Defending Michigan football challenges many of its cornerbacks.
While mixing up in more zone looks last season, the Wolverines often play coverage of press people. And although this is a difficult question, Michigan has developed numerous starting-caliber cornerbacks over the past five years that can handle their own reporting.
After Lavert Hill’s completion, this must happen again this off-season.
The All-Big Ten cornerback has been an important pillar in Michigan’s secondary school for the past three seasons, and his departure opens up alongside returning starter Ambry Thomas.
Hill’s replacement could be the player who came on for him last season when Hill was injured.
Defense coordinator Don Brown had high praise for Redshirt runner-up Vincent Gray (Rochester Adams) in a zoom call to local reporters on Thursday.
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“This is a guy who is 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, and I just hope that we can hold him down for his entire career so as not to come out early,” said Brown. “Not that I would treat myself to it because I wouldn’t do it at all, but I think he’s an excellent player with a huge reach.”
Ohio State recipient Garrett Wilson caught a long pass against Michigan defender Vincent Gray in Michigan Stadium during the first half of Saturday, November 30, 2019, at Michigan Stadium. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Gray, who appeared in all 13 games in 2019, ended the season with 20 tackles and five pass cancellations. He was Michigan’s third cornerback on the depth map after Hill and Thomas, who stood up for Hill when he competed in Illinois due to an injury and played significant snaps against the state of Ohio in place of injured security officer Brad Hawkins.
Brown praised Gray’s ability to make the transition from cornerback to security by the end of the year and said this was “not an easy task” and believes Gray has the confidence to succeed in cornerback.
“I can imagine a corner route against Alabama where he hits the ball, which is a big game, and I think it was against (Henry) Ruggs,” said Brown. “Sky is the limit for this guy. He is an excellent player, an excellent young man and I only see good things for him.”
Last season, the Wolverines showed more tri-security looks in temporary situations, which brought in the safety of newbies Daxton Hill to cover the slot on third downs. In recent years, like Brandon Watson in 2018, Michigan has been more inclined to put a real nickel cornerback in third place. And based on Brown’s comments on Thursday’s cornerbacks, it seems the Wolverines could use a nickel cornerback again.
“Andre (Seldon Jr.) is certainly able to do that,” said Brown. “DJ (gymnast), if you can play in the corner, you can play nickel.” Both have excellent skills. “
Turner was a newcomer last season, appearing in four games in special teams. According to Brown, he had “an injury-ridden fall” that hindered his development. Losing this year’s spring practices due to the coronavirus outbreak is important – though Brown continues to highly value Turner’s potential.
“He’s a different guy when you see him walking around and doing things, and just like he wore in winter training, he got out of the newbie’s break-in,” said Brown. “Some guys go through this, especially when they get hurt, and I think he went through it. And I think we’ll see a man who’s willing to fight for the season. Very excited to see where he goes. “
Seldon, a four-star recruit in the 2020 class from Belleville who was enrolled in early last winter, did the Citrus Bowl exercises with the team and impressed early season with the Under Armor All-American Game.
“With Andre, that was one of the reasons we signed him because he could play nickel,” said Brown. “Obviously, we have a strong feeling that he will be able to run in this position because there is no position in this position that requires crazy amounts of mental processes. The physical challenge is the most important piece, and we think , he’s up. ” I am concerned to see him come to the field. I’m certainly not putting pressure on him, but I’m excited about him.
“I will say that he did very well academically when he first visited here. It is always a good sign because it shows that a man is making the right adjustments to college life.”
Aside from Thomas, Michigan’s cornerbacks are relatively untested. But Brown believes in its potential and looks forward to the opportunity to assess the position group’s progress since the end of last season.
“(Gray) and Ambry (Thomas), DJ Turner, I don’t want to talk about someone moving forward there because these people don’t want expectations, pressure or things like that,” Brown said. “We’ll only find out who’s fourth and who’s nickel and stuff.”