WR Funchess presents matchup problem
Isaac Lorton | Thursday, September 4, 2014
On Saturday at Michigan Stadium, Devin Funchess showed his play matches the No. 1 jersey he now wears. The Wolverines junior receiver totaled seven catches for 95 yards and three touchdowns, earning himself a spot resting on the bench as Michigan finished rolling over Appalachian State 52-14. He amassed these numbers all before halftime and set a Michigan record for most touchdown receptions in a season opener.
Two days later, Michigan graduate student quarterback Devin Gardner said Funchess has the talent to position himself in the upper echelons of historic Michigan wide receivers with the likes of Desmond Howard, Braylon Edwards and Anthony Carter, who all wore No. 1.
“He can probably be the best receiver ever to play here,” Gardner said.
Last season’s Big Ten tight end of the year, Funchess had 49 receptions for 748 yards and six touchdowns, playing both tight end and wide out. This season, now solely a wideout, Funchess already is making a splash.
Irish coach Brian Kelly said the Irish defense must be wary of Funchess and have spent time this week focusing on how to defend against his connection with Gardner.
“We’re playing an offense with Gardner and Funchess, a 1-2 combination that is very dynamic,” Kelly said. “We will have to find ways obviously to slow [Funchess] down, and he’s going to be difficult, and Gardner has played great against us.”
The 6-foot-5 Funchess proved too difficult to cover for Appalachian State, and Kelly said Funchess has the talent to challenge any team.
“Funchess being on the perimeter is a matchup problem, and ˛he will be a matchup problem for everybody he plays this year,” Kelly said.
Despite being double-teamed in the Appalachian State game, Funchess caught a jump ball over two Mountaineer defenders in the back of the endzone for one of his touchdowns. Funchess acknowledged his size advantage but added Notre Dame will aim to minimize it.
“I do see the size matchup,” Funchess said. “But I think they will play me differently because they saw what I did in the first game.”
Although Funchess plays offense the majority of the game and is called upon as a downfield threat, he still has the energy to be part of the punt return team.
Wolverine coach Brady Hoke said he will not hold Funchess or any starter off of special teams for fear of injury because they could get injured at any time anyway, and Funchess wants to be on the field as much as possible.
“I took [Funchess] off the punt return because I thought, well, he’s doing enough,” Hoke said. “He got mad at me, so I put him back on. We made a decision that if you aren’t good enough to start on offense and defense, you aren’t good enough to start on special teams.”
Funchess will attempt to demonstrate his impact as a starter on special teams and offense this Saturday against Notre Dame, but more importantly, he will try to prove again — this time against a historic rival — that he is worthy to wear the No. 1 Michigan jersey.