The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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110 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW WR tough, that will block, that will hit. "He's an impressive individual. He's making very good progress. Again, you're talking about a kid. He's a sophomore." At 6-3, 194, sophomore Csont'e York doesn't appear the most likely candidate for an inside receiver's role. He's there, though, and working hard to become a big factor. "C'sonte is very unique," Hecklinski said. "We moved C'sonte in- side, which was a great move for him. When C'sonte knows what he's doing, he's very, very good. Again, it's that progression. Sometimes I get lost in what I'm doing, because I don't understand everything that's being said around me. "C'sonte has got to get that down. When he knows it, you can see a lot of talent. He has very strong hands. I'm sure on the Internet are the two catches he made in the spring. Those aren't catches just anybody makes. "On the one, he has the ball pinned on the defender's back as the defender is tackling him. They hit the ground for the touchdown. Those things you don't teach. Those are natural." Redshirt freshman Jaron Dukes (6-4, 200) also finds himself trying to hit the learning curve in Nussmeier's new order. "Jaron definitely had a learning spring," Hecklinski said. "He probably needs a little bit more time. He's a big-body kid that shows good speed and the ability to catch the football. Jaron's best days are ahead of him. "He needs a little more time, and the guys in front of him are more advanced in what they're doing right now. I don't think it's anything Jaron is doing wrong, or anything he needs to do better." At the other end of the size scale, diminutive junior Dennis Nor- fleet (5-7, 167) will continue his role as a return man, but find himself in new positions to help the cause. "Doug really feels Dennis is going to have a big role on offense," Hecklinski offered. "He has a unique skill set that we've got to uti- lize, get him in space and get him one on one. Doug has got a plan in place for him. "Dennis is a high-energy, high-motor guy, a leader. He's done a great job. During the spring, you're not going to see as much, because of the package Doug is going to put together for him. It's going to be utilized week by week by week, and it's going to change. That's not something you do in spring football, although we did put the ball into his hands, and you could see him make plays. "Dennis is going to be someone who touches the ball throughout the course of every game and makes something happen." Freshman Drake Harris (6-4, 180) possesses the size and athleti- cism to contribute early. But this spring he tweaked the hamstring that was torn last fall, costing him much of his senior season. His recovery through the summer months will dictate how he's able to compete come August. "For the two weeks he was there, you could see exactly what we thought we recruited — good explosion, great ball skills, the abil- ity to get up and make plays," Hecklinski said. "He's a better route runner than I thought he would be, and we weren't even seeing him completely healthy. We were seeing him maybe about 60 percent. "Even at 60 percent, he still has the athletic ability and the skill to get open, which is a good thing. Now, it's just a matter of getting him healthy. Now it's strength, strength and strength. Once we get him there, he'll be very productive for a long time here at Michigan." As for 6-3, 192-pound freshman Maurice Ways, Hecklinski main- tains his usual wait-and-see stance. "We'll let him get here, and find out where he's at, sort through it," Hecklinski said. "He's a big kid, with a lot of speed. Phenomenal kid, phenomenal family. Everything you're looking for. He fits the mold. "Now, how does he learn, how does he adjust, how does everything go? That's why we do all that behind closed doors, to keep the pres- sure off. He'll be here in June and we're excited to get him here. "I have a feeling he'll be in the same mold as Drake and Freddy. The stage is what he'll want." The stage is what Michigan's receivers will see, just a few more weeks down the road. They won't make yards by the Gallon, but the passing flow should be a long way from drying up. ❑ PRESEASON ANALYSIS: WIDE RECEIVERS Starters ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Devin Funchess will be among the Big Ten's top three receivers in 2014, and could very well be the most productive of all. He's a matchup nightmare for defensive backs with his size, and is deceptively fast. If Amara Darboh heals and returns to form and Jehu Chesson continues his growth, the Wolverines could round out quite nicely. Watch out for rookie Freddy Canteen. Depth ✪ ✪ ✪ Michigan has many more big bodies than it used to at the backup wideout spots, but the depth is largely untested. Players such as Da'Mario Jones and Csont'e York are intrigu- ing, but need to keep pace with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier's system. Dennis Norfleet could provide an interesting twist here. X-Factor Without question, it's Darboh's health. If he's ready to go for contact in August, look out. He could be another big-play receiver to help take the pressure off Funchess, which in turn could provide more opportunities for Chesson, Norfleet and Canteen. Foot injuries are tricky in the healing process, but Darboh appeared in spring football to be making very good progress. Overall ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Yes, there are question marks. That said, Jeff Hecklinski's crews have consistently come up and performed well for the Wolverines, and figure to provide fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner with no lack of weapons come fall. Funchess alone is a terrific target, and can draw away the type of attention to make others successful. The Wolverines also appear committed to throwing the football plenty, while bringing their running game along. Note: Star rankings are made on a scale of 1-5 stars. True freshman Freddy Canteen enrolled early at U-M, and he turned some heads with his showing in spring practice. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 106-112.WRs.indd 110 6/19/14 8:55 AM

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