If you're the kind of obsessive who has a detailed impression of every recruit in Michigan's 28-man class, you probably think Devin Gil is transitioning from safety to linebacker once he arrives on campus. This was your obsessive author's impression, at least. It is also Don Brown's:
Devin played safety in high school but we project him to be an outside linebacker. Again, he's one of those guys with a unique set of skills and should also be a good pass rusher and blitzer. Settling him into one of those outside linebacker spots will be a big asset to us.
That impression turns out to be false. Gil has already made that transition. The senior highlight film above is one safety highlight to open and then all MLB. Gil was named to the Florida 8A All-State first team as a middle linebacker. By the time Gil took his official visit he was fully expecting to be a linebacker and had already reached 225. He is a linebacker, and he'll play linebacker. Linebacker.
Most recruiting services projected this was his destiny, but few checked back to see how they liked him after his senior year. Let's start with Scout, the lone service to rank him at his college position. Florida analyst Corey Bender:
…fierce when attacking downhill and pursuing the football. … active hands when taking on blocks. He's strong at the point of attack and even put a couple of blockers on their backside as well.
ESPN evaluates him as a safety but does mention his "linebacker mentality" and projects him as a box guy or OLB, so it's probably based off junior tape and not updated seriously since. Here are a few bits that seem relevant:
Physical defender who can disrupt and reroute. Does not show effective man coverage skills at this time. … will get after the ball carrier with a strong, physical presence. He can absorb blocks and shed in the box and looks very capable of being a box defender. He looks to intimidate his opponent with a little nasty in him. … Likes to hit, strong wrap up guy … good line of scrimmage player, can defend the flat and hook/curl zones and has the physical make-up to match-up with TEs/H-Backs.
Various Rivals evals are in a similar vein. This one is refreshingly blunt:
…had his share of both impressive moments and lapses on Saturday but the lateral quickness was on display. As was his ability to quickly change directions. Gil isn't going to win many track meets but the Miami commit has plenty of raw talent.
…added some bulk during the offseason but hasn't lost the quickness that allows him to run with most running backs and tight ends in space. During pass coverage drills he not only won reps, but came away with the ball on multiple occasions, including a one-handed highlight-reel interception.
…and then he was more or less forgotten about. It is possible he is LB/S diamond in the rough.
Gil is an OLB sort with good hands who can sift through trash and take on screens and the like. He's not that big and not that athletic and it's unclear whether he can cope with the upgraded competition level. I found this report from SBN's Miami blog to be uncommonly real:
One recruiting analyst I talked to said flatly "Devin Gil CANNOT play at Miami". A different recruiting analyst said "this is exactly the kind of hybrid player who will help take your defense to the next level."
That's where I am too. I like the fact that Michigan is taking a high school LB/S as an OLB; he may be able to hack it as a hybrid space player. But I cock an eyebrow when a highlight reel four minutes in length includes filler like fumbles that bounce directly to the subject and pursuit on which he cleans up a play someone else made. Gil's senior film above has a lot of that. It doesn't exactly jump out at you.
Gil's recruitment doesn't defy that tape, either. It was a lot like Josh Uche's: it began with a very early commitment to Miami and ended with a decommit and subsequent trip to Ann Arbor. Uche, who we'll cover next, was pursued by some heavy hitters. Gil not so much. Maybe that's an artifact of his quick switch from Miami to M; these days it's hard not to interpret that as disinterest from the school of sharks hovering below any P5-ish recruit.
The main way Gil defies the rankings—he's the lowest-ranked guy in the class per the composite—is by adding a bunch of weight and keeping his athleticism, which appears to be "not quite P5 safety but plenty good as a linebacker." It seems like he's started this process already.
Why Denicos Allen? It's difficult to dig up HSPs in Michigan history because Lloyd Carr was so slow to adapt to the spread. There are few analogues for LB/S types at M. MSU has a number of them, though, and Denicos Allen is a relatively good comp. Allen is undersized at 5'11", 220. He was unheralded coming out of Hamilton HS in Ohio, and took a couple years of apprenticeship once arriving in East Lansing.
Afterwards he ended up a blitzing murderbot as an MSU SAM. The NFL didn't think much of him, but he was still a terrific college player and TFL magnet. Gil will have to hit big time to be the equivalent; Allen is a pretty good approximation of who he might be if he rolls double sixes.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. They obviously weren't paying close attention, but high profile guy on high profile team with thoroughly meh recruiting rankings does mean something.
Variance: Moderate. LB transition already underway and is a lot closer to plausible size at 225, but still kind of a situation where he's moving to a new position in college.
Ceiling: Moderate. Atheticism questions are likely to prevent him from being big time.
General Excitement Level: Not great. Gil didn't have many offers other than a flailing Miami program and M; he did hit some camps; he isn't a sleeper or unknown. All players can defy their rankings. I'm not seeing a ton of reasons why Gil will defy his.
Projection: 50/50 on a redshirt. The LB corps isn't much different from the secondary: both project to lose a lot to graduation and the draft, so some guys are going to see the field in preparation for 2017. Gil is a special-teams-ready guy who could be a competitor at a couple LB slots in 2017 and thus could play. He could also sit because he's not ready yet.
In 2017 and beyond he's going to have to fight through a lot of competition. At ILB, former teammate Bush is probably ahead of him. At SAM/HSP he's got to deal with Hudson and Uche and maybe Furbush, etc. It'll be an uphill battle for playing time as an underclassman. Projecting further down the road is tough since we have no clarity on what kind of guys get ahead in a Don Brown world; I'd be a little surprised if he could push through the competition to start.
It's been a long time since the first game of Michigan's football season wasn't at home. It was 1998. Michigan headed to South Bend to get annihilated by Autry Denson and the option in the opening game of their title defense. The box score lo these many years later is horrific:
Michigan Notre Dame
First downs 24 19
Rushed-yards 38-150 55-280
Passing yards 322 96
Sacked-yards lost 3-29 0-0
Return yards 6 14
Passes 28-44-0 4-10-1
Punts 2-31.0 2-44.0
Penalties-yards 4-30 5-32
Time of possession 29:46 30:14
Michigan led 13-9 before four straight ND touchdowns turned it into a laugher. Michigan got blown out despite outgaining the opponent by 100 yards and allowing the opposition to complete all of four passes. They fumbled all of the balls. They stopped none of the options. That game was 36-13 before Michigan tacked on a cosmetic touchdown at the end.
This was the Michigan-ND rivalry in the 90s. If all you know about it is 38-0, "oh, wide open," and Michigan ripping Irish hearts out in the last 30 seconds, you are fortunate. I know better because I was in college then.
The next week I sat, despondent, in the student section as a group of resilient (and probably drunk) guys in front of me chanted "Cross is Boss" in the waning minutes of Michigan making a blowout loss to Donovan McNabb and Syracuse look pretty on the scoreboard. Donovan McNabb was in college once. I said it was a long time ago.
Walter Cross went over 100 yards that day, all of it racked up long after the game had been decided. Syracuse, too, had murdered us with the option.
Saturday started strangely blank. I wrote this thing two years ago about the opening of football season that I already kind of wrote back when far fewer people were reading this blog and have to force myself not to write again every Friday before Michigan starts playing football again:
I can say that most of the time I like that I find football important. It gives life a rhythm. I think my favorite part happens on the first day of the new year, when I file into the stadium an hour early. It's still mostly empty then. You can spread out in the sun. In my mental picture of this my seats are high up in the corner so I can take in the whole vast breadth of the stadium. Perched there, looking down and across, the future stretches out across the horizon. Anything seems possible, and the wait is over.
I hadn't felt a lack of possibilities since 1998, when Michigan was not going to repeat as national champions even before Donovan McNabb showed up. I went in at the usual time and sat in the usual spot and felt… not that. It turns out getting hammered 41-14 in your opening game restricts dreams of future glories quite a bit. It's like having New Year's Day on the eighth, a week after you found out you're not getting a promotion. You found this out because your boss stapled it to a bobcat he mailed to you. The stitches still itch.
So when the band rolled out, it was weird. I did the thing with the clapping and the raising of the fist. The voice in the head that has been going ermagerd fortbaw ermagerddddd the last 13 years was not there. Alabama had taken it, ripped its pigtails out, stomped on it, and returned it to me. They said "what?" confrontationally. They asked if I was going to do anything about it. I said "no, sir." It sat in the corner, petting itself, maybe whispering ermagerd fortbaw, maybe not. It was hard to make out.
Two plays later, Denard Robinson ripped through the line, cut directly towards me, and was one on one with a safety with an angle. An angle and no chance in hell. Turbo was engaged, and Denard shot into space with the same breathtaking speed he showed after fumbling a his first snap against Western Michigan.
ermagerd ermagerd ermagerddddddd
On the first play of the second half, Denard ran 50 yards in one shoe, making a cut on his sock.
Cross (@ right via MDS) was a freshman that year. He must have thought a hundred yards in his second college game was a hell of a start. Must have thought he would be watching other guys take the meaningless carries pretty soon. But Cross never cracked a hundred yards again. He'd only match the ten carries he had against the Orangemen three more times. Once a year Michigan would blow the doors off the worst team in the Big Ten; Cross would dust himself off to pick up 40 or 50 yards as the stadium emptied and walk-ons made their moms proud.
I liked him, though. I remembered Cross Is Boss whenever he'd hit the field, and how those deranged guys in front of me were taking whatever they could from the game in front of them. If the only thing it offered was an opportunity to ironically root for some guy to rack up more meaningless yards than had ever been gained by a guy in a winged helmet, that's what they were going to do. I was still sitting on those seats as Michigan fell to 0-2, but I was less despondent. Cross was boss. If those guys could be okay with life, I could maybe be too.
So, yeah, Michigan's definitively not elite. The defense got torn up by a triple option team, and the offense got stoned against Alabama, and I guess I'll be okay with that, because if some dudes in 1998 can carve some fandom out of Walter Cross, how can you not be excited about Denard Robinson's final games in Michigan Stadium?
BRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. Denard, obviously. More total yardage than your team gets is an auto-win.
Honorable mention: Funchess, Gardner, Joe Bolden, James Ross, Jake Ryan(?).
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS:
1: Denard Robinson (Air Force), Jeremy Gallon (retroactively awarded for Alabama game).
Welcome, freshmen. Not really. Hey, remember when this was finally the year when Michigan didn't rely on freshmen all over the place? Yeah… nyet. Michigan rolled out not one but two true freshman ILBs (James Ross and Joe Bolden) on Air Force's penultimate drive—the last one they actually used their offense on. Hoke would later say Bolden played so much because Colerain, his high school, ran the option, but even so… man.
Meanwhile, Ondre Pipkins, Mario Ojemudia, and Keith Heitzman (a redshirt freshman) saw plenty of time on the defensive line and Jarrod Wilson was the guy who came in when Michigan went to nickel. You make shake your fist at Rodriguez's last couple of recruiting classes now.
It wasn't that bad on offense, where the only freshmen to get a lot of playing time were AJ Williams and Devin Funchess. The former is like okay, we'll deal, and the latter was going to play early on damn near any team in the country.
not having shoes is the coolest now (Upchurch)
FUNCHESS. I try not to get all I told you so because I have occasionally not been right about things—like those three solid years when I thought Rodriguez was going to work out—but dang I told you so. Not that this is any great scouting feat on my part. Pretty much everyone who went to that open practice and saw a 6'5" guy with freaky long arms getting sent deep on wheel routes thought "holy crap" to himself and wrote about it on the internet.
I'm not sure if it was wheel one, wheel two, or not-a-waggle deep bomb that was the turning point, but by the time it was over Funchess had 106 yards receiving and was the first guy out of everyone's mouths in the postgame. It doesn't take a keen eye to think that guy has potential.
In Funchess we saw the beginnings of Michigan's Swiss Army Offense. They lined him up as an H-back and sent him on a wheel against a linebacker, who had no chance because he was too slow. They sent him deep against a safety, who had no chance because he was too small. That's the stuff Borges has spent years doing instead of figuring out how to tweak a read option, and in Funchess we saw the future.
Also the present.
…and introducing Chasing Jim Mandich. Is this too early? No. For one, I'd rather put up pictures of Bo and Mandich 20 times than, like, four. For two, it's the internet. This is how we do. Suck it, guy on twitter who told me to calm down and that it was just one game. WOO!
Jim Mandich is Michigan's all-time tight end receiving yardage leader with 1494 yards. After posting Michigan's first 100-yard receiving day by a tight end since Jerame Tuman did it in 1997, Devin Funchess has 106 yards receiving and needs 1389 to pass Mandich. At his current pace he needs just over 26 more games to do so.
That was the best thing, now the worst thing. Fitzgerald Toussaint: eight carries, seven yards. Commence offensive line panic. Do not hold any in reserve. If you end up in a cornfield wearing nothing but a traffic cone holding a sign that says "AIR FORCE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN ARE 260 POUNDS," this is about right, give or take a jockstrap.
I don't know, man. Live I didn't see anything Toussaint could have done except collapse in a pile of bodies. When Carl Grapentine forgot to turn off his mic and told the stadium "they can't do anything with that" after Michigan set another down on fire by running from under center, he was only telling everyone in the stadium what they were already thinking. Most of those plays went right, we're already nervous about Schofield… conclusion… yeah.
NORFLEET. hey drew dileo what's up you're all catching this ball wrong yoinkkkkkkk now I'm going to run over here bad idea getting tackled bouncing back not getting tackled running back over here different way different direction funnnnnnnnn I am the NORFLEEET zip that was like two guys oops here's like three guys awwwwww now I'm on the ground oh drew dileo you look sad let me apologize I am the NORFLEET this kind of thing just happens sometimes go with the flowwwwwwwwwwww
Denard accuracy. Seemed pretty good, right? The interception was zinged too hard—I'll give him a pass on the "high" bit because Vincent Smith—and the third down Gardner catch-that-wasn't was short. But those are MAs in UFR jargon, and if you put college football in your head all Saturday you'll see plenty of quarterbacks make similar errors. The only throws into coverage were a couple at the end of the half when you may as well force it.
I've seen some complaints about Denard not seeing open guys. I'll check for that as far as is possible given the tape, but if the costs of the Borges transition are an inability to make tiny run game adjustments the payoff tentatively appears to be an ability to put the ball where Denard wants it to be, most of the time.
It helps when you're throwing to Funchess and Gardner, too. The Funchess touchdown was short, but given the target that's what you want to do. As long as that guy is jumping for the ball it doesn't matter that you made him slow up, because he's winning that battle every time.
Crazy enough to work? Air Force's combination of triple option with Oregon's tempo and a pro-style-esque formation blizzard was fun to watch in the same way Nebraska's double pitch was last year… except it was far less fun because instead of one seemingly indefensible play it was dozens of probably defensible ones that weren't.
Q: think that could work at a major college level? Georgia Tech is doing it in the ACC, yes, but I think the option + jet tempo combo would be absolute hell to play against if the guys getting the ball were Denards and Norfleets instead of 5'7" academy guys. It was kind of hell to play against even against guys who are going pro in blowing things up. You're getting gashed, you have to substitute to keep guys fresh, you are freaking out and guaranteed to let some guy run free for a 70-yard score…
worst waldo. Upchurch
…unless he bobbles the ball and falls over.
Maybe it wouldn't work against Alabama but pair that Air Force offense, personnel and all, with a quality defense and you're winning nine games in the Big Ten. Falcon total offense against BCS-ish foes the last three years:
2012 Michigan: 417
2011 ND: 565
2011 TCU: 416
2010 Oklahoma: 458
2010 TCU: 231
2010 Utah: 411
2010 GT: 287 (in a 14-7 win)
So unless you also run a flexbone triple option or are the 13-0 2010 TCU team that finished first in total and scoring defense and won the Rose Bowl by holding Wisconsin to 19 points (on 385 yards, FWIW), Air Force is going up and down the field on you.
You'd need a lot of breathing room to get that up and going, granted. Troy Calhoun just tweaked the thing Fisher DeBerry had been doing for decades. Implementing it from scratch would be painful at first, but if you're an Illinois or Minnesota or Rutgers or Cal, it might be worth a shot. I'd loathe it if Minnesota gradually became Air Force++ and Michigan had to deal with it annually. Therefore someone should try it.
Does that make you feel better? Those ND/TCU/Oklahoma numbers are just like ours. ND finished last year 30th in total D, 18th FEI. TCU was 32nd, 42nd FEI (schedule issues). Oklahoma was 53rd, but a shocking 4th(!) in FEI.
FEI has Air Force's offense 33rd and 32nd in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Last year's mark was better than Georgia, VT, Michigan State, Iowa, Auburn, and Florida State. With guys who are going pro in going Mach 3. This just happens when you sign Air Force up, even when you don't do it the week after playing Alabama.
"No, not really" -you. I hear you. All the rotation and getting zero out of the defensive line and freshmen and etc. What if I bring up last year's game #2 against Eastern Michigan?
We had all of those happen on Saturday. Nowadays "non-Martin" DTs are all of them, so expand that slice of the pie. The coaches worked some things out. They've got a virtual bye next week against UMass, so they'll have two weeks to prep for Notre Dame—this time State takes the bullet and we get the rebound.
I'm hoping we see some progress against the Irish, who couldn't run at all against Purdue and got Everett Golson sacked five times. Yeah, no Cierre Wood, but Purdue's rush defense was appalling last year.
It doesn't look good but hold out a couple weeks before hitting the panic button.
Also, Alabama couldn't run on WKU. LA LA LA NOT LISTENING
Marmot, city. I've heard from a number of people that Air Force mistimed a lot of their plays and ended up having Arena-style guys running at the line of scrimmage before several plays. Here's TTB:
The officials were terrible. Terrible. Air Force's first touchdown should have been called back for illegal procedure. Quarterback Connor Dietz tossed to A-back Cody Getz, who beat everyone to the edge. In the meantime, the wing started moving forward prior to the snap like he was in the CFL and chopped down safety Jordan Kovacs, who was responsible for the pitch. Without that forward momentum, Kovacs - Michigan's best open-field tackler - very well could have stopped Getz before the goal line. Later in the game, Air Force converted on a key third down when both the quarterback and the running back - who were in a shotgun formation - started moving to their right before the ball was snapped . . . and a slot receiver was already in motion. So three guys were moving prior to the snap, and the play was allowed to stand. Those were obvious, blatant non-calls and each one could have had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
It was hard to tell if that was the case from my vantage point, but the refs did miss a really blatant illegal motion on an AF third and long conversion late. They had a guy moving, and the tailback took off before the snap, and no one noticed. I know they're military, but this is not 'Nam. There are rules.
Adventures in Special K. One: no "In The Big House." That is also two through six hundred. NO POP EVIL~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!!!!atatatat.percentsign.asterisk.
Given how much they ran that into the ground last year, that's either a sign of that thing's merciful departure from our world or Special K's greatest ever troll. I wouldn't put it past him, the scourge.
Instead, Special K put on that Flo Rida song that is not at all about blowjobs, wink wink nudge nudge:
Is that the kind of thing we want to be exposing the youth to? The guy is seen using a Windows phone in that video.
Injuries. Brennen Beyer has a "knee strain" according to Hoke, which means he has anything from a fairy tickling his patella to a Turkmeni flaming crater where his knee used to be. Other than that, Michigan didn't get it too hard from all the cut blocks. Ash's issue seems like a one-week thing, and no one else is publicly injured.
Helmet numbers. I don't miss them.
Paging 2011 Jeremy Gallon. 2010 Jeremy Gallon has started returning punts again. Please report to the maize and blue courtesy phone.
Number stuff. The first Kovacs bullet has been dodged, and I think if they were going to give him someone else's number they would have done it right away. They probably aren't changing a senior captain's number in their second or third opportunity to do so. So, hurrah. Ryan's as good a choice as any, but I was hoping they'd put it on a receiver since Oosterbaan was famous for catching Bennie Friedman's passes and 47 is a distinctive number for a wideout.
Ron Kramer's 87 is next. Hopefully that ends up on a tight end. I'm rooting for Not Funchess because 19 is not a number I have strong associations with yet.
Michigan missed chances to get off the field, giving up frustrating first downs on third and medium-to-long time and again. Brady Hoke missed a great chance at points to end the first half with some terrible clock management, ending up with a TO in his pocket. With Michigan up 14-3, Vincent Smith missed a chance to extend Michigan's drive and possibly their lead by tipping an accurate third-down pass from Denard up for an easy interception; Air Force would score a TD and keep it close for the rest of the game.
Michigan struggled early against Western Michigan and especially Notre Dame, and wasn't exactly pretty against Eastern Michigan. But it improved.
It shut down San Diego State the following week, then shut out Minnesota the one after that, and the Wolverines were in business.
The key to that success was simply getting better every week, especially on the defensive line, and Hoke sees the same thing happening this year.
"I would say there's a uniqueness to the offense, and the schemes -- but at the same time, we're a work in progress," Hoke said. "Quinton Washington is getting better every time he plays. Ondre Pipkins is getting better every time he plays. Keith Heitzman ... Mario Ojemudia ... Frank Clark, having him back.
"We're a work in progress."
Meinke also gives Toussaint a D+, which come on man that guy could have been Barry Sanders and gotten 15 yards on those attempts. BOO THIS MAN. Also, this may be a typo or it may be that DENNIS NORFLEET IS TOO FAST FOR VERBS
Denard Robinson still is Denard Robinson. And so are the Wolverines.
On days like this, that'll be enough. Just barely enough, maybe, but Robinson, with a little help from his friends, did manage to beat Air Force, 31-25, before a crowd of 112,522 in the home opener at Michigan Stadium.
A week after getting thumped by top-ranked Alabama (then No. 2), the Wolverines needed a late fourth-quarter stop Saturday to avert an even bigger disaster. And they needed every bit of Robinson's dual-threat ability, as the senior quarterback actually managed to account for 101 percent of Michigan's offense.
With 208 passing yards, Robinson is now just 12 yards behind ex-Michigan great Tom Brady for sixth on the school's all-time passing yardage list. Brady had 5,351 career passing yards as a Wolverine.
He had his fourth game with at least 200 yards rushing and trails only Mike Hart's school record by one. His 426 yards of total offense ranked fifth in school history, trailing four of his own performances.
The two Devins: Added to the postgame press conference hall of shame was the fiasco around the media trying to figure out how to address individual questions to Devin Gardner or Devin Funchess, as the Two Devins were trotted out to meet the press at the same time. The Wolverine’s Michael Spath asked the first question and intentionally addressed the question to “Devin” as a joke, but that didn’t help matters. More than a few times the players had to ask for clarification as to whom the question was addressed and it got silly. “The old one,” was offered up at one point to clear up the confusion, making Gardner, who was trying to be a bit stoic, crack up. Props to WTKA’s Steve Clarke who directed the final question to “Number nineteen”. I was going to direct mine to “number square root of 144”.
No one asked why they love bucket hats. Get with the program, media. Get with the program, Heiko.
Air Force looked exactly like I would want to see a group of my nation's future military leaders look like as a football team, disciplined, focused, moving quickly, attacking the enemy's weaknesses, and fighting to the last man. They gave Michigan all they could handle and earned the respect and admiration of hopefully every Michigan fan. I had joked earlier in the week that "It's hard playing against Air Force because you can't boo freedom*", but I stand by it. Air Force, along with Army and Navy, are America's teams. Every one of those players made the choice to not only become an officer by going the Academy route. Every one of them has taken on the additional responsibility of being a football player at the Division I level, above and beyond what is asked of them. It was the same reason that I found it so hard to be angry when Air Force beat Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA Hockey Tournament in 2009. The cadets did an outstanding job and I am proud of their service to our country.
I agree with all of that save the "hard to get angry after the 2009 Air Force hockey game."
Michigan's other tight end in the class of 2012 is as much of an outlier as their first—quasi-OL AJ Williams—but in the opposite direction. Farmington Hills Harrison's Devin Funchess is essentially a large wide receiver right now, a 6'5", 230 pounder who needs to fill out before he'll be able to block anybody but promises to outmatch any linebacker who is unfortunate enough to be put in one-on-one coverage with him.
To give you an idea of the kind of player we're talking about here:
Touch The Bannercompares him to Ben Troupe, the former Florida TE who received his way to All-American status as a "wide receiver with a tight end frame."
TTB then follows that up with a "Carson Butler but sane" comparison, which is kind of like comparing someone to "Vincent Smith but tall."
He's a flex TE, a standup outside guy who can jump-ball a corner or outrun a linebacker or flip sides of the line and gamely fend off a linebacker maybe (but probably not yet).
The trick with these guys is having them get up to a weight where they can block a linebacker while still being faster than that guy, and that's hard to predict. Funchess has a shot at it, though. Multiple scouting reports project that he will easily hit the 240-250 pound range that most of the splashy NFL tight ends mentioned above end up at. Josh Helmholdt:
…has a frame that will easily allow him to play at 240 pounds - or heavier - in college without losing any of his speed or athleticism. He has an impressive presence running down the middle of the field and is a big, inviting target for his quarterback. A long and rangy athlete, Funchess is very fluid in his movements and has great ball skills.
"I think Devin Funchess is going to be a star. When they put weight on him, he is a long 6-5 guy, but he's just a boy. They'll put 40 pounds of muscle on him. He has great hands, runs great. He had a great attitude. He's going to be a great player - not just a good player, a great player."
"He looks like a wide out. He runs great. For a tight end, he has tremendous speed," Specht said. "The thing that really impressed me about Devin is how much bigger he's going to get. I said something to him when we were in Austin. I said, 'In a few years, when you get that weight on you, you're going to be special.' "
…and then mentioned that Funchess weighed all of 210—eight pounds less than WR Amara Darboh—at the game. He's listed at 229 on Michigan's roster, which seems like one of the more dubious weights available this time around.
…a kid who will contribute best as a pass catcher. He has very good hands and consistently uses those long arms to extend and pluck the ball out of the air. He displays very good body control and concentration to be able to adjust to the ball and make the catch in traffic. His height makes him a nice sized target, but he will also go up and high-point the ball which can make him a tough match-up for smaller defenders and potentially a nice target in the red-zone. He is not a kid that displays elite top end speed to run away from defenders and is a kid who seems to need to build speed, but he does have long strides and can cover some ground when runs and can help stretch the middle of the field.
He's an athlete who can get up. I mean…
…if NFL tight ends are now 6'5" Brent Petways, check. When Rivals caught him at the Midwest Showcase, the power forward reference came out:
The football does not melt into Funchess' hands quite the way it does for [Ron] Thompson, but the Farmington Hills Harrison product showed an unmatched level of athleticism. His background in basketball is apparent, especially when he is battling defenders for jump balls. Funchess goes up for a pass like a power forward pulling down a rebound, and at 6-4 with an impressive vertical, there are few defensive backs who will challenge him.
A couple of Funchess's catches from the International Bowl were balls that would have been filed "Tacopants" if thrown to a Martavious Odoms or even a Roy Roundtree. Check out 1:20 below for a McGuffie attempt that gets major air, and 2:00 for back-to-back catches that demonstrate how big of a target the kids is:
Funchess displayed great hands and concentration, making his first reception on a tipped pass… 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.
At worst he'll be a hell of a security blanket. He could be a guy announcers call a "weapon."
Funchess might be as different from AJ Williams as it is possible for one tight end to be from another, but together they further reinforce two themes, one a flipping obvious Brady Hoke goal, the other an admittedly speculative but exciting guess at how Al Borges sees his offense in three or four years.
The flipping obvious bit: Michigan is going to be big. They're going to be big on the line, they're going to be big at tight end and have a number of tight ends, they're going to have big wide receivers. While Funchess is not big for a tight end, as a second tight end or a spread TE he makes Michigan's formations big.
The admittedly speculative bit is something first broached in the Williams piece: having guys like Funchess and Williams and Jake Butt and Khalid Hill plus fullbacks and spread backs like Justice Hayes and Dennis Norfleet allows you to whipsaw defenses back and forth between radically different formations, to poke at defensive weaknesses, to give your offense the sort of unpredictable variety that's made Boise State and Stanford so difficult to defend in recent years. Funchess makes you versatile($)…
… a kid that lines up at tight end, he lines up in the slot, he lines up at wide receiver… He does a lot of motion. He does a lot of things offensively, but also plays defense - kind of a defensive end/outside linebacker. He's very versatile, does a lot of things and is very athletic. He's got great size. He's a nice young man to have on your football team."
"Michigan told me today that they were talking just last night about different formations they could put me in," Funchess said. "When I came up there today, they were telling me how they could spread me out and use me as a stand-up receiver."
Increasingly, the meaning of "pro-style" offense is "whatever works against you (except running the quarterback)." See Tom Brady's shotgun-mad Patriots offense morphing into Tom Brady's dual-TE Patriots offense, or Drew Brees hitting Darren Sproles in space, or the Detroit Lions saying "huh, Megatron." Funchess is a key part of that kind of approach.
I involuntarily wince when I hear Michigan coaches talk about a pro-style offense because the last time that was in place around here the offensive coordinator literally ran the same #$*@ing play at the beginning of every game, but watching old SDSU tapes reassures.
Etc.:Thirty Devins agree: "we love bucket hats." Fun with chess! Someone once called him "The Funchise." I'm not sure if that's awful or something we should steal so hard. Tremendousinterview. Drew Henson($) says "wow, first impression, looks like the real deal" and "will be an instant mismatch on LBs," whether underneath or vertically.
Why a less existentially depressed Jake Stoneburner or Kevin Koger? Why tight ends went to Ohio State under Jim Tressel was unclear. Well, not that unclear: they went to win, and to block. And do nothing at all else. Stoneburner is the most recent example of a lanky, leaping tight end in the league, even if he is an amazingly underused weapon half of his 14 catches last year—more impressive when you consider that tied him for #1 amongst OSU receivers last year—went for touchdowns.
As for Koger, Funchess comes in with about the same hype and athleticism—Koger speared a couple of incredible catches in his time. Funchess will hopefully be less prone to dropping the easy ones.
The NFL guys listed above are also pretty good comparables but Michigan has not had a guy with his combination of receiving skills and athleticism in a long time. Maybe Jerame Tuman, maybe Bennie Jopppru but neither of those guys seemed to have the leaping; Koger didn't have the catching skills; Massaquoi didn't have the athleticism. Funchess could turn into any of those, really, but I don't think Michigan will be as crappy at throwing productive bulk onto big athletes these days as they were in the mid-aughts.
Guru Reliability: High. They all basically say the same thing.
Variance: Moderate. Going from 210-229 to a rippling 240-250 is always a process that leaves some exciting high school athletes plodding shells of their former selves. Other than that, seems good to go.
Ceiling: High. NFL potential is clear.
General Excitement Level: High. Poised to be Michigan's most productive TE since the waggle days, not only because of the shift in offense but because of his flexibility. He can play in big sets, spread sets, regular sets, etc. A ton of playing time beckons from day one.
Projection: The idea of a TE redshirt is fanciful, especially with Michigan hurting for receiving depth. He'll play. At first that will probably be in the redzone, where big sets are common and his length and leaping ability will make him an attractive target in crowded goal-line endzones. Will also feature as a Koger-esque H-back between the 20s.
Likely to be a four-year starter, or starter-ish type player in the vein of Courtney Avery, who may not "start" but plays just as much as anyone else on the defense not named Kovacs. I wouldn't put it past him to challenge Jim Mandich's all time TE receiving yardage (1489) given the situation he finds himself in.
(MSU H2H wins: Maybe Aaron Burbridge, though M seem to have passed because of grades. M: Ross, RJS, Braden, Funchess, Godin, Ojemudia. Technically Norfleet is also a dual offeree but that's stretching it.
"Touted" == got four stars on at least two of four sites.)
This goes here.
User "grsbmd" for the win.
AJ Williams interviewed. Nice hat.
I'll play too. Top five IMPACTFUL IMPACTORS have been put out by everyone and their uncle, so here's my list in two groups.
INSTANTLY IMPACTFUL IMPACTORS
Sam Webb put out an instantly impactful list with Bolden, Kalis, Pipkins, Williams, and Wormley. I think Kalis will have to wait a year before starting, and Michigan's going to give their WR recruits a shot to impress them. That article has a lot of tantalizing quotes, by the way. BAM:
"I thought [Bolden] was the best linebacker in the state of Ohio for two years now," said Scout.com Ohio analyst Dave Berk. "He has a high football IQ. A lot of times we say that about guys that don't have athletic ability, but Joe has the athletic ability to go with it. He has got great physical size and he can go sideline to sideline. He can be an outside backer or he can be a middle backer. He is a playmaker. … I think Ohio State and Notre Dame whiffed on that one."
Allen Trieu and Tim(!) Sullivan provided lists focused on the best players once the class is done. Both pick Bolden, Kalis, and Pipkins. Trieu then goes with Ben Braden(!) and James Ross; Tim goes with Chesson and Wormley. The Funchess will dominate all. It's the bucket hat.
Best established meme. Thirty Devins agree:
WE LOVE BUCKET HATS. (L to R: Terry Richardson, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Devin Funchess, James Ross. Via USA Football.)
"Coach Hoke has already let me know, depending on what kind of shape I come into camp in the summer, when I start getting into the groove of things and put the pads on, he's going to let me decide whether I feel more comfortable at the right tackle or right guard spot. It all depends in how I come in and how I feel."
Given Michigan's depth chart at tackle—there is no depth chart at tackle—it may make sense to give Kalis every opportunity to win the right tackle job from Schofield. If he does, Schofield can stay at guard. If he doesn't he's as prepared as possible to sub in in the event one of the starters is sidelined. Even if his long term future is at guard as the most college-ready lineman in the class Michigan has a crying need for him at tackle in 2012, whether it's as a backup or a starter.
Norfleet geared up. Via the social medias:
Happy the guy managed to get an offer he clearly wanted, even if he had to wait for it. I'm betting he'll make that pay off for both himself and M. Hopefully Smith transfers his blitz pickup mojo to him this year.
"I don't remember seeing many better high school offensive linemen than Kalis," DiNardo said on the Big Ten Football Report. "Alan Faneca, who played for me at LSU, an All-Pro for a long-time, was a great high school, great college, and great pro player. (Kalis) reminds me of Faneca."
Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Ohio State and several other schools have offered four-year scholarships to prospects in this year's class instead of the one-year, renewable scholarships that had been the norm throughout college sports.
I wonder what enforcement mechanisms exist for that; clearly there have to be some loopholes in case a player does not keep up academically or gets in trouble. Either way, it's more pressure on schools to not cut folks willy-nilly.
I think Purdue may be the lone holdout in the league, but haven't seen confirmation of that.