|Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports|
|QB Devin Gardner and WR Brandon Funchess are adapting to a new Michigan offense.|
One of the most intriguing -- and important -- position changes nationally involves Michigan junior Devin Funchess officially becoming a wide receiver after spending his first two seasons as a tight end.
Funchess (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) was listed as a tight end last season even though he played more and more wide receiver as the season progressed; still, he was voted the Big Ten's tight end of the year and also was one of eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end. This season, all pretense of being a tight end is gone, and Funchess -- who has studied tape of NFL receivers Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green to help his transition -- should become Michigan's go-to receiver.
Funchess' size and athleticism help him overpower smaller corners, and after catching 49 passes last season, his reception total should climb into the 60s this fall. He isn't worried about the position change.
"My football IQ is off the charts," Funchess told The Michigan Daily, the school's student newspaper. "I knew all the positions, made sure I knew all the formations and just got everybody set when we were doing summer 7-on-7s."
With NFL teams going to bigger and bigger wide receivers, Funchess' production will be monitored by scouts this fall. That production is going to be vital for an offense that lacks proven playmakers. There is no clear-cut feature back, and Funchess is the only player on the roster who had more than 20 receptions last season. The No. 2 returning receiver is tight end Jake Butt, who had 20 catches last fall. But Butt is coming off an ACL injury, and he might not return until October.
Despite the offensive issues -- we haven't even mentioned the line, which was a mess last season and lost its two best players, including first-round pick Taylor Lewan, to graduation -- quarterback Devin Gardner is confident the unit will be productive. He told FoxSports.com that new coordinator Doug Nussmeier's system is "a lot more simple" than predecessor Al Borges'. Gardner also told mlive.com that Nussmeier is giving him more leeway at the line, including the ability to change protections.
While Gardner said Nussmeier has simplified the offense for the quarterbacks, Funchess said that isn't necessarily the case for the receivers.
"It's a lot more work because of all the different route combinations that he has in the playbook," he told mlive.com.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.