When it comes to the most gifted and athletic playmakers in the Big 10, Michigan‘s Devin Funchess is deservedly a hot topic. As a sophomore a season ago, Funchess worked from both tight end and wide receiver because he was a mismatch for defenders at both positions. This season, though, head coach Brady Hoke says Funchess’ work will come almost exclusively at wide receiver, a move which will allow this 6-foot-5 junior to really thrive.
It was very apparent in Funchess’ freshman season of 2012 that Michigan would have some very special talent working for it in the few coming years. He was named an All-Big 10 honorable mention by the media and selected to the ESPN.com All-Big 10 Freshman Team after appearing in all 13 games for the Wolverines, tallying 234 yards and five touchdowns.
Last season was much of the same, only on a grander scale. Funchess started moving out wide more often, and he was an immediate and prevalent problem for corners because of the enormous size advantage he possessed. In back-to-back games against Minnesota and Penn State, Funchess racked up 151 yards and 112 yards, respectively. His 2013 performance of 49 receptions, 748 yards and six touchdowns led to him being named the Big 10′s tight end of the year and earned him a spot on the All-Big 10 First Team (media) and Second Team (coaches).
The only downfall to Funchess’ game is his hands. It became a very common sight last season to see him drop a pass — often a key pass — or let one slip through his fingers. When he wasn’t being praised by the media for his speed and athleticism, he was often being burned for his deficiency. If he fixes that, though, and significantly chips away at the number of dropped passes, we could very well be talking about one of the best wide receivers in the country this season.
One of the immediate impacts of this permanent transition will be consistency. Any player of any sport will tell you it’s always nice when the focus can be narrowed in. For Funchess, that means he will be able to simplify the learning process, especially with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and strictly focus on his role as a wide receiver. And by the looks of it, that’s where he seems to be most comfortable anyway.
Further down the road, Funchess will be able to put his athleticism and playmaking abilities on full display. It often looked like the tight end position naturally held him back because of where he was getting the ball. When talking about space and being down in the red zone, Funchess can be made a pure and dominant force when he starts out wide.
This move to wide receiver is going to prove to be such a blessing for Michigan this season. Perhaps the most dynamic athlete on the field, Funchess is going to be given the opportunity to thrive even more than he has his first two seasons in Ann Arbor, and this will ultimately be a better team because of it.