Devin Funchess should be a college football star right about now.
But the Michigan junior isn’t. By and large, he’s viewed as an athlete on the brink of emerging as a true threat.
But what does “by and large” know anyway?
Wolverines fans, followers, media and casual observers have known about the 6’5”, 230-pound pass-catcher for two years.
Honestly, the Big Ten’s been on alert for some time, too.
A dynamic threat at tight end, Funchess supplies the position with exemplary athleticism typically reserved for more skillful wideouts.
But wait...he’s kind of a wideout.
Well, that’s how he was used during stretches of Team 134’s woeful 7-6 season.
Debate it, dismiss it or deny it—either way, Funchess’ role as a nightmarish matchup for corners and safeties will soon be discussed by the masses outside of Big Ten Country.
The rest of CFB Nation is behind.
It’s time to put it on notice.
One of these days, the major networks will insert the word “star” when referring to Funchess, a former 247Sports 4-star prospect.
For now, he’s basically a “great contributor” or something along those oh-so-generic lines that we’re all guilty of using.
Sure, “star” isn’t exactly a new, groundbreaking term. In fact, it’s pretty lukewarm. But really, there’s no other word to describe players such as Funchess—or the rest who can carry their teams from week to week.
His line of 49 catches for 748 yards and six touchdowns may not jump off the page. But don’t forget about Michigan’s inept passing attack that dragged along during the agonizing fall of 2013.
As the second-leading receiver on the team, Funchess—not Jeremy Gallon—was quarterback Devin Gardner’s real safety net. Gallon was important, and he had an incredible record-shattering season.
However, having a 6’5” tower downfield allowed Gardner to save his backside more than once.
In all likelihood, Funchess will be a full-time receiver this season. Chances are, if he’s at tight end, there’s a good reason—such as an injury to or inconsistent efforts from those behind Jake Butt, the No. 1 option who’s nursing an ACL tear.
The following table outlines stats from the top (listed-as) tight ends of 2013. Excluding Jace Amaro’s yard total, Funchess’ numbers—across the board—stand up to those in the Tier 1 group.
|Jace Amaro/Texas Tech||106||1,352||12.8||7|
|Eric Ebron/North Carolina||62||973||15.7||3|
|Stats via ESPN. In terms of receiving yards, Funchess was No. 104 nationally.|
No Blame in This Game
Declaring that Funchess “should” be a higher-profile player is like saying Michigan should win a title, should go undefeated and should beat rivals Ohio State and Michigan State—all of which are novel ideas with genuine intent, but they reek of self-entitlement and wild fantasy.
Reality states that Brady Hoke has a lot of work to do before Michigan fully regroups.
College careers breeze by, and Funchess faces the challenge of cramming four years’ worth of could-have-beens into about two-and-a-half.
The fact that he’s not a household name isn’t anyone’s fault. Simply put, the former Farmington Hill Harrison standout hasn’t always been put in prime position for success.
The scheme didn’t always call for his services. But the offense didn’t always get him the ball, either. His situation falls into blame limbo.
Doug Nussmeier may be the “new” offensive coordinator, but he endorses the familiar pro-style approach that has been part of Wolverines football for decades.
Showcasing Funchess as the No. 1 seems all but written in stone.
But Nussmeier’s No. 1 options don’t always have No. 1 stats—he likes to spread the ball to several receivers, evidenced by the fairly even production from Alabama’s top ends and receivers this past season.
For the curious: Amari Cooper led the Tide with 45 catches, 736 yards and four touchdowns, nearly identical to Funchess’ output.
However, Cooper didn’t need gaudy stats to earn praise. He delivered when called upon.
Due to things beyond his control, Funchess’ ascent to certified stardom has been delayed.
Count on Nussmeier’s ability to recognize potential and use time wisely; otherwise, the Wolverines could miss out on one of the best years of Funchess’ career, which has the potential to outgrow the conference boundaries of the Big Ten and command serious national attention.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.