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2016 Season Preview – Defensive Backs

September 1, 2016

CORNERBACKS 

Depth Chart – Jourdan Lewis (SR), Channing Stribling (SR), Jeremy Clark (SR), Brandon Watson (SO), Keith Washington (RS FR), David Long (FR), Levert Hill (FR)

Overview 

After excellent junior years, Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling return as starting cornerbacks, and like their wide receiver counterparts Darboh and Chesson, might very well be the best duo in the conference if not among the best in the country.  

After Peppers, Lewis is probably the most athletic player on the team, and some might argue that order is reversed.  As a cornerback, he can do it all – run with elite receivers, play press coverage, and tackle in space.  His 52 tackles and a ridiculous 20 pass breakups were among the best in the nation.  Barring an injury, you can write his name in on an All-America list right now.  

Though Stribling doesn’t get as much acclaim, he’s a very talented cornerback in his own right.  After sharing time with Jeremy Clark last year, Stribling seems to have a stranglehold on the second starting cornerback spot where the coaches expect him to be a difference maker.  

There is some depth at cornerback, but not a ton.  The aforementioned Jeremy Clark will likely be the first man up, but he’s been injured and will likely miss a few games.  Although just a freshman, David Long has impressed so far and may even be ahead of Clark without the injury.  His long frame make him an asset in coverage and he’s come in ready to compete for a spot.  He could be the next in a long line of great Michigan corners, and chances are he’ll see the field sooner rather than later despite his inexperience.  The other freshman to watch out for is Levert Hill, brother of starting safety Delano.  Though not touted quite as highly as Long, he will likely be a starter if not a star at some point.  

Keith Washington and Brandon Watson are both athletic guys who still probably need some seasoning to be real contributors at cornerback, but both could very well be assets on special teams this year.  

SAFETIES 

Depth Chart – Delano Hill (SR), Dymonte Thomas (SR), Tyree Kinnel (SO), Khaleke Hudson (FR), Josh Metellus (FR) 

Overview

For much of the RichRod era and parts of the Brady Hoke era, safety was an area of concern for Michigan, where it never seemed like we had good options at both free safety and strong safety.  Last year, with Jarrod Wilson at free safety and Delano Hill starting most of the year at strong safety, there was some comfort established.  That stability should continue as Hill returns at strong safety and fellow senior Dymonte Thomas, who has seen a fair amount of playing time at several different positions assumes the full time role at free safety.  Of the two, Hill is probably the more dependable and consistent player, but Thomas, while more prone to mistakes, has more upside and athleticism.  Given the progress he made last year, it wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas stands out, even among a very talented defense.  The good news is that neither has to be a star, just dependable and solid, allowing the other playmakers on defense to do their job.  

One concern is if either Hill or Thomas goes out with an injury as their is very little experience behind them.  Tyree Kinnel was so good last year as a freshman that Coach Harbaugh burned his redshirt just to use him on special teams.  He’s a special talent but has yet to play a down in a game on defense.  Freshman Khaleke Hudson has been making his mark in practice and drawing great reviews, but he’s a true freshman.  He’ll be a good one someday, just not yet.  Josh Metellus also has potential, but would probably benefit from a redshirt year.  

Overall, Hill and Thomas should be a very good duo to complement the rest of the defense. The key thing will be making sure they both stay healthy.

 

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