Editor’s note: This is part six of 10 positional previews on the Michigan football team entering the 2014 season. Check out our other previews here.
By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
Jeremy Gallon completed one of the best careers for a wide receiver in Michigan football history last season. But Michigan’s revamped receiving corps appears to be vastly improved than with the holder of several team and conference receiving records donning the maize and blue.
Cue the “so you’re telling me,” memes!
Seriously. No longer does quarterback Devin Gardner have to rely on two receivers for a majority of his passes. At one point in the 2013 season, Devin Funchess and Gallon accounted for a meaty bulk of Michigan’s receiving yards.
It’s still the Devin-Devin show at Michigan, this time, with several capable supporting cast members.
In the sixth of 10 positional previews on the Michigan football team, Ricky Lindsay takes a peek at the Wolverines’ receiving corps.
The (big) man
Player: Devin Funchess
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 230 pounds
13 G, 49 receptions, 748 yards, 15.3 yards/reception, 6 touchdowns, 57.5 yards/game
After grabbing 15 passes for 234 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman 2012, Devin Funchess was a pick of many to experience a breakout season last fall. He did just that, posting 748 yards and six scores on 49 receptions for the Big Ten’s Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award.
Now, folks are expecting that Funchess can be even better, which is an insane thought to process. The junior has to be considered Devin Gardner’s main target, and for good reason. Funchess is one freak of an athlete. He makes circus catches and acrobatic leaps with ease.
And with him competing the transition from tight end to wide receiver, Funchess is finally in a comfort zone. Blocking is no longer a requirement. Just look at the several all-pro tight ends turned pass-catching machines. Funchess has to be salivating at the thought of his future with guys like Jimmy Graham and Eric Ebron becoming a huge part of the modern NFL.
Although Funchess will likely be headed to the NFL in April, he will be able to provide Michigan something it will desperately need this fall; production.
Road to recovery
Player: Amara Darboh
Eligibility: Redshirt sophomore
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 211 pounds
Did not play in 2013 — season-ending foot injury
Amara Darboh’s breakout 2013 season ended right before it began. He was hyped up throughout Michigan’s spring and fall camps last year before suffering a season-ending foot injury 10 days before the Wolverines opened their season.
Now, Darboh will finally have the chance of a breakout season lining up alongside Devin Funchess. When Michigan released its depth chart for the its season opener against Appalachian State, Darboh was listed behind the transplanted receiver.
Darboh hasn’t logged any receiving stats at Michigan. He played on special teams as a freshman in 2012 and recorded five tackles.
As a senior at Dowling Catholic in West Des Moines, Iowa, Darboh hauled in 48 catches for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was a four-star prospect by Rivals.
With two years at Michigan under his belt, Darboh should eventually slide into a role opposite of Funchess. But, he has competition for that role…
Player: Jehu Chesson
Eligibility: Redshirt sophomore
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 197 pounds
13 G, 15 receptions, 221 yards, 14.7 yards/reception, 1 touchdowns, 17.0 yards/game
When Amara Darboh went down with his season-ending injury last fall, Jehu Chesson was the next man in line. After redshirting in 2012, Chesson provided much-needed impact on the Wolverines’ passing game. He caught 15 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown.
The competition for receivers will be steep this fall given Michigan’s desire to use two tight end sets offensively this fall. But Chesson found himself at the top of Michigan’s game-week depth chart for its second receiving spot.
Chesson has the chance to become an impact player for the Wolverines’ seemingly pass-happy offense with Gardner, but one player will be gnawing for his job…
Player: Freddy Canteen
Eligibility: True freshman
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 176 pounds
School/Hometown: Eastern Christian Academy/Wilmington, Del.
Stars (Rivals): ****
When watching Freddy Canteen, it’s hard to believe that he was only the 47th ranked wide receiving prospect overall in the class of 2014. He’s not only catapulted fellow true freshman Drake Harris, who was ranked 31 spots higher on Rivals class of 2014 receiver rankings, Canteen has the looks of a speedster that will have an immediate impact on Michigan’s aerial assault.
Canteen is fast. And that might be an understatement. If Gardner flings a deep ball in his direction, the freshman will likely be off to the races. Canteen ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds as a prep, per Michigan’s athletics site.
Canteen is listed behind Chesson on Michigan’s first game-week depth chart. When he sees the field, look out.
Depth: Dennis Norfleet, Da’Mario Jones, Bo Dever, Drake Harris, and Moe Ways.
Dennis Norfleet should make a fine slot receiver if Michigan opts for the position, but he’ll have to compete with others for it. The speedster is quickly losing a spot on the field with Peppers gnawing at a kick return role after winning the punt return gig.
Drake Harris probably won’t be able to have much of an impact this fall if a hamstring injury continues to act up. Should he takes a redshirt, look out for next year.
I believe Moe Ways will join Canteen as true freshmen contributors on the offensive side of the ball. He showed flickers of promise at the team’s open scrimmage on Aug. 16.