with the editing, but:
"Opponents hate quarterbacks who feel dangerous to throw against."
I think you mean cornerbacks there.
|Boundary Corner||Yr.||Field Corner||Yr.||Nickelback||Yr.|
|Blake Countess||Jr.*||Raymon Taylor||Sr.||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.|
|Jabrill Peppers||Fr.||Jourdan Lewis||So.||Blake Countess||Jr.*|
|Delonte Hollowell||Sr.||Channing Stribling||So.||Dymonte Thomas||So.|
Michigan returns their entire cornerback corps and adds Jabrill Peppers, which is kind of amazing. The top guy on the depth chart is… uh… well, it is one of four guys. Which is amazing.
This happened a lot. [Bryan Fuller]
I guess we'll start with BLAKE COUNTESS, because he's first alphabetically. Countess was on the Michigan Star Corner track after emerging as a freshman starter, and then he blew his knee up in the 2012 opener against Alabama. One medical redshirt later, Countess returned with a bucket of hype (Jabrill Peppers has a firetruck) and just about made good on it.
Countess's six interceptions were the most by a Michigan corner since Todd Howard in 2000 and are in a multi-way tie for third all time (Tom Curtis had 10 in 1968; Charles Woodson had 8 in 1997), and he led the way for a good pass defense that got little help from its pass rush and was so dissatisfied with its safety play that it started swapping them around midseason.
So why does it feel like he's been kind of a disappointment? One Tyler Lockett facecrushing will do that to you.
Countess was also just about run off the field by Devier Posey as a freshman and one of the reasons people are so hype about Freddy Canteen is that he pulled the same on Countess. He seems more vulnerable than a star should be.
But this feeling is probably not an accurate feeling. I mean, six interceptions, and again these were earned. He is a crafty gentleman well versed in baiting a quarterback to throw the deeper route in cover two only to pop up, twirl his dastardly mustache, and make off with the
dame ball. His pick at the end of the first half of the Notre Dame game was the thing preventing the later Gardner pick six from being a face-melting event:
"I thought Blake Countess was tough to play against. He's not real physical but he's one of those guys that knows what he does well and what he doesn't. And he sort of lulled us to sleep. We kept thinking that we could go at him and I think that's what he wanted because he stepped in front of two balls, picked one, and we didn't throw at him very much after that."
Opponents hate quarterbacks who feel dangerous to throw against. Countess was definitely that. If he feels like a disappointment that's because our expectations were way too high. I admit some guilt in this department. Post-Indiana:
Other than that he was probably the best guy out there. I said he'd gotten burned in the game column, but the longer Wynn touchdown was not on him. It was more on Wilson and a defense that was vulnerable to that particular play given how they aligned. He got a PBU on a corner route that was straight out of pressing Michael Floyd and living; he was close enough to bother IU receivers; he is pretty good. He's not the crazy star we thought he'd be, at least not yet.
Pretty good is pretty good for a redshirt sophomore. Countess still has considerable upside. He's got two more years in the program—prepare for him to be the Big Ten's Brooks Bollinger Memorial 8th Year Senior next year—and had his quality 2013 despite an injury that required offseason surgery:
"It was lower abdominal pain," Countess said. "(I was somewhat limited), but I played through it. Just movement. Speed. Things like that. Not anything that you guys could probably recognize, but I didn't feel like myself completely on gamedays or throughout the week.
"I had a decent season last year, but it was definitely something I voiced to my coaches and trainers."
Countess probably won't be as prolific in the interception department; he should continue getting incrementally better; if the injury issue was a real problem he could even get to that Leon Hall level. It says here that he remains a bit short of that, and plays at a second-team All Big Ten level.
[AFTER the JUMP: no Peppers, he's in the safeties. BUT LOTS OF GUYS EVEN SO!]
"this did not go well" –Nebraska guy [Fuller]
The question "is RAYMON TAYLOR any good?" hung over last season's UFRs like a blood moon. I don't know why, exactly, the goodness or not goodness of one particular player was so often a topic of discussion. I guess it was because there was one bomb on his face against Akron and then the tempo stuff? Because Raymon Taylor was pretty good.
I'll just quote the post-PSU answer, because it is on point after the season:
Can we just decide if Raymon Taylor is good or no?
Yeah, a couple weeks after losing his starting job to Avery he goes out there and is more responsible for anyone else for shutting down Allen Robinson (M didn't switch on him; he was always outside, unlike Avery and Countess). He also scores one of the better INTs Michigan's seen in the last few years.
Taylor's interception was pretty badass because Hackenberg throws the ball on time. It's out of his hand before the WR is out of his break and right at the sideline; Taylor still undercuts and intercepts.
He also had an impressive PBU on a slant.
He's been a little up and down this year, but that's life as a cornerback. When you play great you usually don't show up on the screen; we're dealing with a low sample size here. He's been beaten over the top less than Countess at this point, though.
Taylor did in fact beat Avery back to the bench permanently after that game, and he was good. That quote about Michigan's CBs being soft is accurate, sure. How much of that was on Taylor and Countess versus how much of it was on the way the defense was set up is something we'll find out this fall.
With the craft Countess opposite him, Taylor was picked on for big chunks of the year. It is almost always a bad thing when one your CBs is your leading tackler and that was in fact the case last year when Taylor's whopping 61 solos were 15 more than James Ross's. But he did fight back with 4 interceptions and 9 PBUs. All of those interceptions were earned, by the way. The only one on which he got help from other guys was the Iowa INT on which Bolden hit the QB, but even so he still had to flash in front of the WR and pluck the ball from the turf. He jumped routes against CMU and Michigan State for his others.
Taylor is a good fit for Michigan's new aggressive man to man orientation. He has always been an excellent athlete; early in his career he struggled with zone concepts, something that bled over into last year from time to time. He has shown the ability to match up against top flight WRs and cope. This is against second-round pick Cody Latimer:
And this is maximum Christian Jones pwnage:
He is good at getting jams on go routes and getting over the top and when he does get beat he's good at that SHORYUKEN trail technique where the wide receiver can't make a catch without pulling a Prothro.
The obvious exception: Tyler Lockett. Taylor was burned for two short touchdowns by the Kansas State legend-in-the-making, and was generally incapable of staying with the guy. Partially this is because nobody can stay with Tyler Lockett, who would have had 1500 yards receiving if he hadn't missed two games with injury and singlehandedly decided the K-State QB battle in favor of the guy better equipped to throw it to him. This means Taylor is not a first round draft pick.
This does not put a particularly low ceiling on him. He was not hit for big plays after Akron, with one glaring exception: Indiana. I tend to give Taylor a pass for some of that. Michigan's inability to handle tempo was a team-wide issue that looked like a cornerback issue; on the first IU TD Taylor and the safety are looking at each other when the ball is snapped, unsure of the call. And even when he wasn't covering himself in glory against IU, part of that was, like, almost kind of good.
I'll take the guy inexplicably not scoring a touchdown after an interception over the one making a tackle after the catch.
His main weakness was in run defense. If you give him a chance to run at you while you try to catch the ball he will tattoo you. Tackling a guy running at him that did not go nearly as well, and taking on blocks is just NOPE.
Welp. I've done it again: I have written much longer than intended about how Raymon Taylor is actually quite good. I expect to have this conversation again six times this year. I expect him to be in the running for All Big Ten, but for corners they so often just go with highly variable INTs; he should get drafted in the middle rounds as well.
Hey! JABRILL PEPPERS! Woo! Jabrill Peppers is covered primarily in the safety section because we think nickelback/hybrid space player is 1) its own position and 2) more safety-ish than corner-ish in an ideal world.
that gypsy be pissed yo [Fuller]
Michigan has unprecedented depth here. First and foremost there is obviously JOURDAN LEWIS, the Cass Tech sophomore who was projected to usurp one of the starting jobs literally until the moment Michigan released the depth chart for the opener. And he's even an OR there.
Lewis had an encouraging, if thoroughly gypsy-cursed, freshman year. Virtually all Lewis mentions in UFR consist of your author explaining away various deep completions on which Lewis had provided a micron's worth of space. Like this one against Akron:
But they ran past us! They are Akron! We are not to be Akron unless we are to die!
The long outside completions were also a problem. Not the first one, as Lewis gave Akron's QB about a six-inch window, which he hit:
It's not perfect coverage—ideally Lewis forces the fade route closer to the sideline—but that's a one in a hundred throw from the QB.
Watch it for yourself if you don't believe me:
A similar thing went down against Indiana, which is where the picture above comes from. On the rare occasions that quarterbacks threw non-perfect balls at him, Lewis showed that he could make a play on it.
So the offseason hit and everyone was cool with waiting for Peppers to hit campus and acclimate himself before talking about potential changes to the starting lineup, and then spring practice arrived with gushing torrents of Lewis hype. Lewis started the spring game; Lewis had two interceptions; Lewis looked damn fantastic doing it:
Lewis looked terrific after a spring in which inside practice buzz has heralded him as a major comer; hell, he looked terrific most of last year except for the bit where the opposing quarterback regularly put the ball in the six-inch window perfect coverage provides. In this game he had two interceptions and two flags along with other instances where his presence forced drops or tough catches. The first interception came on the first play of the scrimmage …. That was pure press man coverage on which he did the one thing the gypsy promised him he'd never do: make a play on the ball after achieving his position.
In fall, Lewis (and Peppers) seemed like the first team, and our insider guy thought he was ahead of the seniors:
Jourdan Lewis may be your best corner. He will push Taylor heavily; they're already splitting reps down the middle and Lewis is outperforming not only him but Countess.
Sounds like Lewis is just dialed in. He is much more physical than he was last year and is the best corner they have when it comes to stay with receivers because of his exceptional quickness. Ray Taylor is faster, but he can’t stick with receivers in and out of breaks like J.D.
He had been so touted and so impressive that when Hoke announced his two good returning starters were still starters, people were shocked! And upset! This is some good hypetrain right here.
I expect Lewis to be the Morgan of the secondary: essentially a third starter with snaps equal to the guys nominally in front of him; I expect he'll perform a lot like Taylor did a year ago.
sometimes the bar eats you [Fuller]
Michigan is so deep here that I'd probably be cool with a world where their #5 guy was second on the depth chart. Sophomore CHANNING STRIBLING [recruiting profile] was a total unknown when he arrived at Michigan's summer camp two years ago; he left it a Michigan commit and then proceeded to lock down a big time recruit to kick off a breakout senior season.
Stribling played a good deal as a true freshman; like Lewis he showed a knack for being in the right place without actually getting any payoff. In Stribling's case it was less quarterbacks making incredible throws—Allen Robinson catch for PSU excepted—than Stribling somehow not getting his hands on a ball that he should intercept. I mean… how does this not even get deflected?
He also phased out of reality against Indiana:
So that's bad. But he's there, virtually all the time. I would much rather be dealing with a 6'2" cornerback inexplicably unable to touch balls he's staring straight at than a guy who's just trying to tackle after the catch, because you figure the former problem is going to get worked out sooner or later.
Stribling has not gotten a ton of buzz what with Lewis sucking up all available oxygen at CB, and he's struggled to add the requisite weight:
It doesn't seem to matter how much he eats, the 178-pounder said - it's hard to add bulk. He's made gains in leg strength, though, and has added seven pounds.
"I wish I could add 20 pounds in two weeks," he said. "I wish I could just eat and weigh 200 pounds next week, but it's always been like that. I have a hard time putting on weight."
It might be tough for Stribling to get much playing time this year what with everyone else back and Peppers around. He should get some rotation; next year he'll have a chance to be a serious part of the rotation.
The Lollipop guild. [Bryan Fuller]
Finally, Michigan has its diminutive Cass Tech speedsters, as mandated by law. Senior DELONTE HOLLOWELL makes me wish I didn't put everyone's names in caps for these previews, but alas. Holowell had a very nice spring game last year and momentarily threatened for playing time before the freshmen mentioned above passed him. He did get on the field sporadically throughout the year and could see some nickel snaps; otherwise he should be a major special teams component.
TERRY RICHARDSON took a bit of an accidental redshirt last year after playing as a freshman; he remains super-small and has not been talked about much as a potential contributor. Michigan should see if he's a plausible slot receiver or something.
with the editing, but:
"Opponents hate quarterbacks who feel dangerous to throw against."
I think you mean cornerbacks there.
The dude is producing a novel's-worth of Michigan preview.
You understood that Countess wasn't a QB, right? If so, you were kinda being "that guy"
Finding corrections for the writers here happens all the time and is pretty much always appreciated unless the tone is abrasive, which he wasn't.
I caught that but I haven't been able to edit it yet. There's another copy edit I have noted to change whenever I get back to a computer. You don't want to see what my phone does to articles.
The articles turn green, large and violent?
This is the preview I've been waiting for...
until you finally listed why he was in the safety section about halfway through.
Well done, as always.
How are you going to talk CBs and NOT INCLUDE JABRILL PEPPERS!
Brian, you are a tease. A damn tease. And now I halfway expect you to release the special teams preview before the safety one just to drag us along this damn road some more.
What does that mean? I do not recall.
Not sure if you're being coy or serious. In case of the latter:
I think it's a good sign I can't name half of those guys anymore.
when we can say, "returning all CBs (again) and adding top-100 recruit Garrett Taylor"
Ramon Taylor is a senior.
we looked to be loaded at this position for the next few years. With only Taylor being in his last year of eligibility, the future, both this year and down the road, looks good for this position group.
I'm just going to assume the next post will be Preview 2014: Jabrill Peppers (Rating 5/5 obviously).
You'll want to hedge a prediction for a guy who hasn't played a single down of college football. I'd rather err on the side of under-hyped, which is damn near impossible for Peppers unless he's Charles Woodson 2.0 this season. Which he won't, if only because not even Charles Woodson was Charles Woodson as a freshman.
Mind you he hasn't yet given us a reason to think he'll be anything worse than good, but. . . he is a true freshman.
Stribling plays more at corner than Peppers. At least outside corner; Peppers will play more as the nickel, but when someone is in for Countess it's more likely to be Strib than Peppers.
There will most certainly be instances when the blitzes/pressure doesn't get to or disrupt the QB. So I'm interested in seeing how well they can lock guys down because they will be playing on islands for extended periods at these times.
Now that's got me jacked up!!!!! Press man coverage!!!! As long as we get adequate SS play our secondary should be at the top of the B1G & top 15 nationally!
You may want to consider changing your profile pic. Even though it's really nice.
...and maybe choose a new user name too
No mention at all of Dymonte Thomas in the preview, although he does appear in the mgodepthchart at nickel. Has not been hyped since his recruitment and likely since after his blocked punt vs. Central last year. Should have redshirted last year, maybe he gets a redshirt this year? I still have hope.
along with Peppers.
Dymonte is listed as a safety on all of the depth charts, and even so:
"Jabrill Peppers is covered primarily in the safety section because we think nickelback/hybrid space player is 1) its own position and 2) more safety-ish than corner-ish in an ideal world."
...makes it apparent that the nickelback's will be covered next with the safeties. You will probably see Mr. Thomas there.
"Michigan is so deep here that I'd probably be cool with a world where their #5 guy was second on the depth chart."
YOU HAVE AWOKEN HIM FROM HIS SLUMBER. And just as was foretold in Ghostbusters, his form shall be Stribling playing second corner. We have entered #HokeRecruitingProblems being synonomous with #FirstWorldProblems
they usually begin with guys who played savvy roles at safety and then they had guys who played cornerback like thieves in Middle Eastern market. Michigan has a bunch of thieves on its roster again, and because it does, every other part of this defense will look stronger.
If you noticed in the course of these position previews, when doing reviews of specific players like Bolden or Stribling, you get the sense in their play from last year that they were good enough, their coaches trusted them based on their ability and attention to detail, but when it came time to make a play, as young players, even in moments of pure athletic instinct which has governed their play through their lives, confidence left them, if only momentarily. This isn't easy to explain or comprehend but it happens even when you feel prepared as a player.
Hesitation is based on uncertainty. Uncertainty comes from lack of belief that even; when you are in the right place, you aren't making a play correctly. That to me, explains Stribling's failure to deflect balls he was in a position to defend or intercept. He just didn't trust himself to make the play. And it's just part of the pysche of a player with experience trusting wheat he sees and knowing what he can do. This is what separates guys like Peppers from others. He doesn't worry about that.
Content is great as usual Brian but the Tyler Lockett hyperbole machine is overheating badly at this point
I don't quite know what to make of Richardson. I completely understand he was way too small to see the field at DB, especially given our current depth situation (read: godsend). However, he was a consensus 4-star with offers from the likes of Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. I just don't understand the disparity between the elite offers and his obvious lack of the necessary size to ever play. I feel bad for him in a way because he had the mindset that he could play for just about any program in the country and in reality he is significantly too small.
We got more deadly corners than the bad side of Chicago.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Michigan is completely set at corner next year. Even if Countess somehow blows up and goes pro after this year - we still have Peppers, Stribling, Lewis, Hollowell who would all probably be more than good enough to start. Taylor shouldn't need to see action till his 2nd or 3rd year and hopefully he'll be at 100% by then
Spot on with the Brooks Bollinger award. Before I got to that paragraph I had already scrolled up to surprisingly (and pleasantly) see Countess listed as a junior.
You teach receivers to extend their arms for the ball and the same applies to corners. On a couple of those highlights, IU in particular, Stribling didn't seem to fully extend. I'm sure that they will coach him up on that. As Brian noted, he's not getting blown by or just blowing assignments. His upside is great considering he is just a sophomore.