Preview 2014: Wide Receivers Comment Count

Brian August 26th, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Previously: Podcast 6.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running back.

[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.]

Depth Chart

WR Yr. WR Yr. SLOT Yr. Flex Yr.
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.

OUTSIDE RECEIVER

Rating: 5.

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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:

Year 0 1 2 3
2012 8 2/5 2/4 11/11
2013, Pre-Iowa 16 3/6 5/7 33/35
2013, Iowa 4     1/4
2013, OSU 3 0/1 1/2 2/2

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.]

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Go time [Maize and Blue Nation]

Beyond Funchess there is a panoply of options. Despite the depth chart, the bet here is that the foremost will be AMARA DARBOH [recruiting profile], who ran exclusively with the ones during the open fall scrimmage and was a frequent, effective target. Darboh looks and feels like Jason Avant 2.0, a sure-handed possession option with some leapy endzone upside. Here is the obligatory picture Devin Gardner tweeted when Darboh made the "single greatest catch [he'd] ever seen in person":

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Darboh was set to start opposite Gallon last year when a foot injury hewed him down the week before the season; I remember angrily deleting his section in last year's edition of this post.

Because of that injury we don't have much on-field stuff to go with—he was held out of spring. But whenever anyone drops by a practice they come away rumbling that the kid can play. Last year when the Big Ten Network dropped by Michigan practice, one of the primary takeaways was how impressed everyone was with the kid. Borges "marveled at how strong his hands are"; Dienhart said he was "primed for a breakout"; Revsine said he'd "taken a particularly large leap."

And this fall we found out that Darboh is a mutant!

“He has an extra muscle on his forearm that makes sure he secures the catch,” Funchess said.

Pardon?

“Yeah, an extra muscle.”

He and Funchess can start a superhero group called the M Men that will drive neutral fans crazy by doing things that everybody else does but seem annoying to neutrals for no reason.

(Doctors, your pedantic explanations for why this is not in fact evidence that Darboh is a mutant are unwelcome here. You had your chance:

A request for an official explanation from the U-M medical staff went unanswered for this story.

I say GOOD DAY SIR.)

Darboh also has some downfield upside at 6'2" with good speed. It would be silly to make him the top downfield target on a team with Funchess, but there will be matchups he can exploit against #2 corners who are slow or wee. Darboh should establish himself a quality #2 WR this year with 40 to 50 catches at a middling yards per catch.

BACKUPS

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[Fuller]

Michigan has numbers and even some experience behind their starters. Redshirt sophomore JEHU CHESSON [recruiting profile] had a promising debut season, catching 15 passes as a third option and laying out a half-dozen defensive backs along the way. Most famously there was the Notre Dame bowling ball, of course.

Jehu Chesson gif[1]

That wasn't all. Over the course of the year Chesson distinguished himself as the mountain goat heir apparent. Pahokee's dead; long live Pahokee.

When it came to catching the ball, Chesson was inconsistent. His hands we fine, but when he was targeted deeper he had some Stonum-like issues:

Unfortunately, Chesson showed his inexperience on his two deep targets; he should have been able to shield the corner off the ball on the first one and misjudged the second, possibly because he'd just been chewed out about shielding the ball earlier in the game.

He also occasionally ran the wrong route. This from the Ohio State game just seemed… odd. This should probably be an out; instead it's a look-back-at-the-QB-uncertainly:

None of that is particularly surprising. Chesson came to football late and had a reputation as a raw guy who needed a lot of molding. As late as this summer, Jeff Hecklinski was saying he was a promising kid with a ways to go:

"He has still got a lot of learning to do but the one thing that he brings is strength and speed.  The deep game with Jehu is something that, at times, has been impressive throughout the spring and that is something that we’ve got to continue to develop with him along with all the underneath routes."

So, I think from the standpoint of being able to get down the field, I think a strong physical fast off the line guy that has very solid hands and can get open in small spaces, but yet with length and long arms.”

The kid is super-smart, and will get there. His recruiting profile notes that he just drops references to the placebo effect in responses to questions and sounded like he was 1000 years old as a high school sophomore.

Chesson is at the top of the depth chart currently, which seems like a good sign to me given that Darboh played opposite Funchess and looked good doing it just a couple weeks ago. They bring different things—Darboh is more likely to blow through a corner en route to a slant; Chesson is more likely to get separation over the top. Jeremy Gallon last year:

"Jehu, in one-on-ones, he’s just flying by people with his speed," Gallon said. "Doing all these amazing things. You can tell he’s learning."

It's hard to project what his stats will look like given the uncertainty as to who's getting snaps. But let's try it anyway: somewhere between 30 and 40 catches and 500 yards.

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Beat Countess over the top. [Upchurch]

And then there's FREDDY CANTEEN, freshman sensation. I don't have much more to offer than what's in his recently-completed recruiting profile. What's there is tantalizing. Canteen is a route artisan straight out of the Manningham school:

There may not have been a better route-runner on the field than Canteen. If he gets a clean release from the line, the defensive backs were rarely able to catch up and make a play on the ball. One of the things that stood out about Canteen was his explosiveness out of his breaks. One multiple occasions, Canteen fooled the defensive back with a hitch-and-go route and ending up with a wide open touchdown catch.

That was at a camp against high school kids; when he replicated that same hitch-and-go against Blake Countess in the spring game it was only incomplete because it was underthrown. That plus an excellent 44-yard corner route completion solidified a flood of hype ("Teammates and coaches raved about Canteen's impact almost from the first day of spring camp") that had been building ever since he was an obscure kid who played three games his junior year. Here's Wilton Speight:

"Freddy is a freak and  is going to shock everyone. We called him Freddy ‘Footwork’ because his feet are so fast. He loves to work, we worked out a lot after spring practice and he’s just an unreal talent.”

Even if Canteen is going to be Manningham 2.0 down to the uniform fibers, he's probably going to start slower than people want him to. Manningham was only a bit player as a freshman, catching 27 passes for 433 yards. Canteen enrolled early and probably doesn't have the issues that saw Manningham suspended a couple times during his career, but Michigan has a lot more depth at wideout than they did when Manningham was breaking in. (With Breaston quickly proving himself a slot-only option the third outside WR in 2005 was Carl Tabb.)

Canteen ran into some struggles late in fall camp, dropping a few balls at the open scrimmages, and got a little of a grumble from Hoke when asked about it:

We heard a lot about Freddy [Canteen] in the spring and saw a lot of him in the spring scrimmage. Is he the slot guy or is Dennis [Norfleet] the slot guy?

“Dennis right now. I think one thing, Freddy, he started a little slower but he's finished very well.’

He should work his way into the lineup slowly as he tries to match that Manningham 2005 season; he should also get work in the slot.

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Ways and Dukes may get some snaps. [ESPN/Fuller]

Barring injury, no one past Canteen figures to get much, if any, playing timets. There are a number of guys waiting in the wings even so. Freshmen JARON DUKES [recruiting profile], MOE WAYS [recruiting profile], and DRAKE HARRIS [recruiting profile] are highly similar: 6'4" leaping catch-radius demons who may or may not have the speed to take the top off the defense.

Harris is by far the most touted of the bunch, even after a hamstring issue that ended his senior year of high school before it began. That hamstring cropped back up in spring and the other one got dinged at the beginning of fall camp, so the sensible thing seems to be a rest and recuperation redshirt. If healthy he has scads of upside, "let's compare this guy to Randy Moss" upside. That "if" gets bigger by the day. As of Saturday he was still running steps instead of participating in practice.

Ways and Dukes were both flung one four-star rating apiece by the recruiting sites and come with flaws: Dukes is not a blazer and Ways had hands issues as a junior. Dukes redshirted a year ago and should be ready to tip run plays. Ways was very impressive in the fall scrimmage, making several downfield catches in the Hemingway vein.

Hoke quickly threw some water on that:

“(Saturday's scrimmage) was one of the better days Mo’s had,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “He’s got some talent, obviously."

It's possible a redshirt is still in the offing. He was not included on any of the special teams units, FWIW.

SLOT: WE GOT ONE, LET'S USE HIM

Rating: 4.

michigan-msu-celebration-26-dennis-norfleet[3]

Here's this instant as a Michigan fan: I'm hoping to spend big chunks of this year still mad at Al Borges. 

This particular anger is generated because Borges did not utilize DENNIS NORFLEET as anything other than a circus freak predictable end-around guy. It was already old by UConn.

The Norfleet stuff…

…is unbelievably predictable. He was in for one play in this game where he was not provided the ball. His first jet sweep was a success largely because UConn was badly misaligned, and now that it's in the books teams will be prepared for that. I'm hoping that Borges assumed these last two games would be blowouts in which he wouldn't have to show anything he hasn't put on film already.

NOPE. Once opponents figured that out, Norfleet disappeared. The next time he got an touch was a nine-yard catch in the bowl.

The upcoming Five Questions bit will address the insanity of relying on tight ends who can't block any better than Norfleet; suffice it to say I am of the belief that going three wide and dumping the ball to Norfleet five times a game would have 1) averaged more yards than no yards and 2) opened up things on the interior.

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The obviousness of that first assertion is the big worry here: if the problem was Norfleet's ability and not Borges's sanity, then I'm going to be real sad and Michigan's not going to have access to a bunch of easy yards. I think it's the latter because Norfleet made his name as a recruit by tearing up 7-on-7 camp after 7-on-7 camp

There are a select few players who can make defenders in position totally whiff in one-hand touch, 7-on-7 football. There may be only one Dennis Norfleet who seems to make a play or two like that every game. On one particular play, Norfleet put a move on two defenders at one time, splitting the pair and taking the ball in for a touchdown. He is electric with the football in his hands.

…and last year Jeff Hecklinski was describing his hands as "great"

"He’s got great hands. He’s picking up the routes, learning how to run the routes and he’s obviously very talented and skilled. He’s faster than I thought he was, which is obviously good.”

…and we have some inside scoop that says nothing's changed now that he's a bit older:

Norfleet looked "f---ing great" and is the #1 slot. No, the insider is not me. I swear. Canteen is practicing both inside and out as they try to figure out their best configuration.

…and for pants sake I'd better be right that he can make some dudes miss because I've been going NORFLEEEEEET for two years now and that's a long time not to take a breath.

Given the state of the offensive line, Norfleet could have a major role. Ace has a post today about how a lot of zone teams use the threat of an end-around as a constraint, and Norfleet is a pretty obvious answer in that department. Meanwhile, there are worse ideas than seeing what he can do isolated against a cornerback after your open scrimmage saw the starting line get their tailbacks 33 yards on 20 carries.

But… we just don't know, man. They didn't use him last year, so maybe it's him. What a sad universe that would be.

BACKUPS

It's looking like Canteen will get a large number of the slot snaps Norfleet doesn't, as he's practicing both inside and out and has the routes and quickness to succeed at both spots.

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may explode if exposed to sunlight [Fuller]

Those that escape Canteen's clutches will fall to… uh… BO DEVER? Looks like it. Dever, a walk-on legacy named Bo, was impressive in a Dileo way during the fall scrimmage. While he's significantly bigger than the guy I never stopped calling a "sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome" as soon as I thought of it, Dever seems to bring a lot of that underneath shake-and-bake-and-catch-it-off-the-grass that Dileo did.

His routes were good, his hands were, good, and he's clearly a guy the backup quarterbacks have a lot of faith in. Sometimes too much faith, as when Wilton Speight tried him on a wheel route against Stribling it ended up with no separation and an interception.

He's the second-string slot on the two deep; put him in the third down slot role and I can see it working out. He may get a dozen catches. He may disappear.

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Jones (left) and Douglas (right, now wearing #29) are battling for a few snaps a game. [Fuller]

Sophomore DA'MARIO JONES [recruiting profile] is listed on the outside at the moment but given the shape of the roster he probably ends up in the slot sooner rather than later. The roster is long on catching-radius freaks, short on guys who can make people miss in space. While Jones is shaped more like Roy Roundtree than Norfleet he brings a reputation as a guy who can on occasion leave you in the dust.

Jones burned his redshirt last year getting hit by a punt on a special teams and doing almost nothing else, so we don't have anything to go on yet other than his already-sparse recruiting profile. Jones did not impress much in the open fall scrimmages, dropping a lot of balls and double-clutching several others besides. A year with the jugs machine beckons.

Behind Jones there isn't much. Redshirt freshman ROSS DOUGLAS [recruiting profile] just moved over from running back. Since that's his third position in a year—he came in as a corner—that doesn't exactly bode well. In his defense, Michigan's got just piles of both corners and tailbacks now.

Douglas was a well-regarded recruit (3 out of 4 sites gave him four stars) who decommitted from Penn State after the NCAA dropped a bomb on Happy Valley, so he's got some athletic chops. It'll probably take at least a year before he adapts to the position, at least on the college level. But Douglas was "always Avon's primary offensive weapon" as a high school tailback and he is now competing at a spot Michigan hasn't emphasized in recruiting, so he's got a shot.

Comments

Monocle Smile

August 26th, 2014 at 11:46 AM ^

Although Hoke did say in the presser that if they go with base 21 personnel, Funchess and Chesson would be on the field together; no Darboh.

That's as of 8/25, of course.

Space Coyote

August 26th, 2014 at 12:08 PM ^

But that's likely because Darboh is much more like Funchess in terms of skillset, and they don't want to limit Funchess to being the deep threat of the offense. Chesson allows Funchess to work the whole field better because Chesson is more of a natural deep threat, whereas Darboh is more an underneath guy.

If Michigan starts going to the quick pass game, expect more Darboh. It'll be situational. But if Michigan's offense is running how they want it to, Chesson will be a better fit opposite Funchess in terms of skill set (Chesson can outrun people on shallow drags if Funchess clears out, Chesson can threaten deep and occupy safeties opposite Funchess, and can make safeties respect him over the top to clear out a side for Funchess if Funchess is working underneath). Once you get to three WRs, you have more potential to threaten vertical, so you can replace Chesson theoretically (base 21 personnel doesn't see the FB threaten vertical a lot, even 12 personnel will have less ability simply because TE for WR, but there is still some threat in the seam where you can switch it up based on what you want to do).

maize-blue

August 26th, 2014 at 12:05 PM ^

Dang, I totally forgot about Ross Douglas.

I’m really hoping to see a good short game this season. I think a good short passing game will help take pressure off the offensive line. Also, I just want to see guys like Norfleet get the ball in a normal offensive situation instead of obvious jet sweeps.

That Norfleet gif is funny because it looks like the one Indiana guy, #16 I think, actually tries to trip Norfleet. It’s either that or a goofy change of direction. And it looks like Houma is staring down a guy he just flattened then proceeds to knock another guy flat.

Space Coyote

August 26th, 2014 at 12:21 PM ^

Was simply that there were so many bodies underneath. Teams were willing to press (disrupt timing on three and five step drops, making it more difficult), and they had confidence that their pressure could get home, so they played tight throughout. Without protection, Michigan failed to be a deep threat. You saw, for instance, in the MSU game, receivers breaking open just as DG was eating turf. That happened to a lesser degree against PSU (Michigan was able to get some passes deep on them), a lot against Nebraska, and even Iowa played a bit tighter and crept up their safeties.

That's the problem when you can't pick up in pass protection though. Teams can be aggressive on the outside without fear of getting beat over the top, which puts more people in the box, which hurts the run game, and it spirals. Now, it's a bit of a chicken and egg between the struggling run game and pass protection, but it boils down to struggling OL play hurts pretty much everything.

stephenrjking

August 26th, 2014 at 12:07 PM ^

Oh man do I hope our OL is serviceable this year, because I am a total mark for our receiving corps right now. Early in Hoke's tenure, I griped that they were recruiting the line well but that I was worried that they weren't getting guys in skill positions.

Now our skill positions look very good. Seriously, if we were expected to have an above-average line we'd be a preseason top ten team, right? If those guys up front can give Devin time without requiring two extra blockers, we could see some great stuff.

And, frankly, if protection is dodgy but the D is really good (and it might be) a big play or two from Funchess and/or Darboh could be the difference in a tight, low-scoring game.

maize-blue

August 26th, 2014 at 12:32 PM ^

There are literally no bad options at every receiving position. When Butt gets back from his injury that just adds another dynamic piece. I stated this earlier in another thread, but I feel that pass protection and keeping Gardner healthy will have more to do with the success of the offense this year than a great run game. I don't think we should expect the O line to make the jump to being good in both the run blocking and pass protection dept. If they can just be competent pass blockers.....watch out.

Sopwith

August 26th, 2014 at 12:08 PM ^

I felt our WR corps was this deep, athletic, and talented.  2007 maybe?  Just lacking a little experience at this point... I can't imagine this group in 2015 if some miracle caused Funchess to stay for his senior year. If only we can give DG that wee little bit of time to throw... we're going to do bad things to people through the air.  Bad. Things.

Ali G Bomaye

August 26th, 2014 at 12:11 PM ^

Right now it seems like you've roughly estimated the following production:

  • Funchess: 90-1400 (the rough average of all-B1G first team receivers last year)
  • Darboh: 45-550
  • Chesson: 35-500
  • Canteen: 25-400 (slightly lower than Manningham's freshman production)

The total of these numbers is 195 catches for 2850 yards, and that's just for the top four outside receivers.  Throw in the slot receivers and the RBs (a RB has been among the top five receivers on each Nussmeier offense of the last five years), and a few catches from other receivers and TEs, and we're probably talking at least 275 completions for 3800 yards.

Last year, the team completed 237 passes for 3221 yards, and that was a team with zero functional running game and the best statistical receiving season in school history.  If we have a semi-functional running game and bump those passing numbers up 15-20%, whoooooo boy look out.

Space Coyote

August 26th, 2014 at 12:17 PM ^

Borges loved to use his slot to attack the seam deep, and then he loved them in option plays. One of the biggest knocks on Norfleet is his vision and height. Both of those aren't great for the way Borges wanted to utilize the slot position, to the point that they moved Funchess there for large chunks of the year (Funchess also had never learned how to release off the LOS, so he had to by the Z or slot receiver).

Funchess is now at the X. Nussmeier doesn't utilize the slot as much in hots, and the slot is either going to be a take the top off again (Chesson, Canteen) or will be more of a underneath space player. Norfleet fits into the latter quite well. If zone can be cleared out for him and he can work a drag across the middle, a quick out, and a hitch, simple routes that require less reads but get you potentially in space, that's just a better fit. I still believe Norfleet is a role player, but that role is more utilized in this offense. Still think you'll see Funchess, Darboh, Chesson or Canteen a lot working from the slot, just depending on situations.

Think a lot of it will depend on if Michigan can run and protect to threaten deep. If they can't run, if they can't protect to let receivers threaten deep, I think tighter coverage doesn't help Norfleet see the field. He's shifty, but he doesn't have a great body for shielding defenders. He's a guy that needs space to be successful. It'll be interesting to see how they work him in there and work in the other guys, because there are lots of options and lots of compatible skill sets, but the only one that is really an all around player that we know about at this point is Funchess.

As far as Funchess and his hands, it wasn't just the drops that I think caused some draw back. He had to double catch the ball quite often. That becomes mroe pronounced when you're the number one guy and coverage on you is tighter. It limits some YAC as well. He certainly has the hands to catch anything, no denying that, but his focus on catching the ball the first time I think is a real thing, even if slightly overstated in terms of eventual drops.

kb

August 26th, 2014 at 12:35 PM ^

dump the ball to Norfleet on a few screen plays a game I'm going to chuck something heavy at the TV and believe that Michigan is where speed goes to die.

stephenrjking

August 26th, 2014 at 12:45 PM ^

Let me save your tv: Norfleet is nowhere near the fastest player on the team. He's got no top end at all. Don't mistake quick juke moves for speed, they are not remotely the same thing. Norfleet has moves, but he does not have speed.

gwkrlghl

August 26th, 2014 at 12:53 PM ^

Just pass block and I'm envisioning a 5th yr QB (who can also run) passing to Minitron, a good possession receiver, a good slot guy, oh and Jake Butt as well whenever he returns.

If (IFFFFF) DG has time, he should be carving it up. I should've drafted him in my fantasy league

Bodogblog

August 26th, 2014 at 1:06 PM ^

I think this is overly optimistic, given so much is unproven.  But this is yet another area of the team with potential for serious upside.  Lordy, it would be incredible if mid-season we had Funchess, Darboh, Canteen, Norfleet, Chesson, and Butt as established threats in the passing game.  Holy Balls. 

Wazoo

August 26th, 2014 at 1:26 PM ^

"You should never project anything at the extremes of possibility because probability is going to make you pay for that, son."

That's why I hate to see Woodson mentioned in the same sentence as Peppers.  

Wazoo

August 26th, 2014 at 1:26 PM ^

"You should never project anything at the extremes of possibility because probability is going to make you pay for that, son."

That's why I hate to see Woodson mentioned in the same sentence as Peppers.  

matty blue

August 26th, 2014 at 1:27 PM ^

...can't tell if it's because brian's writing is so lively on this one, or if it's because we're in pretty good shape at the position.  i'm sure that these things are not unrelated.

Wazoo

August 26th, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

"You should never project anything at the extremes of possibility because probability is going to make you pay for that, son."

Precisely why I cringe every time I see Woodson in the same sentence as Peppers.

bluepdx

August 26th, 2014 at 1:39 PM ^

>"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."

 

On the 2 pt conversion v. OSU last year, I was calling for the "jump pass" that Urban Meyer and Tebow used many times.

Funchess is perfect for that play and would be unstoppable against most defenders.

It may not have worked v OSU b/c it relies on a fake QB run and Gardner was injured so the fake may not have drawn anything. But it would have been a much better try at 2 pts than the play they ran (and ran and ran and ran over and over again to the point of predictability).

Bonus points for running that play to win a game against the coach who's most known for it.

Sam1863

August 26th, 2014 at 1:59 PM ^

While I agree with those who feel Norfleet has “more quicks than speed,” what drove me up the wall was how Borges couldn't find a way to use him, like the club he wouldn't take out of the bag because he didn't know what to do with it. The scenario Brian suggested - “going three wide and dumping the ball to Norfleet five times a game” - would have at least yielded some positive yardage. I'm not saying he would have automatically turned five yards into 50, but if he'd turned it into just an eight-yard gain, it would have been an improvement over last year's embarrassing running game. Anything that moved the ball and kept the offense from “third and half a mile” would have at least been worth trying.

urbanachiever

August 26th, 2014 at 2:41 PM ^

Some people have alluded to this above, but it really seems like the best option for the offense this year will be to go pass heavy, utilizing the plethora of talent at all receiver positions, and allow the offensive line to focus on pass pros/assignments. Obviously for App State and the other early season games that we should have no trouble with, you'd hope to see some movement on the ground. But later in the season the best bet for this offense is to focus on the area in which you truly have elite talent.

Blue in Time

August 26th, 2014 at 10:18 PM ^

Norfleet is clearly an untested variable. The evidence suggests that he's quick and elusive instead of fast, as everyone points out, but we have enough speed with our WRs and slots to allow ourselves the luxury of using Dennis the Menace for dependable 8-12 yard pickups on short routes, allowing the O some breathing room in second and longs, and third and shorts. I see him replacing Dileo in the grand scheme of things.

Michigan4Life

August 27th, 2014 at 12:36 AM ^

Beside Funchess, there are so many unproven players that I am not sure on the proclamation that WRs are set with talent and depth. They just lost one of the more productive WR in Gallon. That's a big shoe to fill in terms of production opposite Funchess.


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