Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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W By Andy Reid hen he was 10 years old, Devin Funchess played football for a Pop Warner team called the Cubs, alongside fellow Detroit natives and current Michigan teammates cornerback Terry Richardson, linebacker Royce JenkinsStone and linebacker James Ross III. Back then, Funchess and Richardson got to know each other very well — on the sideline. "Terry, he was always a good buddy of mine," Funchess said. "Neither of us were very good when we played for the Cubs. We had something in common, because we were both on the bench." At the time, Funchess dreamed of playing small forward in the NBA. Football was more of a recreation — basketball was his passion. Although Funchess went to Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, Mich., and Richardson went to Cass Tech in Detroit, the two remained close. Funchess was still mainly focused on basketball and even received some interest from small local colleges as a freshman and sophomore. But even though he was, by his own estimation, an average football player at the time, there were flashes of potential brilliance on the football field. Once, in a middle school game, the coaches put him in at running back. With little preparation or understanding of the system, Funchess took a handoff up the middle and scorched the defense for a 50-yard touchdown. He could be a really good basketball player; with a little work, he could be a great football player. He admits that it was a tough decision, because he loves basketball so much, but once he committed to football he was off and running. "Terry started taking me to all these camps in the summer between ninth and 10th grade," Funchess said. "I did well there, one of the top receivers, and it got my name out there. It helped me get better, and helped me get noticed." At the camps, he learned the fundamentals of footwork and technique, and with a better understanding of the game's foundations Funchess' natural athletic ability took over and he exploded on the field. "It was crazy, because every week — every practice — I could see myself getting better and better," Funchess said. "I was just starting to get really good. Terry was teaching me things and taking me to different camps. And all of a sudden, I was getting offered by big schools, and it changed my whole mindset." Funchess produced a team-leading five touchdown receptions and finished with 15 catches for 234 yards en route to Freshman All-America honors last year. photo by lon horwedel Despite his relative inexperience, Funchess started receiving immediate interest from bigname programs, thanks to his performance on the camp circuit and in the Harrison football program, which also had high-profile recruits such as wide receiver Aaron Burbridge (Michigan State) and defensive end Mario Ojemudia (Michigan) on the roster. than them, so I can take on defensive linemen.' Sometimes, you don't want to let go of things you're used to, because it's uncomfortable to put yourself in new situations. But I forced myself to get uncomfortable, and after a while, I really started to like the tight end position, as the season went on." The Wolverines were desperate for bod- BreakOut Performer Tight End Devin Funchess Has Fully Embraced His Role, And Now He's Looking To Keep Improving Funchess posted 36 catches for 738 yards (20.5 yards per reception) and six touchdowns as a junior, and he added 21 grabs for 433 yards (20.6 yards per reception) and six scores as a senior. Programs including Nebraska, Cincinnati, Missouri and Virginia offered him as a wide receiver. His 6-4, 205-pound frame seemed to support that position. But Michigan saw something else in him. The coaches told Funchess they wanted him as a tight end, and in April of his junior year he committed. The Transition To Tight End Funchess estimates that, in high school, he played in a three-point stance about 30 percent of the time. Mostly, he was an outside wide receiver, using his height and athletic ability to overpower smaller defensive backs. "After high school, I was still living the dream of being a receiver, working out with defensive backs," Funchess said. That changed when he arrived in Ann Arbor last July. The coaches brought him in as a tight end — and he wasn't going to disappoint them. "I didn't want to come in out of place and make them believe what I believed," he said. "They recruited me at a certain position, so I just stepped into the role of being a tight end. I wasn't going to come in and try to be a receiver. That would have been me stepping out of line. That would have been disrespectful. "When I got up here, everyone was a lot faster than me. At that point, I thought, 'The tight end may be the position for me, because all the receivers are so fast, and I am bigger ies. When tight end Kevin Koger graduated after the 2011 season, it left a big hole in the lineup. Even with the presence of thenseniors Mike Kwiatkowski and Brandon Moore, the coaches knew they would need Funchess to be productive. And, with just a few weeks of fall camp to work on fundamentals, they had to start from the ground up — even down to the three-point stance. "Everything was different from what I was used to," Funchess said. "I had to learn left and right hand for opposite formations, and that was probably the hardest part, because it takes a lot of getting used to. Getting off the line with my hand on the ground — it was just completely different for me. "Through the season, Brandon and Mike tried to push me as hard as they could to get my footsteps right. It was hard, because I was used to moving as a wide receiver." But Funchess was used to new situations. Just three years earlier, he had started from ground zero as a wide receiver. He could do it again. In the second week of the season, the freshman caught everyone's attention. He was instrumental in the Wolverines' 31-25 win over Air Force, nabbing four catches for 106 yards and a score. Midway through the second quarter, Funchess burst up the seam, cut inside for a fake-post route and redirected to the corner of the end zone. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson launched a 30-yard bomb, and Funchess leaped to grab it over a Falcon defender. "I was shocked," Funchess said. "I didn't even realize I was in the end zone, and then The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 113

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