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2013 Preview – The Secondary

August 28, 2013

Cornerbacks

Starters: Blake Countess (RS-So.); Raymon Taylor (Jr.) 

Other Contributors: Courtney Avery (Sr.); Channing Stribling (Fr.); Dymonte Thomas (Fr.); Delonte Hollwell (Jr.); Jourdan Lewis (Fr.)

With a lot of bodies available in the secondary, Greg Mattison can feel comfortable about the depth of the position.  The biggest challenge may be figuring out who plays best at what positions.  What we do know is that Blake Countess is the #1 corner on the team after recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the first game of last year.   The return of Countess is a huge addition for this defense if he is back to his 2011 form.  As a freshman Countess showed that he might have what it takes to be the next great Michigan corner, following in a lineage that includes Leon Hall, Marlin Jackson and Charles Woodson to name a few.   Opposite Countess the expectation is that junior Raymon Taylor, who stepped in well after Countess went down with his injury, will get the start.   Taylor made huge strides last year, and has the ability to be a good player this year with similar progress. 

Where things get interesting is when Michigan adds another corner on the field in a nickel defense.  The early expectation was that freshman Dymonte Thomas would fill that role, and he still might.  But freshman Channing Stribling has come on strong in fall camp, and has presented a scenario where Stribling would come in at cornerback and Blake Countess would move to nickelback.  Oh, and we might also see Courtney Avery, who has played nickelback most of his career at that position as well – though Avery is out with a knee injury for the first two weeks and is currently listed as a safety on the depth chart.  

If any of the above get injured, look for freshman Jourdan Lewis and junior Delonte Hollowell to step in.  Hollowell is solid but not spectacular, while Lewis has shown flashes of ability but still isn’t quite consistent enough, as is typical of a freshman.  

Basically, we have two starting corners that we are set with and a total of 7 guys to rotate through three potential positions including nickelback.  It should be interesting 

Safeties

Starters: Thomas Gordon (Sr.); Jarrod Wilson (So.) 

Backups: Josh Furman (RS-Jr); Jeremy Clark (RS-So); Courtney Avery (Sr.); Dymonte Thomas (Sr.)

While the starting corners have been settled for a while, only one of the safety positions has been completely solidified.  Senior Thomas Gordon returns as the starter at strong safety, and will look to build on a strong junior season.  As the veteran in the defense, Gordon will be looked upon to fill the void created from Jordan Kovacs graduation.   Gordon may not make plays like Kovacs (JKMP!), but he can be the stabilizing force in the defensive secondary.  

At the free safety position, sophomore Jarrod Wilson has a world of talent, but only locked up the starting job recently and may have only done so because of Courtney Avery’s injury.  Wilson’s problem, like most young players, is consistency.  In a defense that is most concerned with giving up the big play, its key that the safeties can be counted on.  That being said, Wilson has the size and speed to be the type of ball hawking safety Michigan hasn’t had in several years.  

After Gordon and Wilson, the pickings are slim.  Jeremy Clark and Dymonte Thomas haven’t played a down at safety (or in college for that matter), and relying on an undersized corner to move to safety (Courtney Avery) sounds like  a bad idea to me.  Josh Furman is a guy with all the physical tools who just hasn’t broken through yet.  

STRENGTHS

The key advantage for the secondary is the cornerbacks.  Though there are some youngsters back there, they are very talented and will have the chance to learn without being thrown into the deep end (I hope).  Blake Countess is capable of an All-Big Ten year, and if Raymon Taylor does the same, watch out.  

WEAKNESSES

As you may have been able to tell, I’m not ecstatic about our safeties.  Gordon is a good but not great player, and Wilson still is learning.  And if either gets injured and misses significant time….yikes.  More talent is on the way, but first the have to get some experience.  The nice thing about this defense is that the front 7 is more than capable of making plays, and the corners are capable too.  That means that the safeties just have to avoid the big play.  

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