Injury roundup: Starting tight end Brandon Moore returns to Michigan practice
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan has carried on just fine without injured starting tight end Brandon Moore.
That could make it a deep position once the senior does return.
And it appears that time is drawing near.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Wednesday that Moore has returned to practice, and "could" be ready to play Saturday against Illinois (3:30 p.m., ABC).
"We'll see," Hoke said.
Moore injured his knee in the season-opening loss against Alabama. Senior Mike Kwiatkowski, a former walk-on, has replaced him as the team's primary starter at tight end.
But the emergence of true freshman Devin Funchess has been an even bigger story.
Funchess didn't play much against Alabama, but was thrust into heavier duty the following week against Air Force as Michigan searched for depth. He responded with a four-catch, 106-yard performance that included his first career touchdown.
His pass-catching is what has captured Michigan's attention, seemingly grabbing everything that comes his way. He even had an impressive one-handed grab at the goal line that set up the Wolverines' second touchdown against Purdue.
Funchess has nine catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
He's adequately replaced Moore in the lineup, although Moore remains active in team meetings, even offering Funchess tips on his blocking techniques.
A.J. Williams, another true freshman, has impressed coaches with his blocking as well.
"You have two young guys playing big-boy football, and I think they're learning every week," Hoke said. "I think we can be more physical there. I think as they grow and are (strength coach Aaron) Wellman-ized, and all those things, you'll see that with them, which will lead to maybe a little more movement at the line of scrimmage.
"I think Mike Kwiatkowski has really done a pretty good job. I think he's gotten better, and he's been called on to get better."
Once Moore returns, Michigan appears to have depth at tight end -- a major boost for a team that lost last year's top two players at the position in Kevin Koger and Steve Watson.
- Starting fullback Stephen Hopkins has not played since the Air Force game due to a hamstring injury. Hoke didn't seem optimistic the junior will return this week, saying "we'll see" when asked about his availability. "We'll keep moving through it." Hoke said he's been pleased with the play of redshirt freshman walk-on Joe Kerridge, who has replaced Hopkins in the lineup.
- Hoke said starting safety Jordan Kovacs, who played against Purdue with a large brace on his knee, is good to go. "Jordan, he's a pretty tough guy," Hoke said.