The passing game is an underrated facet of what the University of Michigan football program wants to do on offense, but it will be extremely vital to the success on that side of the ball during the 2014 season.
In order to open up the run game, the wide receivers will need to step up and have a legitimate group of players out on the field this year. Devin Gardner needs a strong supporting cast, and the receiving corps has candidates to fill this role for the Wolverines.
Follow us through the jump to preview the wide receiving corps that Team 135 will feature.
When bringing up weapons in the passing game, the top name mentioned is junior Devin Funchess, a former tight end who will be making the full-time switch to wide receiver. Funchess is a big target with great athleticism that will be a great target for Gardner on the outside.
Judging by the Spring Game alone, it appears that the Wolverines will make a huge effort to get Funchess the ball as much as possible. Some NFL Draft analysts have him as a first-round pick in next year’s class, and the hype is justified. His skill set is comparable to Detroit Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron, formerly of North Carolina.
Outside of Funchess, there is not a clear-cut number-two receiver on this roster right now, but a ton of hype is being thrown the way of true freshman Freddy Canteen.
Canteen had a fantastic showing in Spring practices and backed up the claim that he was ready to step foot on the field this year. He has the look of a slot receiver, but he has the ability to stretch the field with his speed.
Two other candidates for playing time opposite Funchess are redshirt sophomores Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Both are taller targets with good speed.
Darboh will be looking to bounce back in a big way following his season-ending foot injury prior to the start of the 2013 season. He was a guy the staff was very high on in the off-season last year and he will have the opportunity to gain that back with a strong camp.
Chesson is a speedy guy who can beat you over the top, but he needs to become a little more well-rounded.
People seem to forget about Dennis Norfleet as a wide receiver. I’m not sure what type of role he’ll have in the offense, but he seems like an all-around weapon for them to use as a change of pace. He will also return kicks this season.
Down the depth chart, sophomores Csont’e York and Damario Jones, along with redshirt freshman Jaron Dukes, will fight it out for playing time as second-string guys.
In terms of potential redshirts, I believe that both freshmen Drake Harris and Moe Ways could be guys that sit out this year. It will take a big performance in camp for them to see any playing time and that seems like a tall task at this point. Harris was arguably the prize on the offensive side of the ball in the 2014 class, but he has been hampered by injuries. That will limit his opportunities in year one.
The cupboard is not bare at this position, but there are a ton of question marks. Much like the other spots on this team, the talent is there for this group to be a solid one for the Wolverines, but it has to materialize on the field this year. They should boast a solid passing game if Gardner stays healthy and is kept upright by the offensive line.