Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #2 Devin Funchess

Devin Funchess
Name: Devin Funchess
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 230 lbs.
High school: Farmington Hills (MI) Harrison
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #87
Last year: He caught 49 passes for 748 yards (15.3 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns, plus he had 6 carries for 34 yards.

Funchess entered the 2013 season as a starting tight end with significant promise. Unable to block with any consistency whatsoever, the coaches decided to split him out wide midway through the season. He ended the season as a budding star wideout, an All-Big Ten selection (albeit still as a tight end), and someone who looked capable of potentially wearing the #1 jersey at Michigan.  Opposite record-setter Jeremy Gallon, they were opposites in many ways. Gallon was 5'8", while Funchess is 6'5". Gallon was tough and hard-nosed, whereas Funchess is a finesse player despite his size. Upperclassman Gallon was as consistent as receivers come, but Funchess would turn some easy catches into drops. What they both had in common was a knack for the big play and an ability to stretch the defense. Funchess had huge days against Minnesota (7 catches, 151 yards, 1 touchdown) and Penn State (4 catches, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns), not to mention some mind-blowing disrespect for gravity as he hurdled diving tacklers against Indiana and Ohio State. It's not a total stretch to throw out a comparison to Calvin Johnson due to their similar dimensions (Johnson is 6'5", 236 lbs.) and reported speeds (Johnson ran a 4.35 prior to his draft, while Funchess is rumored to have run a 4.33 hand-timed forty this summer). That's a lofty comparison, but it's inevitable.

Funchess will be a full-time wide receiver in 2014, which means he'll be coached by Jeff Hecklinski, who has worked wonders with the likes of Gallon and Junior Hemingway. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier's quarterbacks have averaged 32 touchdown passes a year over the past three seasons, and a large portion of those touchdowns will likely be tossed from quarterback Devin Gardner to Funchess. Funchess is a matchup nightmare with his size and speed, and he's agile enough to be an end around or bubble screen threat. He has been prone to concentration lapses at times, so Michigan fans should probably expect an occasional frustrating drop. Nussmeier likes to run the ball, and the play action passing game will probably be a large part of the arsenal. Funchess won't put up video game numbers because of the balance required, but he will probably find himself around 1,000 yards by the end of the season and nearing double-digit touchdowns. His backup is redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh, someone with lots of practice hype but nothing to show for it on the field. There would still be potential at receiver if Funchess were to go down for any stretch of time, but that would be a huge blow to the Wolverines' offense.

Prediction: Starting split end; 60 catches, 950 yards, 10 touchdowns

16 comments:

  1. Though I think a guy like Magnuson is more important than Funchess, Funch at #2 makes sense as well. Looks like we'll see Devin Gardner tomorrow, a day before the Appy state game. I wonder what his predictions for Gardner are. I am thinking 3300 passing, 25 TDs, with 500 yards rushing and 5 more TDs.

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    1. 3200 yards passing, 24 passing TDs, 400 yards rushing, 8 rushing TDs.

      I too think Glasgow and Magnuson should be more important than Funchess. Behind Funchess there are, albeit unproven, a plethora of talented capable bodies.

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  2. Let's be honest...at the end of the day it really comes down to is Nussmeier the guy who can turn around that offense and make it more consistent. I really thought from the scrimmage a couple weeks ago that Devin didn't look significantly better in his decision making. Other than he has a few more years of "experience" on Shane and an obvious athletic "advantage", if Devin gets hurt I think Shane can run this offense with the help of Nussmeier. Devin has a problem feeling pressure way before it actually exists and his athletic advantage is only an advantage when it doesn't get him in trouble. The stat I am most looking forward too tomorrow is the number of projected interceptions.

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    1. Consistency is good, and I mostly agree with you. But Borges does deserve credit for unleashing a VERY good looking offense against OSU, Minnesota, and Notre Dame. Nuss may have to make some sacrifices to achieve consistency - hopefully those don't cost us a game we could have otherwise won.

      Why are there quotes around experience and advantage? Devin has those things.

      From the bowl game and scrimmages he looks like Morris has a way to go. With a bad OL you need an experienced QB and Gardner's ability to dodge sacks was instrumental to the offenses' success last year (when it was playing well.) When DG played more conservatively (great decision making though!) the offense did nothing (e.g., Nebraska, MSU).

      Gardner had 8 INTs the first 4 games (non-conference) - we won all 4 of those. He adapted, played more patiently, and for the next 8 games he had 3. His last 5 games he had just 1 - our record was 1-4 in those games. So, the idea that INTs are the end-all-be-all of QB performance is just not accurate.

      The key, IMO, is getting that passing percentage up above 60% week in and week out. We can't have an offense that relies on Devin's legs plus the occasional big play this year because it's not sustainable. The passing game needs to open up the run game and Devin's running has to be deployed a little more strategically, as it was when he played on his broken foot against OSU.

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    2. I completely agree that Borges had the offense rocking those three games. Then he put up a large turd the following week (save the OSU game). I would take a consistent good offense over a 3 game miracle offense this season. I don't think Nuss needs to make any sacrifices for consistency. I think he can still have some explosiveness from the offense like Borges did, but he needs Gardner to make better decisions for the consistency to happen. I am just not sold that Gardner can get past feeling pressure when it isn't there.

      As for the quotes around "experience" and "advantage", one could argue that he didn't start at QB until the end of his 3rd year. His experience with Hoke is greater and his game experience is more, but with a new coordinator and system is there really that much difference. Devin has been student of the game longer so he will have more experience as a 5th year senior, but not the same as if he started for 3 or 4 years. As for advantage, his athletic ability is only an advantage when he makes good decisions. When he turns his back to the line of scrimmage or throws and INT as he is scrambling to the sideline instead of tossing it out of bounds, those would not be an advantage.

      By no means do I think that Shane is capable of surpassing Gardner right now. He has the physical tools to be a good QB, but his ability to read the defense and manage a game are behind where Devin is. Shane also doesn't have that athletic ability to stretch a play right now and we may need that this year. One thing I did note form the scrimmage was Shane telegraphing passes. Now part of it was the limited time he had to throw, but he did it almost every pass. He needs to learn not to do that. I do believe that if needed Nuss could accommodate his lack of defense reading by his play selection from the sideline.

      Just my 2 cents.

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    3. Mostly agree with your thoughts about Nuss, Nick. I'm optimistic and hopefully, but I do think that there is a tradeoff between consistency (doing one thing well) and variety (keeping em guessing). For Borges he went with variety and you saw our success swing wildly. Hopefully Nuss finds a better balance and hopefully the schedule allows for some vanilla scheming early on (saving surprises for PSU, MSU, OSU) and focusing on developing an offensive identity and base plays that are successful, regardless of opponent.

      Nuss needs to prove he is as good as we hope. Right now, we're going on faith. The reality is he could be worse than Borges (not that I think he will be.)

      As for experience, you're arguing that Gardner is less experienced because the new scheme negates his previous starting experience or that the starting experience is insufficient. I'm not sure both make sense together. Regardless, there is no way that the gap isn't large. 3 years difference is a lot and Gardner has started a lot more games than Morris.

      As for athleticism - good things are only good when good things happen - OK. But Shane's strong arm is only useful when he's throwing to open receivers. This kind of statement isn't meaningful. The bottom line is that Gardner's athleticism gets this team a ton of yards on the ground, keeps defenses honest, and saves a bunch of sacks. It's not a panacea, all QBs have to make good decisions, but it's a huge asset. Even if Morris was as good of a passer as Gardner (he isn't), even if his decision-making was superior (it isn't), he would still have to overcome the advantage Gardner has in his legs.

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    4. I see how you could feel there is a trade off between consistency and variety. I would prefer we are good at one thing and then build upon it for the variety rather than just tossing a base gameplan out and reworking the whole thing every week. I hope Nuss really is as advertised. Like you said, we just don't know yet.

      As for Gardner's experience...I don't think that bringing in Nuss negates his experience, but being the system changed it definitely slows the progress that both Gardner and Morris achieved from the last system and to some degree closes the gap. Overall Gardner has more experience at the college level period

      I would argue that Morris isn't as good of a passer as Gardner. Morris looked vastly improved from the start of last season to the bowl game to this years spring game to the scrimmage a few weeks ago. His short game looks solid and his arm strength and accuracy seem to have improved. I know game action is the only true indicator. Same can be said of his decision making ability. No way Morris can ever make up the gap in Gardner's running ability. This just isn't gonna happen. That is why the coaches are willing to take that risk, hopefully it pays off.

      Personally I am worried that Gardner has reached his potential and his up and down play will cost us some close games this year. I hope I am wrong, but I didn't see that much improvement a few weeks ago. I don't think Nuss will be able to hide his weaknesses as much as he could Morris's. Just my 2 cents again.

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  3. Very good write-up and I agree that Funchess is a top 2 or 3 player on this team.

    I really cringe at the Calvin Johnson comp (why not Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston?) but you know...I've underestimated Funchess before, questioning if he had WR speed. I was wrong - he does.

    To me, the big transition for Funchess will be how he contends with facing #1 CB and constant help from safeties. No more is Gallon the focal point of defenses. Funchess is option 1A and 1B now, but luckily it looks like options 2-5 look pretty solid. I'm hoping he's maturing and ready to play with a target on his chest because it's going to be there. If he can play consistently, work hard through the frustrating times (PI after PI, double and triple teams, poor pass pro, etc.), he could indeed be one of the all-time greats. He might be a year away from that. I think the NFL talk is premature, just because he's probably not going to put up crazy numbers without an effective OL and run game.

    It's also interesting to see how he will be used. Probably in all ways, from all spots in the field. Because funchess can go deep or short, line up outside or in the slot, catch screens or bombs, our offense will be tougher to gameplan for. That said, the best use of Funchess IMO will be on intermediate stuff where he can draw the attention of safeties, open stuff up short stuff for Norfleet or Butt and over the top to Canteen or Chesson. I'm hoping we're less reliant on the low probability long passes this year than under Borges. I'd like to see a higher completion percentage and more 5 yard/take-what-they-give-you plays that protect our OL.

    Regardless of the play-calling, you have to be excited about Gardner-Funchess. May not be as prolific as Gardner-Gallon, but hopefully harder to shut down. Funchess' size makes the he's open (even when he's covered) possibilities against tough defenses intriguing. If our D is as strong as we hope, two great offensive players can carry you to some wins by themselves.

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    1. Yeah, Vincent Jackson's the better comparison; Funchess is more explosive than Colston, I think.

      I only think the NFL talk is legit because the NFL has this habit of drafting huge dudes who run really fast even if they didn't put up insane numbers in college.

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  4. Good write up. Although I think Funchess will clear 1000 yards with ease. If the spring scrimmage was any indication, he'll take over the security-blanket role from Gallon. Gardner throws a fair amount of jump balls too, especially when he panics. And if you are going to do that, throwing them to your 6'5" monster WR probably makes the most sense. Also think Funchess will get deep on a lot of CB's this year. He'll be matched up with the bigger corners and I don't see those guys from most opposing defenses running with him. Hope his discipline/concentration is a little better this year after focusing fully on WR. Sky is the limit for Funchess.

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  5. Thundaciousness:
    " . . . disrespect for gravity . . ." Nice.

    Nice write up in general, and thanks for this site; fun, and helps me avoid looking for a job, adding years to my largely inconsequential life, you know, outside of the sewer and landfill deposits.

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  6. Funchess needs to hold onto the ball.. period. How many drops did he have last season??

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    1. According to Brian @ MGoBlog, not as many as you'd think.
      http://mgoblog.com/content/preview-2014-wide-receivers

      By Brian's accounting, Funchess dropped 5/41 dead-on passes (and 3 of those in one game); 3/9 tough, but catchable; and 4/7 would-be circus catches. The Iowa game was ugly, but the rest of the season looks pretty good.

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    2. That's 12 drops! People were all over Megatron for 5 drops last year, so based on that Funchess needs to cut his drops at least in half.

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    3. No, the correct conclusion is that "people" are stupid. Good job ignoring distinctions.

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  7. @ Lank.....thanks for some great football conversation. I always enjoy the opinions.

    @ Thunder... Thank you for the place to have those conversations. Your write ups are well done and thought out. Even if we don't always agree, they are still good.

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