The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 113 BY ANDY REID D evin Funchess emerged as one of the most dangerous deep threats in the Big Ten last season, transitioning from a matchup-creating rookie tight end in 2012 into an all-around pass-catching threat from any position on the field. After catching 49 passes for 748 yards and six touchdowns in 2013, Funchess is poised to be Michigan's No. 1 wide receiver while the offense attempts to replace the gargantuan statistics tallied by Jeremy Gallon last year. The Wolverines have benefited — and will continue to benefit — greatly from Funchess' production at wide receiver. But that may never have been possible without the emergence of Jake Butt as a viable option at tight end last year. When Butt first arrived as an early enrollee in January 2013, the Michigan coaches knew they had added a player loaded with potential to the roster. They just figured the slender rookie would need plenty of time to make his way onto the field. "He came in here, and he weighed 209 pounds," Michigan tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno said. "That was going to be an obstacle. He worked hard with [strength and conditioning coach] Aaron Wellman, and we put some weight on him. The thing you knew right away the kid could do, coming in, was catch the ball and run routes really well. We knew we had that part. "But to be a tight end, there is so much more to it. It's part wide receiver, part fullback, part offensive lineman — it's everything. You have to be a really skilled athlete to play this position. As the season went on, he progressed to a point where you didn't want to take him out. That is to his credit. He listened to the coaching, and he just got better and better. He is a bright, bright kid. He gets it right away. He can play fast all the time, because of that. He improved a lot. And we're looking for more, of course." As the coaches' confidence in Butt grew, it allowed them to experiment more and more with Funchess at wide receiver, until — by the end of the year — Funchess was split wide nearly all the time. The Thin Blue line Devin Funchess' Move To Wide Receiver And Jake Butt's Injury Leave The Wolverines Light — But Talented — At Tight End TE Butt, who had 13 receptions for 168 yards and two scores in U-M's last four contests a year ago, suffered an ACL injury during the offseason that is expected to sideline him for at least three to four games in 2014. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN QUICK FACTS Position Coach: Dan Ferrigno (fourth season as tight ends and special teams coach). Returning Starters: A.J. Williams (6 career starts) and Jake Butt (8). Departing Starter: None. Projected New Starter: Keith Heitzman. Top Reserves: Khalid Hill and Michael Jocz. Newcomer: Ian Bunting. Moved In: Heitzman (from DE). Moved Out: Devin Funchess (to WR). Rookie Impact: None. Most Improved Player: Heitzman. Best Pro Prospect: Butt. FYI: Funchess is the first recipient of the Big Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award to not finish his career at that position, moving to wide receiver (in 2011, North- western's Drake Dunsmore won it as a senior; in 2012, Wisconsin's Jacob Pederson won it and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention as a tight end in 2013) … Williams was one of two Wolverines to score a touchdown on his first career catch last season, catching a one- yard touchdown at Iowa (wide receiver Jehu Chesson scored on a 33-yard touchdown against Akron on his first catch) … Every tight end on the roster is either a Michigan or Ohio native: Hill (Detroit), Williams (Cincinnati), Butt (Columbus, Ohio), Heitzman (Hilliard, Ohio) and Jocz (Novi, Mich.) … Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and Ferrigno coached tight end Gavin Escobar at San Diego State in 2010, when he earned second-team Fresh- man All-America honors; Escobar was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 47 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. 113-117.TEs.indd 113 6/19/14 2:03 PM

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