Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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tage. Being so quick and agile, I can use that in my blocking technique to get to the point of attack faster. Before, I was just trying to hold them up — now I'm engaging with them and tossing them around." When he came into spring practice this year, he wasn't going to let Clark beat him so easily. Funchess has already embraced the role of leader among the group. The tight ends, including true freshman early enrollee Jake Butt, do everything together, from eating lunch to practicing to hanging out after practice. "I try to mentor Jake to get him at the same spot I'm trying to be. Jake is doing well. "If he can improve his blocking, we can play him every down. Now you've got something. Now you have a Tony Gonzalez-type. He's maybe not as good yet, but he's that type of player." Offensive coordinator Al Borges on Funchess "I've learned a lot of new techniques, and once I engage with him, it's a dog fight from there," Funchess said. "The weight room helped me out, because I can latch on this year. Last year, I was getting rag-dolled, because I wasn't used to his speed. It's great to play against a guy like Frank, because he has tremendous talent, and that forces me to get better." Working with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, Funchess has put on almost 25 pounds of muscle in the last year, now weighing in at 228 pounds. "I'm trying to get in the weight room as much as I can," he said. "I wouldn't say I was the weakest when I came in, but I wasn't that strong. I'm not going to lie. But I'm a lot stronger — I enjoy the weight room. I want to keep putting on more muscle, so I can be an elite blocker, so I can hit those bigger linebackers and defensive linemen. "I know I need to get bigger. Once I do that, it's going to be easier for us to get close to that Big Ten championship." The coaches have lauded his progress as a blocker, and Funchess has liked what he has seen from himself, too. "It's kind of weird to say I'm proud of it, because it's something I have to do. But I am proud in what I have accomplished so far," he said. "It boosts me tremendously. Not being so much of a blocker in my past and now getting into it, it makes me happy when I see improvements. Because I can keep getting better." Rounding Out His Game Redshirt junior Jordan Paskorz made the switch to tight end last season, but for all intents and purposes Funchess and fellow sophomore tight end A.J. Williams, although just sophomores, are the veteran leaders of the group. "It's a challenge, but they don't back down," tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno said. "Good competition will bring out the best in those kids." He can be the same type of tight end as me. Coming in as a mid-year, he's going through the same stuff I did last year. I'm just telling him to stay strong and give him the same advice Brandon and Mike gave me last year. I try to buckle him down and play tight end." As Funchess continues to become a more reliable blocking weapon in the run game, it will not only help the offense, but his own production as well. "By the end of last year, I think defenses were keying on me a little," Funchess said. "I wasn't really in there for most blocking plays. This year, we're changing it up. I'm getting more into the blocking, because if I'm only in there on pass plays, it weakens our offense. Now, we might be able to disguise some things, and we can catch them slipping on reads." The coaching staff sees it the same way. "If he can improve his blocking, we can play him every down. Now you've got something," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "Now you have a Tony Gonzalez-type. He's maybe not as good yet, but he's that type of player. "He can be in there in as many snaps as we run. We used him basically last year in our wide receiver packages, but if you can go in with two backs and hold up as a blocker, now you have just what you want." In 2013, Funchess will be used in a variety of packages — on running plays, on pass plays, as an H-back and motioning out of the formation to create mismatches. And defenses — especially the linebackers and safeties who will have the unenviable task of matching up with him — better pay attention. "I would hope they do, because if not, it might be bad for them. I can go up and block your linebacker or go up the seam and catch a touchdown," Funchess said. "I can see stuff when I'm out there. If I get one or two steps on you, you can just call it curtains." ❏ Funchess On Track To Be Among The Top Tight Ends In Program History As a freshman in 2012, tight end Devin Funchess caught just 15 passes last year — but those 15 catches had a big influence on the Wolverine offense. Funchess led the team with five touchdown receptions. He was tied for 13th nationally in touchdown receptions by a tight end (UCLA's Joseph Fauria paced the country with 12). And that number puts Funchess in rarified air, among tight ends in Michigan history. Funchess is just the sixth tight end to wear the winged helmet to catch five or more touchdowns in a season (Jerame Tuman is the lone player to achieve it twice, in 1996 and '97). With five touchdowns, Funchess was three behind the program record, set by Eric Kattus in 1985. In five of the seven instances, the U-M Tight Ends With tight end hauled in at least 29 recepFive Or More TD In A Season tions for at least 437 yards. Player Year TD CatchesYards Funchess, on the other hand, reached Eric Kattus 1985 8 38 582 the end zone on a third of his catches. Tony McGee 1992 6 38 467 Funchess also became the first tight Doug Marsh 1978 6 19 283 end since the 1997 season to tally more Jerame Tuman 1996 5 33 524 than 100 yards receiving in a single 1997 5 29 437 Jerame Tuman game, when he caught four passes for Bennie Joppru 2002 5 53 579 106 yards and a score in the Wolverines' Devin Funchess 2012 5 15 234 31-25 win over Air Force. Just 14 tight ends have recorded 100yard games in the last 70 years. Jack Clancy (1962-66), who holds the career record for receiving yards by a tight end (1,919), has the most 100-yard performances of any tight end in Michigan history, with four. As Funchess continues to improve, his numbers are likely to increase. But, at his current rate, he is already on track to go down as one of the most prolific tight ends in program history. He is on pace for 60 catches for 936 yards, which would both rank eighth in program history. There is no official record of the tight end with the most career receiving touchdowns. But no player who caught five or more in a single season finished their career with more than 13. Funchess is on pace for 20. — Andy Reid The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview  ■ 115

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