Michigan Wolverines: A.J. Williams

Most indispensable: No. 6 Funchess 

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
8:55
AM ET
Devin Funchess Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDevin Funchess will have every opportunity to have a breakout sophomore season.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As Michigan’s preseason approaches at the end of this week, WolverineNation takes a look at the 10 players who are most indispensable for the Wolverines this season. This doesn’t mean the most talented players but rather the players who'd be the hardest for Michigan to replace if it lost them.

One of the biggest surprises of last season was freshman tight end Devin Funchess. He shined early in the season but disappeared a bit as the conference season got under way. But Funchess said he spent the offseason focusing on blocking better, getting more physical and being less of a “pretty boy.”

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan had several areas of need in the 2014 class, chief among them being quarterback and linebacker, largely due to injuries both position groups have suffered. Here’s a look at the top five areas of need and what Michigan has done to address them so far.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Fresh ideas: Tight end 

June, 14, 2013
6/14/13
10:00
AM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Can a true freshman really contribute at the college level? Is it easier to do so at one position than another? Over the coming weeks WolverineNation will be breaking down the probabilities of playing time and projections of the Wolverines’ freshmen, position by position.

What it takes for a true freshman tight end to play

This is one of the more difficult spots for freshmen to play because of the complexities of both learning how to run routes as well as block -- both solo and in tandem -- all within a few months of arriving on campus.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Michigan spring wrap

May, 3, 2013
5/03/13
10:00
AM ET
2012 record: 8-5

2012 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 3

Top returners:

QB Devin Gardner, WR Jeremy Gallon, TE Devin Funchess, LT Taylor Lewan, RT Michael Schofield, DT Quinton Washington, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Jake Ryan, CB Raymon Taylor, S Thomas Gordon

Key losses

QB Denard Robinson, WR Roy Roundtree, OG Patrick Omameh, C Elliott Mealer, DE Craig Roh, DT William Campbell, LB Kenny Demens, CB J.T. Floyd, S Jordan Kovacs

2012 statistical leaders

Rushing: Denard Robinson (1,266 yards)

Passing: Denard Robinson (1,319 yards)

Receiving: Jeremy Gallon* (829 yards)

Tackles: Jake Ryan* (88)

Sacks: Jake Ryan* (4.0)

Interceptions: Thomas Gordon* and Raymon Taylor* (2)

Spring answers

1. Defensive line fine: Michigan had to replace a four-year starter in Craig Roh as well as defensive tackle Will Campbell up front. It doesn’t seem like it will be an issue. Michigan has a potential star in Frank Clark at rush end as well as depth at the position with Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton. Keith Heitzman, for now, seems to have locked up a spot at strong side end, but there is a lot of talent there, too. The Wolverines have depth at all four spots and while competitions will continue into the fall, Michigan should be able to rotate at defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s leisure.

2. Devin Gardner’s progression: After the way he played toward the end of last season, there was not much doubt about Gardner as the starter, but Michigan’s coaches appear happy with his growth throughout the offseason. He has developed as a quarterback the way the coaching staff has liked, and this is even more critical because he is the only healthy scholarship quarterback until Shane Morris arrives next month. Gardner's teammates believe in him and he is setting up for a big year.

3. Tight end weapons: Michigan still doesn’t have great depth at tight end, but what the Wolverines do have is a young group of guys who will become big targets for Gardner as the position evolves into a more featured role. Devin Funchess could have a breakout sophomore season and Jake Butt has a similar skill set. A.J. Williams slimmed down as well, perhaps turning him into more than just an extra blocker.

Fall questions

1. Who runs the ball: Michigan was never going to be able to answer this question in the spring with Fitzgerald Toussaint coming off a broken leg and freshmen Derrick Green and Deveon Smith still not on campus. But none of the running backs who participated in spring made a lasting impression on the coaches, meaning if he is healthy, Toussaint will likely receive the first chance at winning the job in the fall.

2. Can Jake Ryan be replaced: Michigan seems confident with its grouping of Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon at strongside linebacker, but part of what made Ryan Michigan’s best defender was his ability to instinctively be around the ball. Whether or not Beyer or Gordon can do that in games remains to be seen. If the combination of those two can approximate that, Michigan’s defense should be fine.

3. Can the interior of the line hold up: Michigan is replacing both of its guards and its center. While the combination of redshirt sophomore Jack Miller at center and redshirt freshmen Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis at guard has a ton of talent, none have taken a meaningful snap in a game before. How they mesh with returning tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, along with how they connect with each other on combination blocks on the inside, could determine not only Michigan’s running success this fall, but also how many games the Wolverines win in Brady Hoke’s third season.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Spring practice has ended for Michigan and for the first time, the depth chart for the fall is beginning to take shape.

Yes, there will still be some big competitions on Michigan’s offense -- particularly at running back and wide receiver -- but there is now a better idea of who the Wolverines’ starting 11 will be in August when they open the season against Central Michigan.

WolverineNation takes a two-day look at what Michigan’s depth chart will be come fall, starting with the offense.

Quarterback

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Ideally, this conversation would not happen at Michigan or many other BCS-level programs this fall or any fall. But, things occur because of injuries, attrition and coaching switches so it leads to college coaches looking at guys they recruit and saying the same thing.

Which one of these guys will be able to play right away?

In basketball this is a way of life. In football it can get dangerous, depending on the competition. As Michigan builds up its roster, it has had to rely on freshmen less and less, but this season the Wolverines still will need to look to some first-year players to be key contributors on offense and defense.

Here’s a look at five freshmen -- or spots -- where you could see rookies this fall.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The first real look at Michigan's kind of new return to its pro style run-the-ball roots on offense went about as expected Saturday during its controlled scrimmage.

Michigan didn’t give much away. It rotated fairly liberally. And any potential wrinkles or research put together by offensive coordinator Al Borges will remain a public secret until the fall.

The Wolverines’ scrimmage, which was going to be deemed controlled at the start, had more of a feel of a situational practice. No official, public statistics were taken. There was no score kept.

Almost everything Michigan ran was pretty rudimentary when it comes to its offensive plan.

(Read full post)

Over the next week, WolverineNation will give a brief look at five players to keep an eye on during spring practice for varying reasons.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- While Taco Charlton is just one of the six early enrolling freshmen this spring, but the defensive end is more intriguing than most for the simple reason that he’ll potentially have a chance to play.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Depth chart analysis: Tight end 

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
10:30
AM ET
Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis heading into the offseason.

If any position sees an uptick in production next season, it will be Michigan’s tight ends. While the group saw more time this season than any of the prior four, as the Wolverines transition into a full-on pro style offense, they will be relied upon every play to do something, be it block or run routes.

It is a group, though, which still needs more bodies as well as more experience to be what Michigan will truly be looking for at the position as things continue to evolve.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Season analysis: WRs/TEs 

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
11:00
AM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan will continue its streak of not having a 1,000-yard receiver this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Wolverines have struggled at the position.

While Mario Manningham was Michigan’s last 1,000-yard receiver in 2007 (1,174 yards), Michigan has seen inconsistent, but increased, production from receivers this season over last year.

Considering Michigan’s transition from a spread to a pro-style offense, that could be deemed as progress at a position where there were major questions entering the season.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Denard RobinsonSandra Dukes/US PresswireImproved focus from the offensive line helped Denard Robinson rush for 235 yards against Purdue.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The week heading into the Wolverines' matchup with Purdue was one of the most memorable for offensive coordinator Al Borges.

"We had our three best practices maybe since I've been here, but certainly this season," Borges said. "So much of that tone was set by [the offensive linemen]."

It was the O-line position group that was called out during halftime of the Notre Dame game and told the final two quarters would rest on its shoulders. In that matchup the group missed more than 20 assignments and came into the following two weeks with a renewed focus. And because of that focus, they brought Borges and the rest of the offense the three best practices this season, which led a surprising rout of the Boilermakers.

"I love linemen because they're realists," Borges said. "They know you're only as good as your last performance and they're going to have to work hard."

(Read full post)

Fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs has been praised during fall camp for his consistency during his time at Michigan, through his play and his demeanor. And defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has singled out very few players during fall camp, was quick to point to Kovacs as the most consistent player the Wolverines have had so far this season on defense.

"That young man has had a tremendous camp," Mattison said. "You talk about consistency -- if you graded every play, I'd like to see that grade, because he's really working hard and he has been the most consistent."

Mattison said several other players have had consistent practices, but no single player has strung together consistently solid practices the way Kovacs has.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Notes: Hoke has line concerns

August, 12, 2012
8/12/12
4:16
PM ET
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Even if Brady Hoke had an offensive line resembling an NFL roster instead of one with three players starting at new positions and a defensive line starting four players at four new positions, the second-year Michigan coach would be concerned about who he was putting out there.

The reason is simple. When it comes to offensive and defensive line play, Hoke believes Michigan’s first opponent, defending national champion Alabama, is just that good.

(Read full post)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke said on Thursday that suspended players Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark "still are not practicing with the team."

Hoke had said on Monday that there was no set timetable for either player's return.

He further said Thursday that they have not been at Michigan’s physical practice. When it comes to whether either was actually inside Schembechler Hall, Hoke wouldn’t give an answer.

(Read full post)

WolverineNation Mailbag 

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
12:00
PM ET
Football season has officially started as Michigan began camp for this season Monday in preparation for its season-opening matchup with defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 1.

So who stands out in the secondary? Among the freshmen? These questions and more inhabit this week’s WolverineNation Mailbag. Remember, the Mailbag is only as strong as the questions you ask, so send ones for next week to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings on Twitter.

On to your questions:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

My Wish: University Of Michigan Football
18-year-old Stephen Loszewski, whose football career was cut short by cancer, sees what it is like to be a prized recruit with his favorite college team.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video