Perhaps the unit on team 135 with the best combination of experience and raw talent is the secondary. While Thomas Gordon and Courtney Avery are both lost to graduation, neither were looked at as anything more than “solid” players during their time in Ann Arbor. With two returning starters at CB, and some guys who played a lot at safety, combined with some highly rated recruits, this unit could be a real strength for the University of Michigan next fall.
Perhaps the biggest news surrounding Michigan football lately are the changes affecting the coaching responsibilities. Curt Mallory will be coaching the safeties, and Roy Manning will be coaching the cornerbacks. It’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact this will have on the secondary this fall. Now let’s look at who we will be seeing man the defensive backfield.
CB: Blake Countess (5-10, 182 RS JR)
Countess had a pretty solid season last year after missing almost his entire second season with a knee injury. While I think some of the criticism of Countess that came from Michigan fans stemmed from the fact that he may have been hyped up a little too much in last year’s offseason, he is still a good player with a knack for being in the right place at the right time (he had six interceptions last
year) and has shown flashes of borderline elite coverage ability. With another offseason to get bigger, faster, and stronger, Countess could potentially be a lockdown corner next year for the Wolverines.
CB: Raymon Taylor (5-10, 183 SR)
Raymon Taylor might be one of the most frustrating players I’ve watched in a while. He is just so inconsistent. He might look like superman on one play, either locking down a receiver or laying the lumber on someone right as they catch the ball, but on the next play he gets torched by 20 yards. If, and that’s a big if, Taylor can put it together and become consistent, he may combine with Countess to form a great duo at cornerback.
Safety: Dymonte Thomas (6-2, 190 So)
Safety is where things get a little trickier. It’s hard to say who is going to emerge at safety, but I truly feel like Thomas is going to be a starter by the time fall rolls around. Let’s look at the facts. He was very highly rated coming out of high school, and while that definitely doesn’t always mean a lot, it can be a pretty good indicator of a player’s potential. He received rave reviews from coaches last fall, including from Greg Mattison. We have seen his athletic ability, and with another offseason to develop, it’s hard to see him not coming into spring and fall camp looking even better. He started seeing time on defense late in the season, and if he picks up where he left off, not only might Thomas start, but he might be a pretty darn good player to boot.
Safety: Jarrod Wilson (6-2, 200 JR)
I was a lot less certain about this one. While Wilson did play a lot last year, that was partly due to some injuries that took place in the defensive backfield. Wilson did show some flashes of being a solid player, but there were times where he looked pretty bad. It’s not fair to judge a player based on how they perform in their second season, so I’m definitely not writing him off (obviously since I have him pegged as a starter) and I do think because of his experience he will get the starting nod in the first game. But there are certainly some other guys who are capable of playing well and starting in his place.
Jourdan Lewis (So) played in some key situations last year along with fellow sophomore Channing Stribling. I’ve heard a lot of great things about these guys from those who have attended practices, and we as fans have seen some flashes from both of these players. While I don’t think either will start over Taylor or Countess, I do believe that these two young players will certainly push the starters and make some plays on the field when their numbers are called.
Delano Hill (So) was a freshman last year and didn’t see time at safety, but there were still a lot of good things said about his performance in practice. His athleticism really caught people by surprise, and his speed has been described as elite. It’s hard to say what his knowledge of the defensive playbook is, but after experiencing a full offseason for the first time, it is very possible that the light could come on for this young player.
There are a couple of talented freshman coming in, starting with early enrollee Brandon Watson. While Watson is indeed a talented player and coming in early will certainly give him an advantage in his quest to play as a true freshman, the guy I think everyone can agree is a 100% lock to see time in his first season is Jabrill Peppers. Peppers is the definition of a super recruit, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he ended up starting somewhere this season. I don’t want to hype him up too much (everyone else is doing that for me) but I have to admit that having him will make some of the positional battles very interesting.
Of course, we will all find out together how this unit shapes up and plays out. I strongly believe that regardless of who ends up starting and where, the defensive backfield will not only be much better than it was last year, but will be one of the top defensive backfields in the conference. Stay tuned to isportsweb for more team 135 projections.