The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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108 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW WR wideout works himself through the game to be in position to make the one at the end of the game that counts." The Wolverines are hoping they can count on Darboh this season as well. A foot injury wiped out his entire 2013 campaign, right when he was poised to become a starter. Now, following an arduous rehabilitation process, he's ready to jump back into the fray. He participated in all non-contact drills in the spring, and has been cleared to work out, play seven on seven in the summer, etc. Hecklinski expects him ready to come out firing in fall camp. "He was able to learn a lot, and pick up a lot," Hecklinski said. "From my perspective, he looked faster and better than he was before he got hurt. I did not see any remnants where you'd say, 'Oh, he's a long way away.' If anything, I'd go in and ask why he can't do more, because he looks good. "He looks bigger, he looks faster, he looks stronger. And the funny thing is, Darboh and Jehu Chesson are only redshirt sophomores. They have three years remaining. It seems like they've been here forever, because they're two guys who have played and have done some good things. "They really haven't had those years where they solidify every- thing, and they're only sophomores. Hopefully this year, both of those two can solidify their standing and make a name for themselves as a receiver." Chesson broke through last year to some extent, securing 15 catches for 221 yards (14.7-yard average) and one touchdown. He's part of a speed combo that could be unmatched in the Big Ten, if the hand-timed numbers are close to correct. "He's learning," Hecklinski said. "He's learning how to play. He's learning that he's good, a good football player. He does so many things. How many tackles did he make on special teams? How many wideouts that are 6-3, 195 pounds, can run like him? "He ran 4.33, 4.34 in late April. He's one of the top two or three tacklers on the team, from the special teams standpoint. He started on three special teams. "Jehu's fast. Funchess is faster. I won't disclose what he ran, but he's faster." Meanwhile, Canteen appears to be on the fast track. Never mind BIG TEN RANKINGS PLAYERS 1. Devin Funchess, Jr., Michigan — The lead role at wideout is wide open at Michigan, and fresh off 49 catches for 748 yards in 2013, Funchess is poised to leap ahead. 2. Stefon Diggs, Jr., Maryland — Diggs broke his leg against Wake Forest last year, but still posted 34 catches for 587 yards. He figures to be one of the Big Ten's most explosive wideouts. 3. Shane Wynn, Sr., Indiana — Wynn made 46 catches for 633 yards amid deep receiv- ing talent in Bloomington last year. The Hoosiers aren't about to stop throwing it his way. 4. Kenny Bell, Sr., Nebraska — Bell is set to become Nebraska's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, and he'll get ample opportunity for numbers. 5. Tony Lippett, Sr., Michigan State — Lippett led the Spartans with 44 catches last season, covering 613 yards, and he's got Connor Cook coming into his own at quarter- back. 6. Christian Jones, Sr., Northwestern — Jones snagged a squad-best 55 passes for a team-leading 668 yards last year, and he could make his last year his best. 7. Devin Smith, Sr., Ohio State — Smith caught 44 passes for 660 yards a year ago, and he figures to be one of the Big Ten's most dangerous weapons. 8. Tony Jones, R-Jr., Northwestern — The other half of the Wildcats' Jones connection, he ranked sixth in the Big Ten a year ago, averaging 4.6 catches per game and securing a team-best 55 altogether. 9. Kevonte Martin-Manley, Sr., Iowa — Martin-Manley checked in with 40 catches for 388 yards a year ago, and he will be the Hawkeyes' go-to performer through the air. 10. Leonte Carroo, Jr., Rutgers — Despite starting just three games in 2013, Carroo led Rutgers with nine touchdown receptions while averaging 17.1 yards per catch. UNITS 1. Northwestern — The Wildcats bring back a ton of talent, and a system that makes the passing game go. Keeping up with the Joneses won't be easy. 2. Maryland — If Diggs gets back up to speed, he could be one of the best in the na- tion. The Terps also have Levern Jacobs (47 catches for 640 yards), Nigel King (33 catches for 587 yards) and Deon Long (32 catches for 489 yards) back. 3. Michigan — Funchess leads the way for a group benefiting from a fifth-year senior quarterback. Depending upon how players such as Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Freddy Canteen come along, this rating could be too high … or too low. 4. Michigan State — The Spartans bring back Lippett and Macgarrett Kings Jr. (43 catches for 513 yards), along with a Rose Bowl MVP quarterback. 5. Ohio State — Smith leads the charge for a never-talent-deficient OSU, which will be operating behind a senior quarterback. Wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said of junior Devin Funch- ess, "I'll put him up against anybody in the country. There's not a better athlete, from a size-speed perspective." PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 106-112.WRs.indd 108 6/19/14 8:55 AM

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