ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Everyone remembers the hurdle. Made into a replay and quick video clip as one of the most impressive individual plays of the 2013 season, wide receiver Devin Funchess jumping over an oncoming Ohio State defender in Michigan’s closer than expected 42-41 loss to the Buckeyes.
Flash-forward to spring football in a key off-season for the Michigan football program and Funchess, now a junior, is working more and more at outside receiver, potentially ready for a big impact this fall.
“I feel like I should and should be that guy that has a big role since I’m one of the leading receivers coming back from last years’ team,” Funchess said. “And (I’m) just trying to guide all the young guys that we’ve got coming in and just make sure everybody’s on that mission we’ve got this year.”
Fresh off a sophomore campaign in which he caught 49 passes for 748 yards and six touchdowns, good for 15.3 yards per catch, Funchess’ priorities this spring are two fold.
On one end, now as an upperclassman and without three senior wide receivers, Funchess is feeling the leadership responsibility. And on the other, learning a brand new offense while getting acclimated to new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and his system remains paramount.
“We’ve got a lot of plays coming in,” Funchess said. “A lot of different things he’s (Coach Nussmeier) trying to get down in this 15 practice period. So, we’re just trying to work at that and get everything accomplished that we needed.”
Now 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, Funchess admittedly says last season he played with added water weight. During the winter, his focus was on adding more muscle to his big frame, ready to do whatever is asked of him for the Wolverines.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can with this new offense coming in,” Funchess said. “I’m just trying to do as much as I can on the outside, learning the routes and position on the outside.
“And if (Coach Nussmeier) needs me to come in at H I’ll do that too. Just got to stay focused on the outside for right now.”
Michigan welcomed in two early-enrolled wide receivers this January set to participate in the first spring football session of their careers.
Despite limited time running routes and working out this winter, true freshman slot/outside receiver Freddy Canteen has made an impression on Funchess.
“He’s a blazer,” Funchess said. “I didn’t expect that out of him cause I never really watched film on him. So, when he came in running that fast I was kind of impressed. I kind of worked with him making sure he get transitioned from high school to college.
“I told him today, we’ve got grown men playing now, him and Drake Harris, we’ve got grown men that we’re going up against in college, we’re not in high school anymore. So, I’m just trying to put that in their head.”
With Harris (6-foot-4, 180-pounds) more the prototypical outside receiver and Canteen (6-foot-1, 170-pounds) a blend of both, either freshmen could be a factor for playing time this fall if they pick the offense up quickly enough.
“We’ve got the new playbook so just keep prepping it in their minds, keep making sure they know what we have on this play or on another play depending on formation, things like that,” Funchess said.