Michigan's current options, and he knows the offense.
Another option: Everett Golson. Golson dropped off a cliff at the end of this year, as he turned into a turnover machine and split time with Malik Zaire in the bowl game. ND insiders and message boards are rumbling about a potential departure. If I had to bet I'd say he returns to ND, but keep an eye out if he doesn't.
DISCOUNT STILL IN EFFECT. Moe's is taking advantage of an opportunity with an enthusiasm unknown to retail-activation-kind.
AND SUDDENLY YOU'RE A FREE AGENT. Bills coach Doug Marrone has a bizarre window built into his contract that allows him to opt out at no cost… one he's just exercised. This puts his assistants in serious limbo, one of whom is Tyrone Wheatley. Even before this happened a lot of Michigan folk suspected that Wheatley would end up in Ann Arbor; now it seems highly, highly probable.
ALL THIS COULD HAVE BEEN OURS. LSU fans have always been turning on Les Miles, but now the knives are well and truly out. Miles is losing DC John Chavis to a megaoffer from A&M, leaving LSU scrambling to keep their defense as good as it needs to be to keep the wonky Tiger offense from submarining seasons.
ADDING TO MOUNT NFLWRONG. He hates recruiting!
Every old coach/staffer/whatever I've ever talked to who knows Harbaugh has ranted about how much he actually enjoys recruiting.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) December 31, 2014
His wife didn't want to come!
Was just talking to @IronsJarrett when Harbaugh's wife stopped to chat...she mentioned her shock re: rumors she wouldn't leave the Bay Area.
— angelique (@chengelis) December 30, 2014
His heart is in the NFL!
York, though, would not shed any light on what was said in those discussions, saying they were "private" in nature, though he did acknowledge that teams had inquired about trading for Harbaugh, and Harbaugh was not interested.
It was all about the money!
Jim Harbaugh told Hackett he did NOT want to be the highest paid coach in CFB, or even the Big Ten. More concerned with pay for assistants.
— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) December 30, 2014
NOPE. If you were wondering if Devin Funchess would return to the team because Harbaugh, your answer is no:
Just met coach harbaugh...Wish him the best with Team 136! Great guy glad he got the job #goblue
— Devin Funchess (@D_FUNCH) December 31, 2014
He'll be a first or second round pick in the draft even with the disappointing finish to his year.
WHAT ON EARTH. There is a woman named Ann Arbaugh who lives in Ann Arbor. And she's…
The Ohio State graduate said she hasn't abandoned her Buckeye roots, and that she's become an Ann Arborite but not quite a Wolverine-lover.
…an Ohio State graduate. Life is weird.
COLTS ON HARBAUGH. They didn't think he was a total weird megalomaniac:
"I've read about that side of him, but that's it," Ward says. "He was not thought of in that way (here), and it doesn't characterize Jim as we knew him. He was intensely competitive, absolutely, but he was a great team player and scrappy and always, always battling for the team."
Indianapolis fell in love with Harbaugh, in part because he was the anti-Jeff George, a superstar talent whose less-than-superstar results and aloof air – think Jay Cutler – rubbed people the wrong way. Jeff George was not what the city of Indianapolis craved in a leader. Jim Harbaugh was, and he gave this city what it loved.
There was the 1995 AFC championship game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, when the Colts trailed 20-16 in the final minutes and Harbaugh was bleeding from a torn hand and still leading the team down the field before his final pass, a heave into the end zone, bounced away from Colts receiver Aaron Bailey.
"I remember blood dripping from his hand," Ward says, "and he singlehandedly pretty much drove the team within inches of winning that game."
Goodbye, oh ye of many numbers
Not a surprise, even with the late slide in production:
"I would like to thank my family, coaches and teammates for their support," Funchess said in a statement. "It's always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL, and I am prepared to take the next step in my journey."
Funchess has some mouths to feed and should get drafted high despite the indifferent performance this year. He has a size/speed combo reminiscent of Mike Evans and someone's going to take a shot at him in the late first round.
Which remarkably apropos moment to use here?
Should it be the innovative "running two-minute drill" that miraculously netted an end-of-half field goal?
How about when the Michigan Marching Band recreated the extinction of the dinosaurs at halftime?
Perhaps Dennis Norfleet's incredible punt return touchdown getting called back?
Could I see the argument for Mike Weber announcing his decommitment the precise moment Maryland's Wes Brown ran in the go-ahead score? Of course.
All of them, I guess.
As far as I know, Brady Hoke hasn't been informed he's fired, but he knows. We all do. With bowl eligibility on the line—unless you're holding out hope for a miracle in Columbus—Hoke's squad couldn't get out of its own way.
Even considering a few impressive Devin Gardner scrambles, including Michigan's lone touchdown of the game, the team's best offensive play came on a 52-yard fake punt run by fullback Joe Kerridge; Kerridge couldn't quite get to the goal line, and after Gardner's third-and-goal pass bounced off Freddy Canteen's chest, Matt Wile kicked a field goal.
The game played out in similarly bumbling fashion for most of the duration, with both teams seemingly unable to catch the football. Maryland had three drops in the first half; Gardner recorded a pick when a throw well behind Bo Dever bounced off his hands and into those of Maryland corner Will Likely.
The special teams were a mess. The flag on the punt return, however questionable, cost Michigan a touchdown. Jourdan Lewis roughed Maryland kicker Brad Craddock, leading on the very next play to a CJ Brown touchdown run; there's another four points. Matt Wile missed a 39-yard field goal that would've given M a 19-16 fourth-quarter lead.
It was a Brady Hoke loss, through and through.
It's sad, of course. Devin Gardner mustered 82 yards on the ground, scrambled for a vintage DG touchdown run (above), and put most of his passes on target, only to see several go right through the hands of his intended receivers. He went down fighting in his last home game, and it sucks to see his efforts go unrewarded. Same goes for all the other seniors out there.
For the sake of Michigan football, though, this may have been for the best. There's little, if any, doubt now that Hoke won't be retained, and a loss in The Game—meaning no bowl game—is all but guaranteed. Unless the athletic department royally screws up the coaching search, the next team will have more competence at the top, a better opportunity to succeed. The bowl practices will be missed, but expediting the much-needed rehauling of this program may make up for it—and then some, when recruiting is taken into account.
We'll see how it all unfolds. For now, though, this felt like an all-too-fitting finish for Brady Hoke; whether he's present on the sideline for Ohio State—which I expect he will be—is almost besides the point.