chance of bowl: 13.6%
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.
RIP. Condolences to the friends and family of the deceased Jim Schneider. Madej has a great story:
"I remember (we had a student assistant) doing a press release one year on women’s gymnastics, and he knew nothing about women’s gymnastics, so (he asked) how (should he) write the release,” said former Michigan media relations director Bruce Madej on Tuesday. “And Schneids says to him, very nicely, ‘Don’t worry about it, the people reading it will know less than you do.’"
Words to live by.
pretty sure the building is somewhere in this photo
Hey guys, I'm going to be in Chicago. If you're in town and like terrible terrible powerpoint slides, boy do I have an event for you.
2014 Michigan Football Season Preview with Brian Cook (MGoBlog) and Chris Balas (TheWolverine/Rivals.com)- NEW
When: Tuesday, July 29th, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Where: McGuireWoods LLP, 77 West Wacker Dr, Suite 4100, (map)
Cost: $20 for Alumni Association members; $30 for non-members. Pay at the door for $30 with Cash or Credit Card
Details: Join fellow alumni and several special guest speakers as we preview the 2014 Michigan Football season. During the evening, alums will be joined by Chris Balas from TheWolverine/Rivals.com, Brian Cook from MGoBlog.com and others to be confirmed. You'll get insights on the upcoming season and an opportunity to ask your questions. There will be appetizers and complimentary beer & wine available for those in attendance.
Walk-ups will be available for cash or credit card of $30 day of the event.
I realize that terrible terrible powerpoint slides are not a great and superior attraction, but in my defense they are snappy and brief. Also, complimentary beer and wine. Last year they flagged down Gerry DiNardo and they may also get a BTN Personality again this year.
Nick left, Mike right, please try not to think about how old you are vis a vis those guys, the answer is "old."
Hello, nurses. Hockey picked up a couple of massive commitments yesterday. As per hockey recruiting's wont, their commitment is the first time I'd ever heard of them. They're brothers separated by one year, both forwards. Nick Pastujov, the older, is (probably) class of 2016. He's committed to the NTDP program for next year after tearing it up with Belle Tire's U16 team, and was seriously high profile:
98 F Nick Pastujov commits to Michigan. Starred on Honeybaked U16, serious offensive talent with skill and a power game. Our #2 uncommitted.
— Over The Boards (@OTBPuckWatch) July 24, 2014
His younger brother Mike may be an even bigger prospect.
Despite the commitment, Michael will still be heavily considered for our top ranking on our preliminary #OHLDraft rankings, released Aug 5th
— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) July 24, 2014
Michigan with their biggest commitments since Zach Werenski getting NTDP bound Nick Pastujov ('98) and brother Mike my top 1999 birth year.
— Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC) July 24, 2014
The usual OHL disclaimer applies. In this case, Nick's NTDP commitment and the obvious appeal of playing together will hopefully mean defection chances are low. Will be interesting to see if either tries to accelerate a la Werenski.
FWIW, Michigan's 2016 class is looking pretty badass right now with Pastujov, Luce, Sanchez, and a couple more potential NHL draft picks.
Meanwhile. Red on Werenski:
“The most difficult thing for younger players is the maturity level and social change going from high school to college, but Zach is mature beyond his years,” Berenson said. “He's like (former Michigan forward) Jason Botterill in that sense. I think he'll fit in really easily.”
I do not make fun of typos and errors, because we all make them. So I… I'm just going to… I'm just going to…
Cumong man. I know I called Geoff Cameron "Jeff" and Axel Witsel "Alex" during World Cup preview bits but that's a whole additional level there. For one, there are approximately 12 words in this entire image. For two, CUMONG MAN.
(Via mgouser MiGit)
Big Ten media day, circa the paleolithic. Lee Corso was a game show host, Hayden Fry spontaneously impregnated your mom, Bo was just chillin', thinking about your mortgage, Denny Green wasn't angry yet, and everyone else was quickly and gratefully forgotten by history:
Man that back row aside from Hayden is something.
Well, okay. Patrick Omameh is listed as a potential breakout player by ESPN. He's 25th on a list of 25, but that's not bad at all for a guy who went undrafted a year ago. Even if the article comes with one of those "are you sure you're talking about the right player" scouting reports:
Tampa Bay plucked him from there in mid-October, and while he never appeared in a game, the Bucs clearly had plans for him. He goes into training camp in the lead for the right guard position. The scouting reports on Omameh a year ago dinged him for sometimes being unable to finish blocks or move properly to the second level, but he's a consistent and powerful drive-blocker. His greatest attribute, however, is his intelligence. He was offered scholarships at MIT and Princeton before heading to Michigan, where he made academic All-Big Ten.
Um… what? Not to overrate one play or anything but the Te'obliteration is actually a pretty good representation of his career. Omameh was terrific when he was asked to move to the second level and not so good when a burly defensive tackle was put right over him:
Also I just like posting that.
If Patrick Omameh is a year two NFL starter that says something about something, there. Like maybe Michigan should have tried to keep doing the zone stuff they were good at.
NFL draft changes. The NFL is making an effort to tone down the number of underclassmen leaving college despite dubious prospects, at least according to one Nick Saban:
Now, teams can only submit five players for grades from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Last year, Saban said Alabama submitted 11 names.
Also, the NFL will give just three grades of feedback: first-round grade, second-round grade or a "stay-in-school grade." The NFL previously had five grades: first round, second round, third round, fourth through seventh and not draftable.
If the NFL approves extra draft grade requests you can get them, FWIW. John Infante keeps banging the MLS drum here and he's probably right: MLS hand-selects a number of players who sign "Generation Adidas" contracts and makes them available in the draft; anyone not explicitly approved has to go to college. Or overseas or whatever, but they're not available. If the NFL only wants underclassmen who will probably go in the first two rounds, just make that explicit. They'll have to negotiate that into a CBA but current players are always happy to negotiate away stuff from future ones.
Etc.: Tiny Basque club manages to raise enough money to play in La Liga. EA settlement wrangling. Say no to fall weddings. "Embracing debate" is tolerating all sorts of things you shouldn't. The NCAA is Marxist. Michigan participates in Make A Wish. Get The Picture demolishes things better than just about anybody.
HEY. If you didn't already, read Seth's thing.
Just a shooter. Ex-just a shooter? Zak Irvin's trying to shake the reputation that he has a campsite outside the three point line he only leaves when he needs water:
Zak Irvin smirked at the old saying. He heard it before. So did Nik Stauskas, his predecessor on the wing in Michigan’s offense.
Just a shooter.
The title was stamped on Stauskas at this time last year. As a freshman in 2012-13, the 6-foot-6 guard attempted 58.3 percent of his field-goals from 3-point distance.
Now here’s Irvin. If Stauskas was just a shooter as a freshman, what does that make him? Also a 6-foot-6 guard, Irvin launched a freewheeling 74.5 percent of his shots from behind the arc as a freshman.
The thing is: Stauskas was way less of a shooter than Irvin was, to the point where UMHoops was pointing out that he was even more efficient than Trey Burke in pick and roll situations. Whenever anyone asked me who would step up as the alpha in Burke's absence I immediately said "Stauskas" in a tone of voice that was probably insulting to the person asking the question.
Just-a-shooter-related stats indicate that Irvin is starting well back from Stauskas was when it comes to initiating offense.
|STAUSKAS (FR)||IRVIN (FR)|
Also… I mean…
Irvin made a total of 11 2-point field goals in 18 Big Ten games as a freshman. His 21 free-throw attempts were three less than Mitch McGary, who played in only eight games. His 13 assists were only one more than McGary produced.
I am now sad about Mitch again, but that's pretty stark.
Michigan doesn't need Irvin to be Stauskas, what with Walton and LeVert still around. They would like him to be a third creator—hell, if Irvin gets to Stauskas's freshman shot generation numbers that would be terrific.
One thing we do know: even if Irvin does become Not Just A Shooter (drink), we will not hear that he is Not Just A Shooter (drink), because he's not a pale guy from Canada.
FINALLY. It is policy around here to ignore preseason watch lists for major awards because the last time I looked at one I was on there. But we will make a solitary exception for the one organization that seems to have watched Devin Funchess play last year:
On Tuesday, Funchess landed on the 2014 Biletnikoff Award watch list, which goes annually to the most outstanding receiver in college football.
Yes, I know this is just because watch lists place anything vaguely hominid on their lists. I'm still taking it and running.
So there's this. They changed the trophy, likely because of intellectual property issues or something like that. Now it looks like this:
The one piece of the BCS worth keeping (the crystal football) is replaced by a wagon-wheel coffee table
…leg? I think he left out "leg." But yeah.
A major blow to SMU. Megarecruit Emmanuel Mudiay was set to make a visit to Crisler for his one and only year of college basketball; instead he's taking whatever money he can get this year:
"I was excited about going to SMU and playing college basketball for coach Brown and his staff and preparing for the NBA," Mudiay said in a statement relayed by his brother, Stephane, to SI. "But I was tired of seeing my mom struggle. And after sitting down with coach [Larry] Brown and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom was to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities."
That's likely bunk, since Mudiay can just get cash on the side and the school he graduated from was co-founded by Deion Sanders and has had a number of graduate-types get shot down by the NCAA. Either way, that SMU game looks significantly less intimidating.
SMU's still going to be a challenge. They went 27-10 last year and lost to Minnesota in the NIT final; they lost only an inefficient third wheel and a low-usage OREB guy from last year's team.
That would be bizarre, but fun? Chatter about NCAA hockey expansion pops up only every once in a while these days, and when it does it's usually followed by an athletic director making grumbly noises about the general impossibility of such. So go ahead and guess which AD actually wants to make it happen. No, no, no, and no. Arizona State!
Count Arizona State Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson among the growing number of people who like to see the Sun Devil hockey team compete at the highest level.
"I personally would love to see hockey as a varsity sport at Arizona State," he said. "We have to make a commitment to figure that out."
Penn State's departure from the club hockey ranks apparently made ASU the big dog on the block, whereupon they turned in a 38-2 season, and ASU has a relatively small department for a school of its size and revenue level.
The obvious problem: there ain't nobody to play. The nearest NCAA hockey schools are in Colorado. I guess you could slide them into the NCHC. It would still be an expensive proposition. Unlikely unless ASU gets the kind of donation PSU got.
That'll fix it. Michigan proposes fireworks after the Penn State and… uh… Miami (Not That Miami) games. I don't care, really, but it's notable that a bunch of Penn State and Ohio State people on twitter are now seemingly offended on our behalf.
Michigan football is just Dime a Dog night away from being a minor league baseball team.
— Matt d (@PSUMatt2005) July 14, 2014
On the one hand, yeah. On the other hand, YOU'RE PENN STATE (rawwereraaarr rawwrr). YOU ARE THE CHINTZ MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.
But anyway this is where we are: opposing fan bases are getting irritated because we are not Michigan enough.
On my very first scouting assignment for MGoBlog, I witnessed the future—and, of course, was totally oblivious to this fact. As Farmington Hills Harrison blew out eventual state champs Cass Tech with surprising ease to open the 2011 season, I watched from my press box perch at Eastern Michigan while Eric snapped pictures from the sideline.
Devin Funchess ambled out wide, as he'd done for much of the evening. He faced off against Jourdan Lewis, at that time the #2 corner on Cass Tech behind future Wolverine Terry Richardson, who drew the seemingly tougher assignment against the focal point of the Harrison offense, future Michigan State receiver Aaron Burbridge. Lewis was a relative unknown, holding a lone offer from Toledo. Eric took the photo that graces the top of this post.
It's an absurd picture. There's Funchess, looking like a coat rack in shoulder pads, assembling his limbs into something approximating a wide receiver's stance. He dwarfs Lewis, who's got the same deer-legged awkwardness while wearing a jersey top that appears at least two sizes too large.
You'd be excused if you thought neither of these guys would make an impact at Michigan, just based on this photo. Funchess was too gangly for a tight end prospect. Lewis, while bigger than Richardson, still fit the mold of pint-sized Cass Tech corner, which was already becoming a dubious distinction.
Once each player came out of their pigeon-toed stances, however, a bright future was apparent. Funchess ran with an effortless glide, and in limited opportunities to make an impact, he did so in a way that foreshadowed a future at Not Tight End:
Funchess displayed great hands and concentration, making his first reception on a tipped pass, and he finished with three receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown by my count (I'm pretty sure the Detroit News recap omits his first catch). Unfortunately for those who missed the game, I was tweeting when Funchess recorded his touchdown catch, so you'll have to believe me when I say he ran a great route up the seam, plucked the ball out of the air, and showed nice speed getting into the end zone on the 31-yard scoring play. His other catch also came when he found a hole in the middle of the defense – from limited viewing, I like what I see in his route-running, hands, and athleticism.
My ability to process this information—and maintain a healthy skepticism of high school weight listings—exposed my inexperience:
On a side note, for those of you who think that Michigan should try to convert Funchess into a wide receiver, I don't see that happening – he already weighs around 215 pounds, and looks like he could easily add another 20-30 before he gets to Ann Arbor.
Funchess came to Michigan listed at 225 pounds in 2012, and that was a lie. He played tight end for the next season-and-a-half. He did so even though no Michigan coach in the history of Michigan coaches would've played him there if given a choice; still paper-thin and lacking refined technique, his blocking was bad enough that he called himself a "pretty boy" heading into his sophomore season.
By that time, though, he'd already shown what he'd become over the second half of his sophomore season. After Michigan's 2012 blowout of Illinois, Brian described the play that inspired the creation of one of the first two MGoGIFs to exist—before I even knew how to watermark them—as such:
My God, It's Made Of Funchess note of the week. From my vantage point in the stadium, I thought the play-action rollout that eventually turned into the Funchess touchdown had been defeated by coverage. I thought that Denard saw this too and was chunking the ball out of the endzone, which I was pleased with—WOO NO INTERCEPTION—as I saw the ball soar into the stands… at least the dance team… well past Devin Funchess's outstretched… oh.
Wow. Is that legal? Should I clap now? Is touchdown? Is touchdown. Clap. Smile.
We clapped. We smiled. We started listing Funchess as a "FLEX" before giving in entirely to the proper designation: Wide Receiver Devin Funchess. Now he's Top Returning Receiver In The Big Ten Devin Funchess. He runs fly routes past cornerbacks and over the top of safety help. Single cover him and the cornerback might as well not exist. Attempts to tackle him at the knees are not recommended.
Michigan has their tight end of the future, but it's not Funchess, it's Jake Butt. More tight end help is on the way. Meanwhile, the tight end of future past is now the next great Michigan wideout of the present, not to mention a potential first-round NFL draft pick. We saw this coming, but we didn't see this coming.
As for the high school junior who faced off against Funchess on that August evening in 2011, Jourdan Lewis picked up his coveted Michigan offer the following February, and a scant couple weeks later committed along with Cass Tech teammate David Dawson during that unforgettable eight-commit weekend. He's set to challenge for a starting cornerback spot in a loaded secondary this fall after showing flashes of serious potential as a freshman last season. On that loaded Cass Tech defense, which featured current U-M LB Royce Jenkins-Stone in addition to Richardson, he looked the best of them all:
Lewis, Cass Tech's other corner/wideout/returner, was their best player on the field on Saturday, in my opinion. The junior is listed by Rivals at 5'11", 170, and his size allows him to be much more physical – he had a couple big hits on both receivers and ballcarriers and was generally solid in his tackling, and he certainly wasn't afraid to step up and hit somebody. Lewis is not quite as fast or quick as Richardson, but he still has very good speed and agility and was able to show that off in all three phases of the game. Lewis had the best play of the night for Cass Tech's defense, coming up with a diving interception on their own goal line. He already has an offer from Toledo, and I expect he'll get offers from much more prominent programs – including Michigan – in the near future. He has the look of a BCS-level athlete and I like his potential as a bigger cornerback who can make plays against the pass or the run.
"Bigger cornerback," in this case, was relative to Richardson. That's my story, at least, and I'm sticking to it.
Lewis showed off that physicality this spring, when he looked like the cornerback best suited to Michigan's new emphasis on press coverage. Once again, he lined up often against Funchess. Once again, he more than held his own.
Funchess is already a star. Lewis looks like he's on his way. I wish I could say I knew this would happen, but there's Eric's picture, resplendent in its awkwardness, reminding me that potential is a hell of a thing to project.