The most consistent offensive units for the Wolverines last season were the wide receivers/tight ends. While there were no true superstars catching passes from Devin Gardner last season, these guys performed well on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, the leader and best player of the group, Jeremy Gallon, is heading to the NFL. With Drew Dileo also graduating, there is a huge opportunity for some young receivers to start and/or earn significant playing time.
Tight End was supposed to be a lot less wide open heading into the spring. Devin Funchess, a wide receiver/tight end hybrid was supposed to have one of these position on lockdown, while Jake Butt was supposed to have another position locked down. Unfortunately Jake Butt tore his ACL recently, so he is out indefinitely. This will allow open up some opportunities for other players to step at tight end. Let’s look at the projected starters at each position for the 2014-15 season.
WR: Jehu Chesson (RS Soph, 6-3 196) Chesson earned a lot of playing time last season, and while he didn’t put up gaudy stats, he did make the most of his limited opportunities to make something happen with the ball. I think Chesson will start at least initially
due to his experience and the fact that he should only get better with another offseason.
WR/TE: Devin Funchess (Junior, 6-5 235) Funchess is pretty much a lock to start somewhere, whether that is on the line in a three point stance, flexed out in the slot or out wide. Funchess is an athletic freak and a nightmare of a matchup for defenders. He did show that he is capable of contracting a case of the dropsies, but with hands as big as his that is only mental. I think Funchess is poised for a breakout season.
WR: Amara Darboh (RS Soph, 6-2 212) Darboh was having by all accounts a great offseason. Many pundits pegged him to start opposite of Jeremy Gallon last fall. An unfortunate foot injury cost him his season however, but assuming he can come back from that injury and continue to work, I think we see Darboh grab a starting spot.
TE: AJ Williams (Junior, 6-6 265) With Jake Butt out for the foreseeable future, Williams will have his chance to start. While Williams really isn’t known for his ability to catch the ball, the coaches loved using him in blocking situations last season. Considering he has the most experience out of the remaining tight ends, it’s hard to not see him starting at least initially.
Khalid Hill (RS FR) and Ian Bunting (FR) will both have a shot to earn playing time this season at tight end. Both are known for their athleticism and ability to stretch the field from the tight end position. While both are young (Bunting will be a true freshman) both have the talent to get on the field for the Wolverines.
Da’Mario Jones (Soph) played on special teams last season but didn’t really see the field at receiver. Jones is known for this tremendous speed and ability to burn defensive backs. If he can work on his hands and route running to compliment his speed, there is no reason why Jones shouldn’t see the field this fall.
Freddy Canteen and Drake Harris will both be true freshmen this fall, but since they are both enrolling early they will be able to participate in spring ball. Canteen is an extremely polished route runner, while Harris is a master at adjusting to the ball and attacking it at its high point. Both have unique skill sets and both are talented enough to play from day 1, assuming they can put on a little muscle over the summer. It’ll be interesting to see if either or both can get playing time this fall.
Maurice Ways is the third incoming freshman receiver, but since he is not enrolling early it is pretty likely that he will redshirt this season.
Even though this unit will be young, I believe that there is more than enough talent here for to get things done in the passing game. I think by the end of the season this group will be a real strength for Michigan and one of the best units in the Big Ten.