Three former Michigan Wolverines—Jake Ryan, Frank Clark and Devin Funchess—were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, which will take place in Indianapolis from Feb. 17-23.
Funchess and Ryan are the only players who finished the 2014 season with the Wolverines. Clark played the season’s first 10 games, recording 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks, before being dismissed from the team on Nov. 17 after a domestic violence arrest.
Funchess declared early for the NFL Draft, as many thought he should. Michigan’s big man out wide recorded 62 catches for 733 yards and four touchdowns during his final season. His size and strength make him a very intriguing prospect for the upcoming draft, even though he didn’t always live up to the expectations set for him.
Ryan consistently was one of the most exciting players to watch on a Michigan defense that found ways to succeed, despite being forced to make up for a lack of offensive production. A starter of 41 games in five seasons, Ryan recorded a total of 267 tackles 45.5 tackles for loss. An ACL tear in 2013 probably has some scouts worried about his durability, but he’ll get a great chance to prove what he can do physically at the combine.
A former Wolverine, running back Thomas Rawls, was also invited to the combine. Rawls played three seasons at Michigan (2011-2013) before transferring to Central Michigan to finish out his collegiate career. With the Wolverines, Rawls never did what many thought he could, totaling 333 yards during his three years. At Central Michigan, however, Rawls developed into an excellent back, rushing for 1,103 yards in only nine games.
One name you won’t see on the invite list is Devin Gardner, who played quarterback (and a little wide receiver) during his five years in Ann Arbor. Gardner set a school record for single-game passing yards (503) and total yards (584) against Indiana on Oct. 19, 2013. He finished his career ranked sixth on Michigan’s career passing touchdowns list with 44 and fourth in passing yards with 6,336.
Gardner made the switch from quarterback to wide receiver for a stint during the 2012 season, but he’ll make the permanent transition at the next level. That’s where he practiced and played during the Shrine Game in January, and he impressed NFL scouts with his abilities at the “new” position.
Should Gardner find himself on an NFL roster to begin next season, he will become the second straight Michigan quarterback to go to the next level at a new position. The first was of course Denard Robinson, who started at running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season before suffering a foot sprain.
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.