Michigan’s pass defense slipped drastically in 2013, allowing 231.3 passing yards per game which ranked a disappointing 66th in the nation. The year before, Michigan allowed an average of 169.5 passing yards, fifth in the FBS.
The silver lining was the 17 interceptions Michigan produced in 2013 compared to only seven in 2012. Returning cornerbacks Blake Countess had seven and Raymon Taylor had four.
Interceptions aside, neither head coach Brady Hoke nor DC Greg Mattison could be happy with last year’s defense, especially the 42 points Michigan allowed to Ohio State, the 47 to Indiana, the 31 to Kansas State and the 29 to MSU.
Being that several teams are migrating to spread offenses, Hoke and Mattison decided to beef up the coaching staff in the secondary by having Curt Mallory coach the safeties exclusively while Roy Manning mentored the cornerbacks.
Depthwise, Michigan has only five upperclassmen playing in the secondary, while eight are freshmen or sophomores (see table). (Ross Douglas moved from the defensive backfield to running back Tuesday (Feb. 25), the first day of spring practice).
The Wolverines already have two commits for the 2015 class, so they will most likely take one or two come signing day next February.
Here are summaries on the two commitments and the three top targets.
|Jabrill Peppers |
(Commit) Tyree Kinnel, 5-11, 170 Lbs., CB, Huber Heights Wayne HS (OH)
A 2015 Michigan commit, Tyree Kinnel began his prep career as a cornerback but has since switched to safety.
“I just like playing like that, playing physical,” Kinnel told scout.com. “But you also have to play smart at the same time.
Kinnel, who plays at Huber Heights where former Wolverines Terry and Terrence Talbot prepped, will be getting experience in both run support and pass coverage before he enrolls at Michigan.
“I love safety,” Kinnel said. “You get to come down in run support and play pass. And Michigan wants me at safety so I’m just going to be working at safety the next two years — but you never know, I could play corner. Coach Mallory has mentioned that to me and some nickel so, I’m keeping my options open — and with the coaching staff, that’s all their choice.”
Kinnel, who like Shane Morris and Wilton Speight before him, is helping build the 2015 class.
“I’ve been talking with Justin Hilliard, a 2015 linebacker target from Cincinnati,” he said. “I spoke with him last night and he said he liked it and said it was sweet. I’ve been talking with him for a little bit trying to pull him in. I think he likes Michigan, but I think he’s got some other schools he likes also.”
(Commit) Shaun Crawford, 5-9, 170 Lbs., CB, Lakewood St. Edward HS, (OH)
One of the earliest commitments to the 2015 class, Shaun is hoping to show his talent as a cornerback, wide receiver, kick returner and a punt blocker. The Michigan staff has cornerback filled in, but don’t be surprised if you find Crawford in the slot.
A lifelong Michigan fan, Crawford was the first player in the 2015 class. “I can’t wait till I get up there in two years.”
In the meantime, Crawford says he will continue to try to get other top prospects to join him in Ann Arbor.
“I’m just going to keep talking to George Campbell,” Crawford said. Campbell, the 5-star wide receiver who decommited but may eventually become a Wolverine. “I’m just trying to make the team better in the future.” Crawford added. ”In the end, it will benefit all of us. I’m just trying to play good out here; so they know what’s coming to Michigan in 2015.”
Garrett Taylor, 6-1, 187 Lbs., CB, Richmond St, Christopher’s (VA)
Now that Michigan has finally offered Richmond (VA) St. Christopher’s Garrett Taylor, the recruiting process should get very interesting.
St. Chris is located just about midway between Hermitage, where RB Derrick Green went, and Collegiate, where Wilton Speight played.
Since Speight was the unofficial student “recruiter” in the 2014 class, he picked right up on Taylor’s offer.
“I have talked to him a couple of times and approached him about just getting out there and seeing it for what it is,” he stated. “It’s funny because I guess he saw on twitter that I got an offer and he texted me within like five minutes or so. He was like, ‘come for a visit!’ It was pretty funny. He said he would be my host.”
Minkah Fitzpatrick, 6-0, 180 Lbs., CB, Jersey City St, Peters Prep (NJ)
When in doubt, out comes the academics card.
For Minkah Fitzpatrick to choose a school, it must have superior academics.
Fitzpatrick, who’s been pursued by Ohio State, Michigan and several others, could play cornerback along side his New Jersey buddy, Jabrill Peppers. Fitzpatrick has talked Kinseology and Biomedical Engineering with cornerback coach Roy Manning.
“I had been talking to coach Manning for a while from Michigan,” said Fitzpatrick. ”Doing that, I’ve had the chance to form a relationship with him out of all the coaches.”
After receiving his Michigan offer, Fitzpatrick spoke about how Peppers might play a role in the recruiting process.
“We have a little bit of a relationship,” said Fitzpatrick, who is scout.com’s No.9 cornerback nationally. ”We talk here and there and we’ve been talking about getting together and training together sometime this offseason.”
Fitzpatrick is ready for a Michigan visit.
“Definitely, definitely,” said Fitzpatrick. ”It’s something I really want to do. If I can’t get there this winter, then I definitely want to get there in the spring for practice. I need to get out there.”
Iman Marshall, 6-1.5, 190 Lbs., CB, Long Beach Poly (CA)
Those who are highly recruited might actually choose their position. “I want to play corner. I’m a cornerback; I feel I’m a cornerback, so I’m going to play corner. And a good one. Rated the No.2 cornerback in the nation, Marshall also boasts a 5-star rating.
At 6-1, 190 and still with a year of high school ahead of him, Marshall might be suited for either position.
He’s from Long Beach, CA, which is not far from the Rose Bowl where Michigan would actually like to visit more often.
“I love the Wolverines,” Marshall said. “Great football tradition and it’s a football city, I love it.” Hopefully I’m going to try to take a visit up there and look more into the program.”
“Yeah, I heard they hold a big crowd of 100,000; their fan base is humongous; the defensive coordinator was a former defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, so that’s really as much as I know of, but I have to do more research on. Yeah, yeah. I’m definitely going to take a visit out that way.”
Player Hgt/Wgt Star Rating Nat'l Pos. Rank State Rank Shawn Crawford (commit) 5-9, 170 4 8 (CB) 6 Tyree Kinnel (commit) 5-11, 170 4 14 (CB) 9 Iman Marshall 6-1.5, 190 5 2 (CB) 4 Minkah Fitzpatrick 6-0, 180 4 9 (CB) 1 Garrett Taylor 6-1, 187 4 33 (CB) 10
Also on the radar: John Reid, Prentice McKinney, Kendall Sheffield, Stephen Griffin, Jordan Whitehead, Marcus Lewis.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer