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Posts Tagged ‘Cornerback’

Jeremy Clark drafted 197th overall by New York Jets

Saturday, April 29th, 2017


Cornerback Jeremy Clark rounded out Michigan’s 2017 NFL Draft as the 11th Wolverine selected. He was drafted by the New York Jets with the 13th pick of the sixth round, 197th overall.

Clark missed most of his senior season after tearing his ACL in Week 4. He had started the first three games of the season, recording 10 tackles and two pass breakups prior to his injury. In 2015, he made seven starts, notching 21 tackles and three interceptions.

As a sixth round draft pick, he’ll have work to do to make the Jets roster, but he joins a unit that recorded just eight interceptions in 2016, which was second worst in the league. The Jets were middle of the pack in pass defense and entered the draft with retooling the secondary as a major need. The team signed Morris Claiborne as a free agent but need corners to step up alongside him. Clark will need to fully recover from his injury, but as a big, physical press corner, will have a shot at earning a spot.

Jourdan Lewis drafted 92nd overall by Dallas Cowboys

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Jourdan Lewis became the fourth Michigan Wolverine selected in the 2017 NFL Draft when he was taken 92nd overall by the Dallas Cowboys. He will join Taco Charlton, who was drafted 28th overall on Thursday night.

Lewis was a consensus first-team All-American, All-Big Ten First-Team selection last season, and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s best defensive back. He won the Big Ten’s Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award despite missing the first three games of the season due to injury.

Lewis set Michigan’s career pass breakups record with 45. He also recorded 133 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and six interceptions throughout his career. In 2015, Lewis set Michigan’s single-season pass breakups record with 22.

In 2016, Lewis made the highlight of the season for the Wolverines, leaping and snatching a game-clinching interception against Wisconsin. He also picked off a pass in the win over Michigan State.

In Dallas, Lewis will join fellow cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, who was selected in the second round out of Colorado, to help solidify the Cowboys’ secondary. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne both departed as free agents in the offseason and the Cowboys are shopping Orlando Scandrick. The Cowboys allowed the most pass completions and seventh-most passing yards in the league last season while recording just nine interceptions, which were more than just four other teams.

Lewis does await trial on July 24 for an alleged domestic violence incident that occurred on March 15. The uncertainty regarding his legal status surely caused his draft stock to fall to the late third round. But he’ll have every chance to lock down a spot in the Cowboys secondary this fall.

New in Blue: 2018 CB Myles Sims

Friday, April 7th, 2017


(Scout.com)

Myles Sims – CB | 6-2, 173 | Atlanta, Ga. (Westlake)
ESPN4-star, #17 CB Rivals: 4-star, #8 CB 247: 3-star, #38 CB Scout: 4-star, 11 CB
247 Composite: 4-star #17 CB, #133 nationally
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, USC, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, LSU, Stanford, Florida, Georgia

Michigan picked up its first football commitment in a month and a half when Georgia cornerback Myles Sims pledged to the Wolverines on Friday afternoon. He announced his intention to play in Ann Arbor on Twitter.

Sims is a four-star according to ESPN, Rivals, and Scout, and a three-star according to 247. Rivals ranks him the highest as the 8th-best corner in the 2018 class, while Scout ranks him 11th, ESPN 17th, and 247 38th. Nationally, Rivals has him as the 51st-best overall player in the class, while Scout has him 80th, ESPN 211th, and 247 390th. According to the 247 Composite, Sims is the 17th-best cornerback and the 133rd-best player in the class.

The Westlake High prospect chose Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines over his home state Georgia Bulldogs. He holds offers from most of the major powers including Alabama, USC, Oklahoma, LSU, Stanford, and Florida, to name a few.

Scout likes Sims’ frame, length, and coverage skills while noting that he’ll have to add some strength, which is expected from most players coming out of high school. They expanded on that in their analysis.

“Sims is a long and rangy defensive back with the ability to play cornerback or free safety on the next level. With Sims, what stands out immediately is his frame and length. He covers a lot of ground and he can get his hands on a lot of footballs in coverage. He is still thin, so he needs to add mass and strength, but that should come in time. In coverage, he is best when playing off coverage. He can still improve his quickness in short space. He has great body control, he can make plays on the ball and he is a very smart defensive back in coverage. His tackling is solid.”

Sims is the fourth member of Michigan’s 2018 class, joining fellow Georgian, linebacker Otis Reese, offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor, and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

New in Blue: 2016 CB LaVert Hill

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016


LaVert Hill(247 Sports)

LaVert Hill – CB | 5-10, 176 | Detroit, Mich – Martin Luther King
ESPN: 4-star, #21 CB Rivals: 4-star, #14 CB 247: 4-star, #6 CB Scout: 4-star, #7 CB
Other top offers: Michigan State, Clemson, Tennessee, USC, UCLA, Ohio State, Georgia, Miami

One of the more dramatic recruiting stories for Michigan’s class has ended in Michigan’s favor with a commitment from Detroit King cornerback LaVert Hill. The younger brother of current Michigan safety Delano Hill chose the Wolverines over Penn State and rival Michigan State.

Hill is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the sixth-best cornerback in the class and 88th-best overall player in the class. Scout ranks him seventh at his position and 97th overall. Rivals has him 14th and 176th, while ESPN ranks him the lowest as the 21st-best corner in the class and 278th-best overall.

Scout likes his coverage awareness, hands, and instincts, but thinks he needs to improve his size. At 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds he’s the exact same size Jourdan Lewis was listed at on this season’s roster. Lewis, of course, was a first team All-American and semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards. Scout expands on their analysis of Hill.

“Has a natural knack for reading and jumping routes. Good, quick feet and ability to change directions. Technically sound and smooth in his backpedal and transition. Has the closing speed to makeup ground and break on passes. Must add size and strength. Solid wrap-up tackler, but must get stronger to improve in this area.”

Hill joins David Long to give Michigan a pair of highly-rated cornerbacks in addition to Devin Gil and Josh Metellus, who will likely wind up at safety or linebacker. At least one of the committed receivers may wind up in the secondary as well.

Hill is an excellent pickup for Harbaugh, not only for the talent he brings to Ann Arbor but because he’s a head-to-head recruiting win for a Detroit kid against bitter in-state rival Michigan State. During Michigan’s downturn the past few years, the Spartans took hold of most of the state’s best players, but Harbaugh is working to put an end to that with Hill, who is ranked fifth in the state, and offensive tackle Michael Onwenu, the top player in the state.

Hill is the second commitment of the day for Michigan, following receiver Nate Johnson’s commitment earlier this morning. Stay tuned for more commitment news and coverage from Signing of the Stars.

New in Blue: 2016 CB David Long

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


David Long(247 Sports)

David Long – CB | 6-0, 175 | Los Angeles, Calif. – Loyola
ESPN: 4-star, #5 ATH Rivals: 4-star, #9 CB 247: 4-star, #8 CB Scout: 4-star, #5 CB
Other top offers: Washington, Stanford, USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, Utah

With less than two weeks remaining until National Signing Day, Michigan picked up another piece of the puzzle with a commitment from Los Angeles, Calif. native David Long. The Loyola High School cornerback and U.S. Army All-American announced his commitment to Michigan over Washington on Thursday afternoon.

Long was previously committed to Stanford on Aug. 6, but that lasted just four months as he decommitted from the Cardinal on Dec. 18. Long officially visited Michigan for the Michigan State game on Oct. 17 and Michigan coaches have gone out to California for in-home visits with Crawford a few times since. After his decommitment from Stanford, it became a two-horse race between Michigan and Washington, where Crawford has visited twice in the past month.

Long is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting sites. Scout and 247 rank him the highest nationally as the 64th-best player in the class. Scout lists him as the sixth-best cornerback and 247 as the eight-best. Rivals ranks Long the ninth-best corner in the class and 91st overall, while ESPN lists him as the fifth-best athlete and 104th-best overall player in the class.

Long played in the U.S. Army All-American game on Jan. 9 and recorded an impressive interception.

Scout lists Long’s strengths as anticipation, change of direction, and hands, while noting that his main area to improve is coverage awareness. They expand on that with a nice breakdown.

“Long is a two-way player who emerged this past spring as an elite cover corner. Has all the physical tools you could want in a next level DB including size, quickness, top end speed, instincts and toughness. He’s a smart player with a high understanding of how to play the game and always competes at a high level. He’s smooth in his backpedal, shows explosiveness getting in and out of his breaks and has excellent recovery speed as well.”

At 6-foot, 175-pounds, Long has a couple of inches on Michigan’s All-American corner Jourdan Lewis, but is a couple inches shorter than Channing Stribling. Michigan returns all of its corners next fall, so Long won’t need to play a big role as a true freshman. But with Lewis and Jeremy Clark departing after next season, Long will have a chance to work into a starting role at that point.

Predicting Michigan 2015: The secondary

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015


PredictingMichigan-Secondary

Jabrill Peppers(Leon Halip, Getty Images)

Previously: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers

The unit with the most room to improve on Michigan’s defense under Jim Harbaugh is the secondary, which has been a weakness over the past few seasons. With the departure of both preseason starting cornerbacks from last season, Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor, there’s room for new guys to step in and make some noise under the new regime.

Luckily, there’s plenty of depth at both cornerback and safety for the Wolverines. A few younger players stepped in and played heightened roles during the 2014 season and figure to hold the reins heading into Week 1 against Utah.

Here’s a look at how the secondary will line up.

Probable starters

Jourdan-Lewis-vs-Miami-OH

Jourdan Lewis looks to build on a breakout season in 2014 (MGoBlue.com)

While the cornerback group might not have the depth of the safeties on paper, two rock solid starters should give Michigan a big lift against the pass. Jourdan Lewis was clearly the defense’s most improved player last season and burst onto the scene as the most consistent cornerback on the roster. Lewis has elite speed to go along with good hands and instincts, and by the end of the season he was matching up with opposing No. 1 wide receivers.

Lewis started seven games and picked up 39 tackles and two picks. He was Michigan’s best defense against downfield passes and broke up six passes. If he can build on his fabulous sophomore season, he’ll be the leader in the Michigan secondary.

Across from Lewis will be Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons, who played parts of four seasons for the Cardinal. Lyons injured his foot after two games as a freshman, qualifying for a medical redshirt and allowing him to transfer to Michigan as a graduate student.

Lyons enjoyed a decorated career at Stanford, playing 41 games at cornerback and appearing on the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list prior to the 2014 season. He picked up 30 tackles as a senior and broke up three passes. He recorded 4.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, and picked off two passes as a junior in 2013.

Lyons was recruited by Harbaugh in 2011 when he committed to Stanford and will rejoin his coach in Ann Arbor for his final college season. Lyons will likely win a starting job after Countess decided to transfer for his final season.

Harbaugh and his staff have a handful of options at secondary, though one of the starters will certainly be the dynamic Jabrill Peppers. Peppers, the best pure athlete on the team, was moved to safety this offseason after struggling to stay healthy as a true freshman. He played in only three games and recorded eight tackles, but the flashes of his ability have Michigan fans eager for his true coming out party.

Peppers joined Michigan as a five-star recruit who dominated his senior season at Paramus Catholic High School under Coach Chris Partridge. Peppers was a star on offense and defense in high school, but was recruited as a defensive back. In two years at Paramus Catholic, Peppers picked up 134 tackles, seven picks, and two sacks.

If Peppers stays healthy, he’ll likely be the best player on the Michigan defense.

At free safety, Jarrod Wilson returns from a fine junior season in which he recorded 50 tackles and two pass break-ups. At 6-foot-2, Wilson has size to go with his quickness and his ball skills have gotten better throughout his career. Wilson was huge for Michigan last season with the struggles at corner. If the Wolverines improve in front of Wilson this season, he’ll have more reign to force turnovers and break up passes.

Projected Stats – Lewis
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
40 2.0 4
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
25 42 14 56 0.0 1.5 0 8 2
Projected Stats – Lyons
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
45 2.0 3
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
43 81 46 127 0.0 4.5 3 7 3
Projected Stats – Peppers
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
50 3.0 4
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
3 6 2 8 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Projected Stats – Wilson
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
40 1.0 2
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
36 56 52 108 0.0 3.0 1 4 2

Returning contributors

Michigan returns only one other cornerback who played a major role during 2014, Channing Stribling. Stribling played 10 games as a backup corner last season, making seven tackles. He has been a decent rotational guy in two college seasons, but will be asked to play a larger role as an upperclassman. Stribling is tall for a cornerback and is fast enough to stick with Big Ten receivers. His playmaking ability isn’t up to par with the likes of Lewis or Lyons, but he can hold his own.

Safety is a different story for Michigan in terms of depth. Delano Hill started five games for Michigan last season and made 21 tackles. He’s only six feet tall, but Hill is a great tackler and stands out as a security blanket downfield. Hill’s value lies in his versatility. He was used to cover both receivers and tight ends in 2014 and has a good nose for the ball. He’ll be on the field for a ton of snaps this season.

Right there with Hill is redshirt junior Jeremy Clark, who played in 11 games and made 18 tackles in 2014. Clark is huge for a safety – 6-foot-4 – and shares strengths with Hill. He’s a great tackler, a hard hitter and has good speed for his size. Clark is strong in the run-stopping game as a safety and can match up with any position player on the offense.

Dymonte Thomas also played a big role in 2014, playing in 10 games and making 27 tackles. He’s got the highest ceiling in this group of defensive backs after coming to Michigan as a five-star recruit. Thomas is fast and athletic, which allows him to stay with receivers downfield and play physical with ball carriers in front of him.

Hill, Clark, and Thomas give Michigan a ton of depth at safety and lift much of the weight off the cornerbacks’ shoulders. A.J. Pearson is another name to watch in the rotation, though he didn’t get much time last season. He could fill in anywhere in the secondary.

Projected Stats – Stribling
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
25 0.0 1
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
23 20 3 23 0.0 0.5 1 0 0
Projected Stats – Hill
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
22 0.0 1
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
20 14 7 21 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Projected Stats – Clark
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
20 1.5 0
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
19 10 8 18 0.0 0.0 0 1 0
Projected Stats – Thomas
Total Tackles Tackles for Loss INT
25 1.0 1
Career Stats
Games Played Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF PDef INT
23 24 10 34 0.0 0.0 1 0 0

New faces

Michigan brought in two new cornerbacks this spring, led by Alabama native Keith Washington. Washington is defined by his elite speed in the secondary and will use it to make plays on the ball. If Washington can stick with receivers at the college level, he’ll be a dangerous corner when the ball is thrown to his side of the field.

Tyree Kinnel comes out of high school with just as much upside as Washington, though he doesn’t possess his elite speed. Kinnel is a sound tackler and can defend both the run and the pass.

Both true freshmen will get a chance to earn playing time in 2015, as Michigan’s cornerback group isn’t as deep as others. They’ll have to prove they can effectively cover Big Ten-caliber receivers to get a chance.

Meet the rest

Terry Richardson – senior, 5’9″, 174 from Detroit, Mich. (Cass Tech), 14 career games played
Travis Wooley – senior, 6’0″, 195 from Sault Sainte Marie, Mich. (Sault Area), no career stats
Matt Mitchell – sophomore, 5’10”, 179 from Dexter, Mich. (Dexter), no career stats
Brandon Watson – sophomore, 5’11”, 189 from Wilmington, Del (Eastern Christian Academy), no career stats
Reon Dawson – junior, 6’2″, 175 from from Trotwood, Ohio (Trotwood-Madison), no career stats
Francois Montbrun – junior, 5’10”, 183 from Ishpeming, Mich. (Westwood), no career stats
Anthony Dalimonte – junior, 5’9″, 176 from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (Brother Rice), no career stats
Shaun Austin – senior, 6’1″, 202 from Plymouth, Mich. (Plymouth), no career stats

New in Blue: Stanford CB transfer Wayne Lyons

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015


Wayne Lyons

Wayne Lyons – CB | 6-1, 193 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Dillard (Stanford University)
ESPN: 4-star, #7 Saf, 81 grade Rivals: 4-star, #6 Saf 247: 4-star, #4 Saf Scout: 4-star, #8 Saf
Other top offers: Stanford, Nebraska, UCLA, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida
*Class of 2011

Wayne Lyons became the second transfer to sign with Michigan since signing day Tuesday, joining D.J. Durkin’s defense as a fifth-year cornerback. Lyons spent the last four years at Stanford University, playing 41 games from 2012-2014 after his freshman season was cut short due to a broken foot.

Lyons’ calling card is his athleticism. He played both linebacker and cornerback in high school, so his tackling and ball-hawking skills help him stay with bigger receivers. He also ran track and specialized in hurdles, giving Michigan a dangerous speed combination to go with Jourdan Lewis.

Lyons picked up 30 tackles in 13 games last season, breaking up three passes and forcing a fumble. He recorded 69 tackles as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

As a four-star recruit, Lyons was a top-10 cornerback out of Florida. He joins a Michigan secondary that lost starting cornerback Raymon Taylor to graduation and returns 2014 standout Lewis, senior Blake Countess, and gets mega-hyped Jabrill Peppers back from injury.

New in Blue: 2015 cornerback Keith Washington

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015


Keith Washington(Mickey Welsh, Montgomery Advertiser)

Keith Washington – CB | 6-2, 170 | Prattville, Ala. – Prattville
ESPN: 3-star, #117 ATH Rivals: 3-star, #26 ATH 247: 3-star, #118 ATH Scout: 3-star, #147 CB
Other top offers: California, Miami, Missouri, North Carolina, South Florida, Wake Forest, Duke, Memphis

Jim Harbaugh missed out on a pair of defensive backs early in the week when Damon Arnette committed to Ohio State and Chris Williamson chose his home-state Florida Gators. But he was able to salvage a corner on National Signing Day when Prattville, Ala. athlete Keith Washington flipped from California to the Wolverines.

Washington is a three-star all around. Rivals ranks him as the 26th-best athlete in the class, while ESPN has him 117th and 247 has him 118th. Scout ranks him as the 147th-best corner. None have him ranked nationally, but 247’s composite rankings has him 954th overall. At 6’2″, he has good size for a corner, though he will need to put some muscle on his thin, 170-pound frame before he’s ready to compete.

247 lists Washington’s best skill as versatility, for which they give him an eight. He’s a seven on size, ball skills, and intangibles, but just a five at speed and explosiveness.

Washington’s commitment is surprising considering he lives in Alabama, committed to Cal last week, and hasn’t visited Michigan. But  Harbaugh has been working hard to fill out the class and has a proven track record that can attract recruits. Stay tuned for more updates as the day goes on.

Recruiting Profile: 2015 CB Iman Marshall

Friday, January 23rd, 2015


Iman Marshall
(247 Sports)

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark

Iman Marshall – CB | 6’2″, 190 | Long Beach, Calif. – Long Beach Poly
ESPN: 5-star, #1 CB, 92 grade Rivals: 5-star, #1 CB, #3 nat 247: 5-star, #1 CB, #5 nat Scout: 5-star, #1 CB
Other top offers: USC, Alabama, FSU, Oregon, LSU, UCLA, Auburn, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Miami, ND

One of the most talented and impressive physical specimens being recruited at the cornerback position this season, Long Beach Poly’s Iman Marshall looks to be Michigan’s number one quarry this winter. Marshall has yet to commit to any team thus far, but has either visited or has visits scheduled with Notre Dame, Florida State, LSU, Oregon, and Michigan, with USC also having mutual interest. Marshall sported the vaunted No. 2 jersey during his visit to Ann Arbor this past week, and could have a similar impact to Charles Woodson given the tools he would bring to Michigan if he does indeed commit to the Wolverines.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Iman MarshallMarshall has prodigious size as far as cornerbacks go, having a Nike verified height of 6’2″ (though listed at a shorter 6’1″ by many other outlets). While most defensive backs with 6-foot-plus frames don’t stick on the boundary as cornerbacks due to a lack of athleticism, there is no such concern with Marshall. The Long Beach native showcases very good range and downfield speed, and while he doesn’t have the most fluid of hips, he has flexible ankles and has good change of direction ability for a player of his size. Marshall might not light up stopwatches while running in shorts, but he carries his pads well on the field. Additionally, he has shown the athletic versatility to play as a receiver, with the ball in his hands, as outside corner, a nickel back, a deep safety, and as a kick returner.

Coverage

Coverage - Iman MarshallMarshall lined up most frequently in zone coverage as opposed to man coverage during his high school career at Long Beach, and seems best suited to zone going forward. Marshall has great length and demonstrated it often, frequently taking away passing windows and getting his hand in to break up would-be completions. His instincts and ability to read the play in front of him and the ball in the air are top-notch, which should translate into early playing time and success in college.

In terms of man coverage, Marshall lacks great change of direction and transition out of his backpedal, and could struggle to keep up vertically on an island versus the fastest and quickest receivers in college football. Marshall is not afraid to get physical in coverage, especially near the line of scrimmage, and has the length of a prototypical press corner. As a senior, Marshall was deployed as a single safety and charged with playing the center field which he manned capably.

Ball Skills

Ball Skills - Iman MarshallAs Marshall’s experience playing the wide receiver position at times throughout his career can attest to, he has very good ball skills, not only for the interception, but to catch passes on offense. Marshall doesn’t flash an outstanding catch radius or show off with eye-popping one-handers, but he has sure hands to pluck the football and the ability to put himself in position to do so. He adjusts well to passes thrown over his head and on his back shoulder. Marshall’s length and leaping ability are useful in competing for contested passes and high-pointing the football. When Marshall has the ball in his hands, he can be dangerous on interception and kick returns, showing shifty footwork and strength to ward off tackles.

Run Support

Run Support - Iman MarshallOne thing that can be infuriating while watching cornerbacks at any level of football is how noncommittal they can be towards playing the running game. This is certainly not the case with Marshall as he is an aggressive run defender who plays with strength and instincts. While Marshall could do a better job of getting off of blocks given his ability and the relative level of competition he faced, he pursues with great range and hustle. Marshall shows good tackling technique for a defensive back and wraps up while still delivering jarring hits on the football. With his combination of size and willingness versus the run, Marshall could convert to the safety position if needed by a coaching staff.

Bottom Line

Marshall may not possess blazing timed speed or the most explosive change of direction capabilities, but he stands out in every other category that is important to the cornerback position at the collegiate level. His great instincts will go a long way toward leveraging a role for himself on the football field and he possesses long-term potential to go pro within a few years. If Marshall does indeed sign with the Wolverines this winter, he could form one half of what could be a devastating duo at the cornerback position with last year’s five star recruit Jabrill Peppers. On the whole, Iman Marshall compares to former Virginia Tech and current Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
9.2 (5-star)

Following his visit to Michigan earlier this week, Marshall is visiting LSU this weekend and plans to wrap up his official visits with Oregon next weekend. Jim Harbaugh and staff plan to make an in-home visit to Marshall and his family — Marshall made the trip to Ann Arbor alone — before signing day on Feb. 4, but pulling him from hometown USC will be a tall order.

Predicting Michigan: The secondary

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


Predicting-Michigan-Secondary

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Greg Mattison owns all of the tools to turn what was a shaky secondary in 2013 into a strength of the defense during his fourth season under Brady Hoke at Michigan.

Last season Michigan’s tendency to surrender the big play allowed teams to hang around before eventually costing the Wolverines in a late comeback by Penn State in Happy Valley. This unit has all the tools to shut down Big Ten receivers, but a few key players need to make major spring adjustments.

The Starters

Blake Countess was the clear-cut top defensive back for Michigan during the 2013 season, snatching a team-high six interceptions and taking on opponents’ best receivers every week. But this is an important offseason for the redshirt junior, as his ability to turn when the ball is in flight stands between him being a good defender and perhaps becoming one of the best in the conference. Countess often got beat despite tight coverage because he was looking at the receiver rather than finding the ball. If he can make an adjustment to look for the pass while staying in front of his man, offensive coordinators might stop throwing his way.

Countess was joined in 2013 by Raymon Taylor, who made 12 starts and grabbed four interceptions of his own as a junior. Big Ten quarterbacks were much more willing to throw at Taylor last season, and he was largely outmatched by most of the tougher receivers. Taylor is likely to start at cornerback, so his improvement through the offseason is one of the most important factors in improving the defense as a whole.

If Countess ends up playing the majority of his minutes at nickelback it will make room for talented sophomore Jourdan Lewis, who caught two interceptions during the spring game and sparked a buzz among the defensive coaches during the early spring. Much like Taylor and Countess, Lewis is around 5’10″ and 175 pounds. He played a limited role as a freshman, but did appear in eight games and batted down two passes.

Jarrod Wilson is ready to become the full-time starter at safety after picking up two interceptions and 50 tackles as a sophomore. Wilson gives the Michigan secondary an aggressive ball hawk that loves to support the running game. Mattison takes advantage of the junior’s versatility to send him into the backfield when he’s not dropping back in coverage.

The other safety position appears to be wide open for a cast of younger players trying to earn a starting job. Dymonte Thomas spent some time in the secondary as a freshman, but Delano Hill took most of the first-team snaps during the spring game. One of these sophomores will separate themselves during the offseason, but they are both in the running heading into fall camp.

Career Stats – Countess
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2011 30 14 44 0 1.5 1 6 0
2012 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013 26 20 46 0 2.0 0 4 6
Totals 56 34 90 0 3.5 1 10 6
Career Stats – Taylor
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2011 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0
2012 33 12 45 0 0 0 1 2
2013 61 25 86 0.5 1.5 0 9 4
Totals 95 38 133 0.5 1.5 0 10 6
Career Stats – Lewis
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2013 14 3 17 0 0 0 2 0
Totals 14 3 17 0 0 0 2 0
Career Stats – Wilson
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2012 4 4 8 0 0 0 0 0
2013 28 22 50 0 2.0 0 2 2
Totals 32 26 58 0 2.0 0 2 2
Career Stats – Thomas
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2013 5 2 7 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 5 2 7 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Hill
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2013 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

Veteran Depth

Michigan developed an abundance of depth at the cornerback position during 2013 as Mattison used a packed rotation while trying to find players that could hang with Big Ten receivers. Though many of his combinations faltered, Michigan now boasts plenty of corners to make the spring competition more productive.

Senior Delonte Hollowell hopes to play the most important role of his career in 2014 as he tries to crack the lineup behind a host of younger players. Hollowell has played sparingly at cornerback throughout his Michigan career, including four times as a backup last season. The Detroit native contributes predominantly on special teams and will need a strong offseason to stay in the mix for a secondary position.

The perfect scenario for Michigan’s defense would include sophomore Channing Stribling stepping up during camp and earning a major role in the secondary. Stribling offers the Wolverines a weapon that many of the other cornerbacks lack: Size. At 6’2″, the sophomore is equipped with the tools to defend some of the biggest and most dominant receivers in the Big Ten if he can earn a spot in the rotation before August 30.

Career Stats – Hollowell
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2011 5 1 6 0 0 0 0 0
2012 1 3 4 0 0 0 0 0
2013 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 7 5 12 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Stribling
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF P Def INT
2013 14 2 16 0 0 1 0 0
Totals 14 2 16 0 0 1 0 0

Newcomers

Michigan fans are eagerly awaiting Hoke’s most prized recruit as a head coach: Jabrill Peppers. The five-star defensive back owns the talent to step on campus and start at cornerback right away, and Mattison will likely give him every opportunity to do so. Though the early comparisons to Charles Woodson are premature, Peppers arrives at Michigan with as much talent as any recruit in recent memory and could greatly improve the defense single-handedly. In Drew’s latest mailbag last week, he projected Peppers to start the season as a reserve nickelback, but eventually snag the starting strong safety spot. The ideal situation would be if Hill or Thomas can win the spot and Peppers gets his feet wet at nickelback, but if Peppers does beat out the other two, he’ll be well on his way to living up to the hype.