NCAA Football News

Michigan Football: Over, Under Stat Projections for Devin Funchess in 2014

As a freshman, Devin Funchess showed glimpses of greatness. As a sophomore, he solidified himself as one of the Big Ten’s premier pass-catching threats. Today, Funchess, who is now known as one of the country’s best, could be months away from being a first-rounder in the 2015 NFL draft.

After being asked about the hype surrounding Funchess’ potential pro status and if it surprised him, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke tilted his head, paused for a brief moment, smiled and said: “No. He’s physically gifted, you know. But he has to keep maturing as a player…”

According to WalterFootball.com, the former Farmington Hills Harrison phenom is the No. 1-ranked draft-eligible tight end. However, as of last year, he’s now considered a wide receiver by collegiate standards.

Statistically, Funchess’ numbers have been on the rapid ascent. Of course, switching to wideout helped matters, but his experience is beginning to pay dividends.

In 2013, Funchess’ 49 catches were second to Jeremy Gallon’s 89. Now that Gallon’s gone, the offense, which returns just three receivers with 15 or more catches, will need to see next-level Funchess; Sunday Funchess—The real Devin Funchess. Judging by his progression, expecting anything short of a national-level, SI-cover-bound type of star would be aiming far too low.

This slideshow will examine key statistics such as receptions, total yards and, among others, touchdowns, before setting the over/under on what will probably be Funchess’ final year in Ann Arbor.

 

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The Opening 2014: Ranking the Top 25 Recruits in Attendance

If you enjoy elite athletes going toe-to-toe on the football field, you're going to love "The Opening." Nike's annual showcase in Beaverton, Oregon, takes center stage during the second week of July, offering competitors a chance to test their skills against fellow high school standouts.

The 2015 class will be well-represented in Beaverton, as more than 150 players received invitations to attend. Most of these prospects rank among the most elite recruits in this cycle, so the spotlight will shine brightly with bragging rights on the line.

We examined the event roster, ranking participants based on past performances and collegiate potential. Here's a look at the top 25 players, who can count on plenty of competition from those left off the list.

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Texas Football: Why Quandre Diggs Will Be the Longhorns' X-Factor in 2014

The spotlight on the Texas Longhorns is brighter than it has been it many years. Head coach Charlie Strong has a lot of players on his roster who have the opportunity to be important contributors toward the Longhorns' success in his first season.

It's obvious that a lot of attention will be on senior defensive end Cedric Reed, who ESPN's Mel Kiper projects as the No. 1 defensive end in the 2015 NFL draft. But one player who will be an X-factor for Texas is cornerback Quandre Diggs.

Diggs earned a starting role as a true freshman in 2011, and his growth has been evident since his first season. 

He is a bit on the small side, measuring in at 5'10", but he plays like a much bigger guy and earned the nickname "Quandre the Giant" because of his giant playmaking abilities.

Seeing the field in all 39 games during his three seasons at Texas, Diggs set the bar high during his freshman season when he was awarded the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award and a variety of other All-American honors.

Opponents tried not to throw it in his direction as a sophomore, but he still managed to rack up a combined eight interceptions during his first two seasons.

In 2013, Diggs was moved to the nickel position, where he showed he could cause disruption in both the run and pass games. Although he did not gain an interception last season, Diggs managed to pick up 2.5 sacks and 10 pass breakups.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has commended Diggs for his toughness and said the defense needs more players with his attitude.

"Diggs has been a four-year player here," Bedford said. "He has that type of swagger, as a player would say. We need more guys with Diggs' attitude."

Whether he is playing at corner or nickelback, Diggs will always be a vocal leader for the defense, which is a trait he has carried since his freshman season. 

"Being a senior, it is my time to step up and be the leader for this team," Diggs said during spring practice. "Coach Strong has given us the reign to be senior leaders, and if we have something we need to say, we can say it."

It is typically the goal of defenses to force opponents to be one-dimensional. Strong and Bedford's defenses show a lot of aggressive traits and heavy rushes, which is part of the reason why Louisville was ranked as the No. 1 rush defense in the nation in 2013.

If the defensive line lives up to its hype and puts pressure on the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, the backfield will have the opportunity to get turnovers. And that's where Quandre the Giant will have to step up and be the X-factor for the defense.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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USC Football Recruiting: How Much Does the Loss of Petite Hurt the Trojans?

On a day when the recruiting bag offered mixed results, USC found out that one of their primary tight end targets will be taking his talents to North Carolina to play for David Cutcliffe and his Duke Blue Devils.

Tyler Petite, a 6'5", 225-pound smooth-running prospect, was thought to be a Trojan lean but surprised many with his decision to go east to ply his trade.

With tight end being a need for this class, it begs the question of how badly the loss of Petite hurts in this recruiting cycle.

Well, it depends.

USC still has offers out to others, such as Scout.com 4-star prospects Will Gragg and Devonaire Clarington, though both would have to be considered long shots to sign with the Trojans.

There is one other possibility, though, and it comes in the form of Tyrone Wheatley Jr., a Rivals.com 4-star tight end who made a trip out to USC not too long ago.

Wheatley is a 6'6", 260-pound beast whose upside is almost off the charts. Blessed with a college ready body, nice hands and an NFL pedigree, Wheatley would look great in the Cardinal and Gold of USC.

As of this writing, Michigan probably has a lead in his recruiting, but the Trojans are also in the mix, and, to be certain, if I had a choice between Petite and Wheatley, I would take young Tyrone all day long.

Don't get me wrong, Petite is a nice player, but, after looking at his videos, the Trojans can do better, especially if they can land a guy like Wheatley.

Of course, there are no guarantees that Wheatley will sign with USC, and this is not a great year for prep tight ends, so the loss of Petite does hurt to some extent.

This is especially true given the depth of the unit in 2015, when only Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and incoming freshman Bryce Dixon will remain after Randall Telfer graduates after this year.

Still, the fact that Petite did not give USC a verbal commitment may work in their favor.

Recruits at the position will undoubtedly note that the Trojans are thin in the unit and that early playing time is likely to come their way.

And, with that in mind, the prospects of going west to play for USC should become even more attractive for those considering the Trojans.

So in the final analysis, the loss of Tyler Petite may not be a bad thing after all.

We'll know for sure after national signing day, right?

 

Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

 

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10 College Football Players Who Can Best Help Their NFL Draft Status in 2014

The 2015 NFL draft is nearly a year away. Naturally, now's the time to start talking about who could help their draft stock next spring.

America's out of the World Cup. What else are we to do? These are indeed trying times. 

As you'll see, the players on this list are mostly highly regarded, but for one reason or another, have something that could hold them back in next year's draft. Maybe it was an off-field issue or a poor/injury-filled season in 2013. Or, perhaps a player just hasn't lived up to his potential.

The idea is that a big 2014 could alleviate any concerns and help that player's draft stock.

So which players could use a big season the most to help their draft stock in 2015? The answers are in the following slides. 

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