Michigan Museday and the Next Next-Woodson Comment Count

Seth May 30th, 2012 at 8:28 AM

Beginning my freshman year (1998), we started referring to highly touted young cornerbacks for Michigan as the "Next Woodson." The first was James Whitley, a freshman who played semi-extensively in 1997 and looked good when the supporting cast made his job easy. We were quickly disabused of Whitley=Woodson in 1998 when Notre Dame shredded him.

This is of an impossible comparison; players who can reasonably be considered the best at their position ever don't exactly replicate. But we humans get sentimental about things we had and like to envision never losing them (there's some psychological term for this I believe) so we pretend like the new thing is going to grow into the old thing. It didn't hurt that after a few painful years of Whitley we got, if not exactly Next-Woodsons, a string of really good cornerbacks we could call Next-Woodsons:

marlinLeon Hall - IndianaWarren - Purdue2

Archived from MGoBlue.com

They were tall like Woodson, and came with very high recruiting accolades like Woodson. But the first thing we noticed about them was that as freshmen they were tackling kind of like Woodson. With Woodson as a freshman I remember being excited as hell because he really popped almost right away. I don't remember him against Virginia that year, but he was active every game thereafter and a star by the end of that season. We're not going to compare Blake to Woodson because he's not that. The question is whether he might be the next in the line of future NFL-ish dudes we had from Law through Warren.IMG_4837

Profile?

Since pledging to Michigan in a deep and dark December when everyone figured Rich Rodriguez was unlikely to survive, then giving out quotes attuned to our particular type of arrogance, this was a guy we all liked. Countess, who's about 5'11 now, i.e. average height, started the last six games, and played his best one in the Sugar Bowl, suggesting enticing levels of future ability. (Photo: Upchurch------------->)

I don't think we were expecting such big things right away. Tim wasn't in the Hello: post:

After a redshirt year (or a year spending time almost exclusively on special teams), he'll slowly work his way into the lineup over the course of a couple years. He probably won't have a chance to be one of the starting corners until he's an upperclassman, but there are so many variables between now and then that it's hard to project.

Brian called him Courtney Avery++ and was more positive in the predictions:

Projection: His height will always be a hindrance but if I had to bet he starts for three years and ends up an All Big Ten sort of player. Will not redshirt since he's polished and will probably be better than anyone behind the starters on day one; solid favorite to take over for Woolfolk next year.

Nobody said "would bounce Woolfolk back to safety halfway through his freshman season en route to being Michigan's star field corner in 2012." Blake on Blake:

Stats?

See if you can guess the freshman corner since 1990 by his basic stats:CountessSDSUPBU-Heiko

Starts Solo Tackles PBUs INT
12 45 55 4 5
11 35 52 5 1
6 35 47 4 3
6 36 46 4 3
6 30 44 6 0
5 22 36 4 2
1 21 26 3 3
0 16 19 3 0

I know, I know: stats do not a cornerback's story tell. A tackle could mean a perfectly defended edge or a deep pass badly defended followed by a defensive back draped over the triumphant receiver. They don't say how often they were targeted or whether he whiffed on a key third down that cost the game. Anyway:

Name Season Starts Solo Tackles PBU INT
Charles Woodson 1995 12 45 55 4 5
Donovan Warren 2007 11 35 52 5 1
Marlin Jackson 2001 6 35 47 4 3
Ty Law 1992 6 36 46 4 3
Blake Countess 2011 6 30 44 6 0
Courtney Avery 2010 5 22 36 4 2
Leon Hall 2003 1 21 26 3 3
James Whitley 1997 0 16 19 3 0

Countess is sized more like Todd Howard than the giants above him on this list, but in case you missed the play of a certain DB of Virginia Tech, corners his size can do just fine in college, even against Big Ten receivers. And in case you missed Blake in that game, he had eight tackles (six solo), so we're hardly talking about a pure cover guy. The stats do seem to tell a story beyond "just a guy playing cornerback," but they should not alone be trusted.

UFR?

We really only have UFR data from two of these seasons, and since they're separated by four years this too is going to be fraught with inconsistencies. Here's Countess's 2011:

Gm Opponent + - T Notes
12 OSU 2.5 10 -7.5 Could not deal with deep stuff by himself.
11 Nebraska 1 3 -2 Lost leverage on big run.
10 Illinois 3 2 1 Also had a jumped Jenkins PBU.
9 Iowa 4 6 -2 Great day except for the 44 yards that were all on him.
8 Purdue 1 2 -1 No one was really tested back here.
7 MSU 1.5 3 -1.5 Not Woodson yet.
6 NW 2 2 0 Beaten deep once, but also a push.
5 Minn 5 1 4 Think we may have something here.
4 SDSU 6 4 2 Not as rapturous as we thought but still pretty good, full stop.

Not rapturous. Here's Warren, and remember, the 2007 scale is not comparable to the 2011 scale—the comments are probably more informative than the numbers.

Gm Opponent + - T Notes
12 OSU 0 2 -2 Just the one PI.
11 Wisconsin 3 4 -1 Relatively tough day.
10 MSU 2 1 1 Still can't believe that PI call.
9 Minnesota 5 2 3 Minnesota attempted to pick on him all day and mostly came up empty. Already a standout, IMO, and poised to have a huge career.
8 Illinois 2 3 -1 -
7 Purdue 2 2 0 -
6 EMU 5 1 4 Quickly becoming a typical Warren day: three instances of blanket coverage that become incompletions, one badly missed tackle. I'll take it.
5 NW 5 2 3 Big bounce-back day.
4 PSU 1 4 -3 Needs to work on his tackling.
3 ND 3 1 2 Long handoff whiff was disappointing; rest of it was pretty okay.
2 Oregon 1 1 0 (Ok.)
1 Horror 0 0 0 Came in for Sears

Warren got in a few games earlier than did Countess but if Blake was 2nd on a depth chart when Johnny Sears was getting torn up by a I-AA team he'd have gone in as well. Likewise Leon Hall's ability to earn his way onto the field in the apparently strong 2003 backfield itself was an accomplishment. Donovan had some tackling issues in the UFR that I didn't remember; Countess did seem to do better holding the edge. What I'm looking at is Donovan's game against Minnesota, where he was targeted relentlessly and came out of that convincing Brian we had a Next-Woodson on our hands. Put that against Countess's first and second games, when, likewise, we had collective visions of Next Woodsonism when he was targeted by SDSU and Minnesota.

Overall the scant evidence from our eyes and available reviews suggest a guy probably in striking distance of the Next-Woodsons. If I told you this time last year that a guy already on the roster projected at the tail end of a group of Ty Law, Marlin Jackson, Leon Hall, and Donovan Warren, would you take that?

Comments

True Blue Grit

May 30th, 2012 at 8:58 AM ^

was Leon Hall.  I recall thinking it was unusual to see a true freshman get so much PT as a freshman for Lloyd Carr.  But, he clearly had a nose for where the ball was going from the start.  I think 3 INT's or more for a freshman is pretty remarkable.  Not bad for a 3* recruit out of California.  

I think Woodson's standard will be very hard to beat in the future.  Not impossible though.  

Thanks for the great article.  

Decatur Jack

May 30th, 2012 at 9:40 AM ^

Dude, Countess is THE MAN! I remember watching him last year and kept thinking, "How have we not had a corner be this good for the past three years!?"

Also, I'd love to hear from some of the people who had written him off when he first committed and said he maybe might finally see the field when he was a senior. WE WAS WRONG BOUT STEWIE

Maize n Blue

May 30th, 2012 at 10:11 AM ^

I feel like saying "the next Woodson" is like saying "the next Jordan". People will say it forever, but no one will ever satisfy the criteria. It's not just about stats & how much they won, but the way in which they won that will be tough to match (in the eyes of those who saw them play).

Seth

May 30th, 2012 at 10:19 AM ^

Yeah, or the next Gretzky. I leave it off of here but I'm a big-time NHL fan and remember so many plays on "the Great One." There was "The Next One" and "The Magnificent One" and the "Greater One" and the "Next Next One" -- Phil Kessel, Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, and John Tavares, respectively.

If you have a guy who joins the list of "Next Jordans" you still have something between a Kobe Bryant and a Vince Carter, was my point with that.

JeepinBen

May 30th, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

Being the "next Jordan" or "next Woodson" doesn't mean that person will have a career = or > Jordon/Woodson. Like Seth points out, being in the "Next Jordan" category means at some point someone thought you had the potential to be as good as Michael, or that you aren't as good - but you're close.

We'll win a lot of football games if we get DBs who are not as good as Woodson - but close.

GoWings2008

May 30th, 2012 at 2:12 PM ^

How about classifying them in a manner describing how many years they will be a starter?  I would think a 2 yr starter would be fairly standard for most of the kids we're getting (whether or not they do is another question, but they have the potential).  A 3 yr starter is pretty dang good and a 4 yr starter, Woodson-esque or not, is someone who will get a lot of attention. 

Sinsemillaplease

May 30th, 2012 at 2:38 PM ^

and he won't be called the "next jordan." Generational memory is terrible. There are elderly men still around that don't feel Jordan is even the proper benchmark for the NBA's greatest player. Space Jam was on tv the other day and I had to tell my 4 year old nephew who the tall guy wearing number 23 was. I felt hurt and did as much as I could to create for him the magic I felt as a kid. No dice. He will never call a young superstar a next jordan or woodson because the memories he holds dear will be of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Denard Robinson. Performance on the field is only part of the reason why we want another woodson.

M-Wolverine

May 30th, 2012 at 2:47 PM ^

Who think Jordan was the best. Even if there are people who still think Wilt, Russell, Oscar, or whoever are better. At least at this point and time (and likely to stay that way), there's no one who thinks Kobe or Lebron are the best ever.  There may be youngster who don't know any better, but they have no traction because there's no legitmacy to the claim.  It's like some may think Woodson was the best ever, and others may argue Harmon, or AC, and so on. But I don't think anyone's really arguing Denard. (Yet).

Tater

May 30th, 2012 at 10:24 AM ^

Ty Law was one of the few players on defense that I would often watch instead of watching the ball when I went to games.  I thought he was often the best player on the field at Michigan,  but he never seemed to be included in national discussions of great CB's.  

He would finally get his "due" in the NFL, though.  Three Super Bowl Championships, one Pro Bowl MVP, five Pro Bowl selections, and inclusion on the "All-decade team" for the 2000's is a pretty nice career.   

I remember that when Woodson came in, I hoped he could "maybe be another Ty Law."  Needless to say, he was a pleasant surprise.

AC1997

May 30th, 2012 at 10:32 AM ^

Okay, just kidding. But he was supposed to be the guy to bridge the gap prior to Countess since he was a 5-star and large CB.

The reason Woodson is so hard to even come close to emulating has to do partially with his size but also to do with everything he did besides defense. As good as Jackson, Hall, and Warren were they didn't really add any value on offense or special teams. Even at their best it is hard for a defender to get mainstream attention without scoring touchdowns.

WolverineHistorian

May 30th, 2012 at 10:37 AM ^

James Whitley.  My main memory of him in 1998 was him muffing punt after punt and punt.  He wasn't the only guilty party that did that in 98 but he did it the most frequently. 

707oxford

May 30th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

Man, we had some bad CBs immediately following Woodson.  Little Todd Howard really comes to mind.  Anyone remember the DBs embracing a nickname of "The Suspects" after the media accurately called them out as being suspect in the late '90s?  Granted, Lloyd reinforced this in hopes to inspire a better performance, but to hear the players refer to themselves this way was just weird.

Rhino77

May 30th, 2012 at 10:49 AM ^

I remember James Whitley being pretty bad. Maybe it was the fact that he followed Woodson and couldn't even come close. He seemed to make a TON of mental errors and didn't really find a groove until his senior year.

When I think of great Michigan DB's in my time I think of Hall, Jackson, CW, and Law.

Mr. Yost

May 30th, 2012 at 10:54 AM ^

I mean there hasn't been one in all of college football, why would we assume there would be one at Michigan?

Honey Bagder may be the closest comparison.

Anyway, we shouldn't be looking for the next-Woodson...we should be trying to get TWO of the NFL-calibur CBs on the same team at the same time.

That, to me, has been our biggest problem. We only get one 2nd-3rd round draft pick type CB. We need two with a freshman waiting in the wings. We need Blake Countess as a true freshman playing with a junior Leon Hall and a senior Marlin Jackson.

This is why I've been so disappointed in our CB recruiting. We can't see to get more than one top CB prospect at a time.

Hopefully Conley can come in and be a star and allow the smaller Richardson and Lewis to play inside at the slot CB/nickelback spots.

IF, and that's a HUGE IF...if we can get Conley to be great...Lewis/Richardson to hold their own at the Nickel...and get a top notch TALL CB in the 2014 class, we're now sitting pretty, we'd then have a #NoFlyZone.

Imagine '14-'15

SCB:
1. Gareon Conley (So.) [playing like Marlin Jackson as a sophomore]
2. Raymon Taylor (Sr.)

WCB:
1. Blake Countess (Sr.) [playing like Leon Hall as a senior]
2. 2014 Blue Chip (Fr.)

Nickelback:
Cass Invasion - Delonte Hollowell (Sr.), Terry Richardson (Jr.), Jourdan Lewis (So.)

...if we could get this depth chart, with a legit Conley as a sophomore and a legit freshman who can play as well as Countess did as a freshman (not unrealistic), THIS is a CB crew that you dream of. IMO, THIS is what we need to shoot for, not the best player in CFB history.

DonAZ

May 30th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

You voiced what was on my mind -- cast the net beyond just Michigan ... since 1997 what college CBs have been considered of that caliber, or even approaching that caliber?

The other question that occurs to me is whether since 1998 there's been a shift in emphasis on defense ... it seems lately all the focus is on defensive linemen, particularly DEs.  Maybe I'm wrong about that ... just a sense I have.

Section 1

May 30th, 2012 at 12:39 PM ^

Magnus was one guy who was predicting big things for Blake Countess from the very beginning.  Magnus was thoroughly correct.

[Edit. - But please, Magnus, no more auto-play video!]

M-Wolverine

May 30th, 2012 at 11:03 AM ^

He was torched by MSU that season, but by the time Ohio State rolled around, he was shutting down NFL wide-outs.  They don't make many freshmen like that.  But I would gladly take the "Next Woodson" in the guise of another Leon Hall or Marlin Jackson.

WolverineHistorian

May 30th, 2012 at 1:14 PM ^

My main memory of that MSU game (other than the ref giving them the gift first down on 4th and 1) was a couple plays later when Woodson had the game ending interception in his hand....and dropped it. 

What Woodson did the next 2 years against Sparty was awesome.  But it sucks that that dropped interception kept him from being 3-0 against them. 

M-Wolverine

May 30th, 2012 at 2:11 PM ^

Your memory serves you well. They had Derrick Mason and Muhsin Muhammad, so they were loaded at receiver, as usual. Banks didn't make only Woodson look bad. It just stands out today because Woodson became Woodson.

I won't embed, because I won't subject anybody to that, but someone posted the ending sequences of the game on YouTube-

http://youtu.be/5mqMDAIF8eA

 

turd ferguson

May 30th, 2012 at 11:18 AM ^

Can someone remind me why Marlin was moved from CB to S? I think the post-freshman year Marlin Jackson is the only one whose "next Woodson" hype I really bought into.

Seth

May 30th, 2012 at 11:35 AM ^

Yeah, because we didn't have a free safety, and the cornerback depth chart was getting thick with LeSeuer back and Curry around. Shazor was a strong safety who played more like a linebacker so he wasn't an option for deep. And after 2002 we had finally exhausted the eligibility of RB convert Charles Drake and perpetually injured (and onetime Next Woodson) Cato June. Julius Curry, the only truly safety-like safety from the era before, was gone as well (after 2001 I think). RB convert Jon Shaw had played some but wasn't a good option. So then it was Willis Barringer.

Marlin volunteered to move to FS so that those two could be on the field instead of Barringer, who was not a great option (not as bad as some people thought, but not a great option). Then Marlin got hurt about 3/4 of the way through the season and we had Barringer in there anyway.

Simply put, Marlin played FS because Michigan was always in need of a free safety, and at that point the need had grown desperate while cornerback seemed solid enough.

Mr. Yost

May 30th, 2012 at 11:46 AM ^

I was always told that he was moved because it was his better position (he moved in the NFL too)...

He didn't take kindly to it and was inconsistent so they moved him back to CB.

He did struggle at times at CB before moving to FS so I definitely see why it seemed like a good fit. He was a smart player who could cover bigger guys and could tackle well. He didn't do too well vs. the faster WRs he faced the year before.

But like Cullen Christian and Justin Turner, CBs are a different breed and asking some of them to play safety is like asking them to cut off their manhood. Same with moving a QB to a different position.

Jackson was just flat out more talented than Christian and Turner, but it's interesting that he moved and had success playing FS in the NFL when it was about money.

I'm likely in the minority, but I believe Jackson, Christian and Turner would all made better FSs if they truly committed to the position from day 1.

Mr. Yost

May 30th, 2012 at 4:18 PM ^

...because he was a terrible CB.

And I think if you're the last line of defense, you don't need to be the best tackler on the team. You're right, he wasn't good in that regard, couldn't hold Kovacs' jock strap when it comes to tackling...but remember, we played a different defense. He'd be the deep safety, while Kovacs and Carvin Johnson/Marvin Robinson would be the strong or "up" safeties.

We weren't really counting on that position for run support...it was more "don't let anything get deep" *cough* Cam Gordon *cough*

Seth

May 30th, 2012 at 12:39 PM ^

They are very different positions, and yes, it is kind of a pride thin to be the lockdown cornerback. More than than, safety is a lot of read and react, your eyes facing the play, and making a lot of tackles. Corner is a lot of man-to-man, a lot more dropping back, and all the jamming. Jackson was really good at coming out of a backpedal and breaking up short shit--even tempting QBs to try to throw it--and he was excellent at jamming receivers so they couldn't get off the line cleanly. When he was a senior at CB they barely ever threw it in his direction. They'd pick on Curry/Hall on the other side. 

Marlin was a relatively big corner, but also a rather effective one. I'm pretty sure he moved his junior year for the team, not because that was what was best for him. It was similar to Woolfolk, who was better at corner than he was at free safety, but the team was better with him at safety.

Marlin moved back to CB in 2004 because that was his natural position, because LeSeuer was now gone, and because the coaches felt the very highly touted Ryan Mundy was ready (he obviously wasn't--not until he got to W.Va. was Mundy anything but a liability). A lot of fans watching sophomore Mundy wondered what if we let Markus Curry and Leon Hall play corner, Marlin moved back to FS, and with Shazor at SS we'd have this awesome backfield. I can't say that wouldn't have been better than what we got. That team only lost 3 games: Notre Dame because we played overconservative with a green Henne and some epically awful officiating that swung the game 2 TDs, Ohio State because Troy Smith went Ham, and the famous Texas Rose Bowl, which was the Vince Young show. Maybe once Glen Mason was an established CB option Jackson could have moved? Would he have been able to tackle Vince Young?

Blue in Yarmouth

May 30th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

You kept mentioning how Blake is smaller than those others, but Leon Hall was only 5-10, maybe 5-11" as well. I'm just sayin'....there were other greats the size of Countess.

Seth

May 30th, 2012 at 1:14 PM ^

Leon Hall came in at about 5'11, closer to 6'0, and played around 6'1. (EDIT: This was his listed height on Bentley but then they listed him "5-11" the rest of his career so that's false). Countess came in at 5'9 or 5'10 and has probably finished growing either there or at the edge of 5'11. From memory, Hall was taller than average. He was taller than Glen Grant Mason, whom I remember as taller than Countess. Blake is more the size of Zia Combs, who too was pretty effective before the injury that ended his short but tantalizing career, was a smaller guy. Countess is not "small" anymore. He's average. It's just that the "Next-Woodsons" were all rather taller guys. I could include LeSeuer in that.

I believe these days you want to have a bunch of both. Last year J.T. Floyd shut down a bevy of NFL-bound receivers who mostly made use of height and leaping ability. But then he was burnt crispy by a few, e.g. DeVier Posey, whose game is about speed and shiftiness. Rare is the cornerback who can do both, but then just as rare is the Charles Rogers/Randy Moss/Calvin Johnson type who is both huge and unbelievably quick. I've seen NFL teams start carrying tall CBs who may be kind of stiff but who can hang with the big receivers, and those guys have been pretty effective against even the super-talented bigs. Most receviers Michigan will face don't have it all--they're specialists who can be neutralized if we can man them up with a cornerback who has the same skillset. Many of the scariest big receivers from last year's schedule were bigs, but they're off to the NFL. Top 100 receivers we faced last year (returners bolded):

  1. Jordan White, WMU, 6'0, 210 (graduated)
  2. Marvin McNutt, Iowa: 6'4, 215 (graduated)
  3. B.J. Cunningham, MSU: 6'2, 215 (graduated)
  4. A.J. Jenkins, Illinois, Illinois: 6'0, 190 (graduated)
  5. Michael Floyd, ND, 6'3, 225 (graduated)
  6. Jeremy Ebert, Northwestern, 5'11, 200 (graduated)
  7. Chleb Ravenell, WMU, 5'11, 188 (graduated)
  8. Keshawn Martin, MSU, 5'10, 190, (EDIT: left early)
  9. Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota, 6'3, 211 (graduated)
  10. Keenan Davis, Iowa, 6'3, 215, senior
  11. Antavian Edison, Purdue, 5'11, 175, senior
  12. Justin Siller (AIEEEEE), Purdue, 6'3, 215 (graduated)
  13. Kenny Bell, Nebraska, 6'1, 180, sophomore

(Posey's punishment basically meant he was held out until us so he doesn't crack these lists)

Depending on who pops from these depth charts the schedule does seem like it's going to get noticeably smaller at wideout this year. 

AC1997

May 30th, 2012 at 2:05 PM ^

Seth -

 

My memory of Leon Hall's size is different than yours.  I remember him being a shade under 6' tall and the smallest of these post-Woodson CB's on your list.  I decided to confirm that by checking NFL.com for the player sizes, which should have some accuracy based on the combine:

  • Woodson - 6'01" 202 pounds
  • Jackson - 6'00" 196 pounds
  • Law - 5'11" 200 pounds
  • Hall - 5'11" 195 pounds
  • Warren - 5'11" 193 pounds

When they played at Michigan I used to think Jackson was about 6'1" and Warren was about 6'2" for some reason.  But I always remember Hall being below 6'.

Seth

May 30th, 2012 at 2:24 PM ^

Ahghhhg. Thanks. I know one had a hot wife and the other was Ron English's wife but I always screw this up. Which one was MSU's hockey coach and which is the Gopher who wanted Tressel's job?

As to the other: yesh!!! Although we are still insight proofing and some last minute shenanigans made me have to redo the roster and thankyou pages all last-minute this week.

M-Wolverine

May 30th, 2012 at 2:37 PM ^

Grant Mason was married to Ron English?

And just so you can collect the full set of trading cards-

And while the release date move info was certainly a clue, I figured your work was mostly done when I was going through my tracking and every post had an additional one from  you.  It must feel like what everyone else goes through when they find my posts, except some of these were your two cents on long ago topics that you missed because you were so busy.

Blue in Yarmouth

May 30th, 2012 at 3:23 PM ^

I don't mean to keep correcting you. I really like the post and enjoyed reading it but my research (which took me to NFL.com as well) showed Hall to be 5'11. Also, Keshawn Martin now plays for the Houston Texans. He may have left early, but he no longer plays college football. 

Seth

May 31st, 2012 at 8:12 AM ^

How did I not even know that? Omigod. Seriously, I flubbed. In all the draft analysis etc. and everything somehow it totally slipped by me that Keshawn left. Now you've got me paranoid that I have this wrong in HTTV. I'm checking this now.

UPDATE: whew. I got it right there.

As to heights, I've been going by program measurements. Leon Hall was listed at 6'1 in the Bentley database for 2003. Countess's 5'11 is from the M roster as well. If we're going to get lied to I figured at least we'll get lied to by the same source.

Either way I think observers would agree that Hall was noticeably taller than Countess.

NoVaWolverine

May 30th, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

Please don't take this as a complaint -- just a small quibble; I'm grateful we have Countess! -- but the main difference I see b/w Countess and the other Next-Woodsons's freshmen seasons in the chart above is the lack of INTs for Blake. I'll be curious to see how many picks he gets this year, as he becomes a full-season starter and earns more trust from Mattison. Assuming Mattison continues being aggressive in putting pressure on opposing QBs, Blake should have more opportunities to make plays on the ball and actually pick some off.

bronxblue

May 30th, 2012 at 2:26 PM ^

 

I remember being in the stands for that Marlin Jackson game against Reggie Williams of Washington (at the time being talked up as a top-10 talent), and thinking he was the Next Woodson.  Of course, he wound up just being really good, and that ultimately led to disappointment.

But with every year, I think people start to mythicize Woodson a bit and forget that those defenses were amazing from top to bottom.  The 1997 defense was truly record-setting, with a stout line and some of the better linebacker play I've seen.  It was a team that didn't allow a second-half TD for over half the season!  So while Woodson was a key part of that team being dominant defensively, I think sometimes fans are quick to dismiss others as the Next Woodson because they equate defensive dominance with a DB's greatness, which wasn't completely the case.  Marcus Ray had 5 INTs and was an All Big-Ten and All-American selection that season, and the whole backfield played great for virtually the whole season.  In another time and place, I could have seen Leon Hall have an equally-dominant season (thought probably without the fanfare), and I fully expect for Countess to have a very good career at UM as the overall defensive talent improves.  

No one will ever be the next Woodson, but that says as much about the time and teams he played on as his immense talent.

The Geek

May 31st, 2012 at 12:26 PM ^

I love that quote from Lloyd (I think it was the B1G Network's Big Ten Icons show on Woodson?) when a reporter asks him about the freshman stud he sees on defense, and Lloyd's eyes light up and he just has this smile... And (I'm paraphrasing) "He's something special." Lloyd doesn't smile very often...

For his work on and off the field, he's the type of player Michigan represents.