[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.]
News bullets and other items:
Captains will be voted on after the Ohio State game, with seniors representing the team at each coin toss
The depth chart was released prior to the presser. Read Ace’s take on it here.
Injury update: Kyle Kalis is fully healthy, while Delano Hill is meeting with doctors this afternoon to determine whether he can play Saturday
Hoke raved about Devin Gardner’s progression on the field and as a team leader
Ty Isaac’s status is still uncertain; they’re waiting to hear back about the appeal
The freshman and sophomore classes have an edge to them. Hoke does not know that he has said edge.
Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 12
[After THE JUMP: a mini scouting report on Appalachian State, Devin Gardner’s development, and the captain situation (or lack thereof) explained]
News bullets and other items:
Today’s starting offensive line would be Mason Cole- LT; Erik Magnuson- LG; Jack Miller- C; Burzynski/Bosch/Kalis- RG; Ben Braden- RT
Jabrill Peppers will start at nickel but has picked up the defense fast enough that he’s taking some snaps at boundary corner
Hoke can’t remember Devin Funchess dropping a single pass in fall camp which, like, eeeeee
Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith are considered the downhill backs, while Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes are the third-down backs
Preparation for that game on the 30th against that one team begins Thursday
Brady Hoke “Well,…” count: 6
"Thanks for coming out. I think we haven't spoken to each other since Saturday. We've had good practices, good energy, good competition. I think that's one thing we've talked about every time is to compete and challenge each other and I think this team has done that. I think there's leadership throughout the team in all classes which has been good to see. If you're good enough, you're old enough and that's been part of what we talked about. I think that's very good. Starting to get...we are starting to get prepared for Appalachian State here in the next couple days. We'll do some things with switch [?] teams and really have some good competition with that part of it and also keep the speed of how we want to play the game, so there will always be situational ones on ones, twos on twos. Tomorrow is Tuesday, the next day is Wednesday and Saturday is a Thursday how we look at it and next week we'll take Sunday and do some walk-throughs, get the tape reviewed. Next Tuesday will be a Tuesday, Wednesday will be a Wednesday, and Thursday will be Thursday so you've got to figure it out on my end sometimes. But it's been a good camp. I guess we'll break on Saturday morning – about 1 PM on Saturday after we go up to the stadium, have a good practice there. We'll do a lot of game rehearsal things, trying to put the players in situations that they will be in. I think that's important. So… excited. I think we're all excited. Are we ready? Not yet, so we have a lot of work ahead of us but at the same time I like how we go about our business every day."
You said this was the day you start preparing for App State. Do you have a set offensive line?
“Well, I think there's still some competition but I think Ben Braden has been a very steady performer at right tackle. I think Mason Cole has been very, very steady at the left tackle position. I always get asked – not just by you guys but Mason Cole, you don't notice him so you don't notice any mistakes. He's not a guy who's been a guy who killed plays and that's the kind of stuff… Jack will be the center, Kugler will back him up. We'll be without Graham as you all know. Mags will be the left guard if we were playing today and at the right guard I think there's good competition. Joe Burzynski, Kyle Bosch, Kalis is getting work at both guards, he's just getting back into things yesterday so I think we're still– I have an idea, but I don't think we're set at that right guard position right now.”
What did the film from Saturday show you as far as the offensive line goes?
“You know, there were some holes and there were some holes we have to take advantage of and there's also times where the back’s got to make it right, you know, quarterback drifting out of his ball handling knocks a back out of his A gap. We had some of those. Still not enough of them. We still got to move the line of scrimmage better and that's a constant that we'll have. I thought that yesterday the backs did a nice job. I think that Fred [Jackson] definitely had an effect on how they need to approach it and so I think we're making really good progress there.”
To clarify something from Saturday, did you say that in a 4-3 defense, your base, Jabrill [Peppers] would be a corner and then slide into the nickel spot?
“Yeah, I mean he would slide inside. We're going to really try and make sure that he’s set at the nickel before we get too far out there being a boundary corner. I mean, we played him at boundary corner some the other night with the first group. There's some things that are different when you're playing one-third than when you're playing a nickel position so right now, yes, he's playing some corner but we are going to focus in on nickel with him in there.”
You said that you wanted him just to be practicing in one position to get really comfortable there. What have you seen out of him that you feel comfortable, obviously, giving him more responsibility?
“Well, he's learned fast. I think the way he's engrossed himself in the playbook. I think from a fundamental/technique standpoint he's come a long way. Just think he's done a nice job overall.”
[After THE JUMP: sorting out the running back situation, Devin Gardner’s leadership, and my inaugural MGoQuestion]
Shooting for the "most times a single GIF hits the front page" record.
Michigan lost one of the most genuinely enjoyable players to watch in recent memory with the graduation of Jeremy Gallon, and unfortunately, I don't think we'll be seeing a 5'8" dude with rocket boots and a cloaking device breaking school receiving records again anytime soon.
That said, the Wolverines don't lack players that can make your jaw drop. Inspired by this Matt Hinton piece on college football's most exciting players, here's my list of the Wolverines who should provide the most entertainment this season. Take note: this isn't a rundown of the best players, but a subjective list of who I think will be the most fun to watch—it's ordered by position, since what constitutes "fun to watch" varies wildly from person to person.
QB Devin Gardner
An obvious choice, especially since some of Gardner's bad habits—namely, reversing field when under pressure—can still produce spectacular results. He's an electric runner even when not at full health. He's got a heck of an arm; this throw against Notre Dame last year simply defies explanation. He continued the grand tradition of Michigan quarterbacks hilariously punking Tanner Miller. His ability to improvise has bailed out the offense on many occasions. Yes, this sometimes gets him into trouble—I know another throw from that otherwise amazing Notre Dame performance is going through your head right now—but it also poses a threat to opponents that is extremely difficult to defend, and it's sure fun to watch when everything clicks.
WR Devin Funchess
Again, an obvious choice is obvious, as evidenced by the GIF that graces the top of this post—and that wasn't the first time Funchess leaped over an oncoming defender:
The whole "hurdles defensive backs on the run" thing is pretty great, but that's just a small part of what makes Funchess so remarkable. He's a 6'5", 230-pound former tight end with legitimate top-end speed; his movements bear the grace of a much smaller player. Even when he slips, he seamlessly recovers, and the average defensive back is going to have a very difficult time contending with his ball skills or bringing him down once he makes the catch. Oh, and having oven-mitt-sized hands allows for him to make catches like this while on a dead sprint.
If Funchess isn't on the team in 2015, it'll be because he turned in a monster year and justifiably went pro, and I don't think anybody could begrudge him that move.
[Hit THE JUMP for eight exciting players not named Devin.]
News bullets and other items:
- Kalis [back] and Funchess were held out of Wednesday's scrimmage
- Hoke is looking for guys along the defensive line to separate themselves
- Your tentative starting offensive line (after Glasgow returns from suspension) is Mason Cole-LT; Erik Magnuson-LG; Jack Miller-C; Graham Glasgow-RG; Ben Braden-RT
- Kalis would likely be a starter if he wasn't injured
- Drake Harris' hamstring injury is taking longer to recover than expected
- The coaching staff is emphasizing putting the players in stressful, game-like situations
"Thanks for coming. We had a good scrimmage yesterday. Got about 140 plays in. It was about 55 for the ones and twos and about 35 for the threes so it was good. We got a lot of work and a lot of different situations of football, I think, that are important. Really thought that we had a lot of energy. Liked how they approached playing in the Big House. Today we did a lot of trying to – some of those guys, because of GPS and all the tracking, played a game and a half, you know, yesterday. We took today – did a lot of walk-throughs, a lot of meetings, a lot of film done, a lot of teaching from that perspective. Think we're in good shape right now. Held a couple guys out: Kalis we held out, Funchess we held out– gosh, I've got to remember who all we held out. Delano Hill, even though he's coming back right now, with no contact status. He's doing more drill work. And then Drake Harris and Jake Butt but everybody else participated, everybody else got a number of plays so was good for evaluations and, you know, you look at those decisions and you see where you're at and, again, Saturday night obviously we're going to go out again. Obviously probably not the same kind of play count but it will be probably 30-30-20 if you look at it which will end up being 40-40-25 most likely. But to get out and play under the lights a little bit will be a good experience for our guys to be with people there. The one thing that we've really talked about a lot of keeping stress on the players. Because there's some youth in there in a few positions, but just overall because of the mechanics of the offense, the mechanics of the defense, the communication process that we need to make sure we have on every play."
You say you wanted to keep stress on them. What kind of stress?
"Well, you know, I think that's a good question because you can do it with crowd noise, music, making where they've really got to focus in and lock in that they're hearing the calls from the guy next to them. I think in the different situations, you know- you put an offense in third-and-10, third-and-8, there's some stress there to pick up first downs and you put a defense in a situation where you're going heavy fronts, half yard line you put some stress on them that way so that's a lot of it, tempo's a lot of it. You know, I don't know which day it was. What day's today? Today's Thursday? It was Tuesday we wanted to get a little tempo for both sides of it. We were going to run what we call racks of 4-4-4 for each group and ended up instead of 12 plays it was a 44 play segment because we wanted to keep the stress on them and the tempo, Get them tired. See how they play tired, see how they think at the same time we had music – we were in Glick that day and in Glick the music can be pretty loud."
Couple things. Drake Harris- how concerned are you about that injury now at this point?
"Well, you know, obviously would like to have back. Obviously it's going probably longer than he wants and we want. I think he's getting closer to getting back out on the field we just have to keep working through it, rehabbing through it. It's not the same hamstring that he heard before and what happens with guys – and this is some of the data that I think is pretty interesting. We're getting in to GPS monitoring and what all that does and believe me, I'm not the expert. There's guys, Aaron Wellman's one of those...how much is a guy, from a symmetry standpoint, pushing off one leg than the other? Monitors all that and guys like Jake Butt, you know, he's using his other leg a lot more than he is but those numbers are coming down where he's getting a little more balance which is part of good news for him and for us. So I think for Drake's case, because he had the one, I think fatigue and some of those things because kids want to compete and that's the thing you love- that part of it and how it effects the other one."
And could you talk about how the defensive line's coming together?
"Yeah. I think as a group they're coming together pretty good. I think this thing that we're looking for, you know, because we've got- Frank has had a good fall camp, Brennen Beyer's had a real good fall camp, inside I think Willie Henry and Chris Wormley have had good fall camps. I think Matt Godin's a good player, then Willie Henry, Bryan Mone, Ryan Glasgow and [Maurice] Hurst have all- they're competing like heck out there, which is great. What I'm really looking for is some separation. You know, they're all talented and have some attributes that are all positive but we've got to look for a little more separation."
You mentioned Delano Hill coming back and participating in some drills. How close is he to participating in contact drills and how is the competition going at safety until he gets back?
"Well, I think that Dymonte Thomas has been competing with Jarrod [Wilson] and Jeremy Clark. I would say when Delano gets back that's another talented athlete that we'll be excited about. How much longer? You know, it could be three weeks, it could be two weeks. I can't really tell you. That's a doctor's deal and, you know, I think we're happy with where he is right now as far as the recovery and how the surgery went and all that but we'll see."
[After THE JUMP: piecing together an offensive line and the competition at linebacker and corner]
FIRE EVERYONE! Naw man this ain't relevant to your interests. I but I mean cumong man.
Cumong woman, I guess. Either way, y'all shouldn't have laid off the common sense editor a couple years back. "Picks Barbour" instead of "Selects Woman" would have fit and passed the "will people be irate on twitter about this?" test.
I WILL LAY A PATH OF DESTRUCTION ACROSS THE LAND. CBS Sports scouts Michigan's upcoming team for the next NFL draft, starting with one Devin Funchess:
He has excellent initial burst off the line to get vertical in a hurry with long, full strides, flashing flexible and easy movement skills rare for a player his size. Funchess tracks well with smooth body control to make natural adjustments on the ball, but has WAY too many drops on his resume and needs to improve his reliability and finishing ability through the catch point. The effort is there for him as a blocker, but his technique needs work as he's often caught off guard with his blocking assignments. Funchess is a mismatch nightmare against linebackers and smaller defensive backs and with improved consistency, he has all the makings of a future first round pick, reminiscent of a younger Jermichael Finley at Texas.
I'm not entirely sure the effort is there as a blocker after watching him opposite Jeremy Gallon, but he should be at least adequate as a wide option. The drops were a bit unfortunate but he's not in the Braylon category, at least not yet, and his ability to reach up and pluck things out of the air with one hand gives him a circus catch upside that few players have.
Also featured are Ryan ("possible top-50 draft pick"), Clark ("One of the more underrated pass rushers for the 2015 class"), Gardner("upper and lower body mechanics are a mess and he often releases while off-balance," thanks Mr. Borges and your hatred of QB coaches), and various others. Special nod to Raymon Taylor for being average at everything:
His size, speed and strength are all considered average, but he has the competitive mentality and awareness needed for the position.
The center of the bell curve, that Raymon Taylor.
OKAY YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION. Patrick Beilein is doing something his old man never did: becoming an assistant coach.
Patrick Beilein is leaving West Virginia Wesleyan to take a job on coach Quin Snyder's staff with the Utah Jazz, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
That is a 29-year-old NBA assistant coach whose dad is John Beilein, just kinda hanging out. At this point it would be an upset if LaVall Jordan didn't get the job when it is time for Beilein to hang it up, but things change and it's nice to have attractive options.
Meanwhile: wait, Quin Snyder is now an NBA coach? Specifically Trey Burke's NBA coach? When do I get a job?
WELL THAT SEEMS REASONABLE. THIS PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BE ALL CAPS. Michigan picked third the East in a poll of 29 media voters that somehow came up with 33 first place votes:
Big Ten East
1. Ohio State, 195 points (23 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State, 180 points (10)
3. Michigan, 136 points
4. Penn State, 105.5 points
5. Maryland, 84 points
6. Indiana, 78.5 points
7. Rutgers, 33 points
That is zero votes that have anything other than Rutgers dead last.
I AM TERRIBLY OLD AND HAVE CHOSEN POORLY. Defensman Kenny Johnson, who I remember wandering around Yost as, like, a zero-year-old, has committed to Michigan. Kenny is of course Jack Johnson's little brother.
“It wasn’t very hard to make a choice, I’ve always wanted to go there since I was a little kid,” the ’98 birth-year defenseman said. “I went to every game of my brother’s, I was always running around the rink. I guess the hardest part was making the call and going to do it because I couldn’t believe it was real.”
I in fact remember a nine-or-ten year old Kenny wearing a "JMFJ" shirt at the Joe during Jack's sophomore year. I hoped he had no idea why he was wearing that shirt. Now he's KMFJ, which is an amazing abbreviation right there.
Kenny isn't the incredible prospect his brother was—he's more of a stay-at-home guy—but he's no slouch.
Newest Michigan 98 D recruit Kenny Johnson, 19 pts, 171 PIMs, 47 games. Made that SSM team hard to play with a few other huge D on back end.
— Over The Boards (@OTBPuckWatch) July 24, 2014
While we're talking about hockey recruiting, further evidence that recent commit Mike Pastujov is currently a big deal comes from the recent U15 select camp at which he was named the best forward:
1. Michael Pastujov (#11 Black) 6-0/186 Honeybaked U16 (Michigan) - A strong and powerful skater who committed to the Wolverines along with his brother Nick, a '98, less than a week after the camp ended. He's a flight risk to the OHL, but he's a strong skater who drives the net well. He made plays happen from all over the ice, really dishes the puck well to his linemates and he wins one-on-one battles. He's a complete package offensively.
When you're so far away from matriculating these evaluations are shaky, but there's no better place to start than from the top.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE A TRIP TO BIG RAPIDS. Hockey's released their schedule and it is bizarre. They go to Ferris State to open the season—like before the Canadian exhibition game—and then they have a brutal nonconference road schedule after that test: Lowell, BU, BC, two against Tech. They do get UNH at Yost for what should be an entertaining series.
Unfortunately they again do that bit where they have a ton of home games during the meat of the football schedule and then a massive gap when people really want to go to hockey games. Michigan will go 41 days between home games after a home series against Minnesota on January 10th. The TBA MSU games will be at Munn and the Joe, so the next time you'll have a ticket at Yost is February 21st.
Meanwhile four straight weeks from Friday November 14th to December 5th feature Michigan hockey, and that's after another month-long break, one that features a bye week November 6th and 7th. The planning is not so good. This is the second straight year the second half of the home schedule has been really sparse.
The other thing of note is that there's a bunch of games with "possible" next to them as the Big Ten moves towards Sunday games in an effort to get more of them on the BTN. Hopefully they get that settled before tickets are issued. Moving a game time is one thing; moving entire days is not reasonable.
ENGULFED BY BLACKNESS. A sixth grade girl was at Michigan's football camp, which I guess is cute.
Ann Arbor hasn’t seen a burst of speed like this since Denard Robinson wore the Maize and Blue
Ha ha! That's not true.
[reminds self of last year's running game]
Blackness is everything.
[fades to nothing made of sadness]
[Death Cab For Cutie writes song about this experience]
ENTER THE LUMBERG. Man Dave Brandon I really don't want to talk about you constantly but then you're just like
Organizations that have a strong and healthy culture make sure the guiding principles and aspirational vision are integrated into everything that is done -- hiring decisions, communication, recognition, celebration, and the way they create positive energy.
and I'm just like why don't you speak English like a human does and then you're just like
To further our guiding principle of being a "great place to work," an important -- and descriptive -- Smile Committee was created. The committee's job is to draw on the skills and interests of a broad cross-section of the U-M Athletic Department to create activities of fun and importance.
and I'm just like oh that's because you ceased being a part of our species some time ago and you're now homo executivus. Which is fine and all that but I'm just saying that I would go watch RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE EXECUTIVES in a hot second.
"War or war-related activities integral to our aspirational vision… has or have, depending on which antecedent you prefer in the previous phrase, and by "has or have" I mean 'is occurring in a timeframe consistent with that commonly referred to as "now"'… been initiated after consulting with a diverse array of focus groups, consultants, and best-in-class operational specialists including but not limited to—"
/executive shot in face
That's Oscar stuff right there. Hollywood, get on it.
To further our guiding principle of being a "great place to work"
I'M ON THE COMMITTEE FORMING COMMITTEE. Instead of just working with the student government, which did great work surveying students and getting the athletic department to change their seating policy to something they would actually enjoy—#MikeProppeforAD—the athletic department is assembling a student advisory committee. We'll see how that works out; I am skeptical it'll be anything nearly as useful as what the unconnected student government managed last year.
Michigan is also confident they'll get past the 100k attendance number, because they just make those up anyway.
"(Some numbers may) potentially be lower than normal in the past, sure," Lochmann said. "I know there's a lot of eyeballs talking about the 100,000 -- we're not going to go below 100,000."
There could be no one in the stadium except the teams and they would announce 102,309. Ask anyone who was at the '95 Purdue doom-weather game if there were 100k in attendance.
Etc.: Stephen A Smith is just in charge of saying things for no reason. Ray Rice's suspension is ridiculous. Terrell Pryor got five games for tatgate! Rice got two for knocking his wife unconscious. Okay.
In lighter news, Detnews really excited about Alex Cook's tweetin'. Bacon on fireworks fireworks. It's probably not a coincidence that right after fireworks fireworks, Brandon gave an interview to Wojo.
ATTENTION TENNESSEE BIGS: stay away from Rome.