TE Devin Funchess, listed at 6'5, 229, committed to Michigan in late April after sitting on his offer for a short period of time. Although he has a sister at UM, he can still be considered along the same line of 'tide-changing' indicators regarding in-state recruiting. The high school that the two came from, Farmington Hills Harrison, had developed a bit of a reputation for being Spartan friendly, as kids like Drew Stanton, Mark Dell, Agim Shabaj, and Aaron Burbridge all ended up in East Lansing from the school. Although Charles Stewart also hailed from the same school, most considered him the exception to that rule. Anyway, with Funchess dropping in late April and teammate Mario Ojemudia joining him shortly thereafter, 2 of 3 offered prospects from a Spartan heavy school ended up in Ann Arbor. There were, of course, rumors that Burbridge was trying to complete the trio but wasn't academically up to snuff. Mark Dantonio, when asked to comment.
The recruitment of Funchess and fellow tight end AJ Williams also brought to our attention the two different types of TEs that this coaching staff sought- hybrid 'U-back' types, such as Funchess and 2013 commit Khalid Hill, and more in-line blockers such as the aforementioned Williams. These U-back sorts need to have a great deal of versatility to them, as the staff plans to put them on the line, split them out wide, and bring them to the backfield. Think, perhaps, Martell Webb with better receiving ability. Although 230ish is a heavier weight than I had imagined he'd come in at, it's still too light to line him up on the line. As a result, if Funchess sees the field this year, it will be primarily as a receiving threat. From TTB
Route running and splitting out: "I've run pretty much all of the routes that receivers usually run. . . . On the weekends I go to a camp to work on my footwork and routes. It's run by Reggie Wynns and Chris Archie. . . .The coaches told me that in the red zone, I'll get split out more for more jump ball type plays or play as a U-back. . . . It's a tight end off the line that's lined up in the backfield or spread out in the slot. I'd be behind the line of scrimmage and on pass plays, I'd start on the left and run over to the right and be the first option in the flat. And then when I move over to the slot, I can get motion when I line up there, and I'd usually be guarded by a slower linebacker. . . ."
Playing next season: "The coaches want me to play right away because they lack pass-catching tight ends, so they told me to come in and get ready to play. . . . It's probably about an 85% chance I step on the field this year, first game."
So will he be able to contribute this fall? We'll see. I'm a bit skeptical that he can add much of anything that would justify NOT redshirting him. Although he talks about being a redzone threat, which he most certainly is, I think we can find a useful weapon inside the 20 between Jeremy Jackson, Brandon Moore, Devin Gardner, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Jerald Robinson. And while he's right about the offense lacking a play-making TE, most people assume that Borges will just phase out the TE position as much as possible for this season. If Funchess really impresses during camp, perhaps Borges will get creative and find ways to incorporate him in the fall. All in all, however, I'm hoping for a redshirt. That way, he can get up to the 240 range and fight for a starting-type role in 2013, with four years of eligibility ahead of him. Since the position is incredibly murky, he may end up only fighting off kids that are younger than him (Hill and Butt from the '13 class) for a starting spot.
My hope for a redshirt shouldn't be a dampener on your long-term expectations for Funchess, though. In my original hello post for Funchess on The Wolverine Blog, my praise could best have been described as effusive. Although he isn't the strongest of in-line blockers, the coaches seem to be schematically prepared for that. Instead, his pass-catching ability will be showcased whenever he hits the field, as well as his athleticism. He won't be asked to line up and plow a DE off the line, at least not until he works on that. His highlights, however, do show a big-bodied threat that is both comfortable and extremely adept at hitting the seam and bringing down the ball. He has a tremendous vertical leap and shows excellent concentration while bringing the ball in. I'm also a huge fan of his explosion and route running ability. While I understand all of my observations have to be taken with a grain of salt, since he was playing closer to 200 than 230 on his highlight tapes, I'm quite excited by Funchess' future prospects. If he can improve his blocking, an NFL future is not out of the question.
So there you have it, folks. Funchess is important both because he represents a change in the dynamic of in-state recruiting as well as the glimpse he offers into the future of the offense. While I hope he redshirts, his play down the line should excite Michigan fans, especially once he gets Shane Morris tossing him the rock.
BONUS INTERNATIONAL BOWL FILM (H/T MGOVIDEO)
BONUS BONUS COACH QUOTES
"Devin Funchess out of Farmington Hills. I think on here is says 205. He's more 220 now. He's a very athletic tight end; a guy who can play your 'move' tight end. A guy you get down near the red zone you can put him on the outside. He catches the ball extremely well with his hands, but you can put him in the red zone and throw the ball up to him.
International Bowl Coach ($) (H/T MGoBlog)
"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," [Team USA coach Steve] 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.'