Editor’s note: This is part four of 10 positional previews on the Michigan football team entering the 2014 season. Check out our other previews here.
By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter
The Wolverines play in a conference that isn’t quite the three yards and a cloud of dust that our grandfathers remember. Michigan was thrown at 434 times in 2013 and it will be important that the defensive backfield takes a step toward stopping the pass in the rapidly approaching season.
In the fourth of 10 positional previews on the Michigan football team, Staff Reporter Geoff Mehl breaks down the defensive backs.
Though the back half of the Wolverine defense dealt with injuries last season, a fresh healthy group looks to be the difference in 2014.
After losing senior captain cornerback Courtney Avery to graduation, the defensive backs will now have a new experienced leader in redshirt junior cornerback Blake Countess. Countess has big shoes to fill while wearing ex-Michigan legend Charles Woodson’s No. 2 jersey.
Countess will be leaned on as the leader of a young group of defensive backs that has loads of talent. He started all 13 games in 2013 and led the team in interceptions with six for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Along with Countess, senior cornerback Raymon Taylor is coming off his best season at Michigan. Taylor led the Wolverines in tackles last season with 86 tackles and tallied four interceptions for 75 yards.
“Everyone is hungry,” said Taylor at the team’s media day. “We have something to prove, right now we are working on getting better and improving…just keep grinding right now and everything will be alright.”
Taylor and Countess will be the solid veterans of the backfield but there are plenty of new faces that are poised to emerge, mainly freshman five-star recruit Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers has been prematurely anointed the defensive savior for the Wolverine program but it wouldn’t be farfetched to believe that he could make a difference on the field almost immediately.
Coming into camp, Peppers looks to be in great shape and as versatile as advertised. Not only will he be worked in as a cornerback, he has the potential to return punts and kicks and be featured as a weapon on offense. As of now, Peppers is working with the starters at corner and the nickel back.
Pushing for a starting position is also junior cornerback Jourdan Lewis. During fall camp Lewis has been separating himself as one of the best defensive backs on the roster. Don’t be surprised if Lewis is lining up as a starter in week one.
At safety, the Wolverines will be bringing back some experienced talent. Jarrod Wilson is slotted as the strong safety to begin the year. At free safety, Jeremy Clark is vying for the starting job but Delano Hill will make a push when he returns from injury in the early season.
Dymonte Thomas and Channing Stribling saw some playing time due to injuries last season. With that gained experience they all have a shot to take a step forward to find increased rolls on the defense as back up corners or safety help.
Depth/Competition: Joe Hewlett, Anthony Dalimonte, Francois Montbrun, A.J. Pearson, Terry Richardson, Delonte Hollowell, Brandon Watson, Reon Dawson.