Michigan Safeties Take it Upon Themselves to Improve in Coverage This Offseason

Michigan Safeties Take it Upon Themselves to Improve in Coverage This Offseason

Football

Michigan Safeties Take it Upon Themselves to Improve in Coverage This Offseason

CHICAGO — Michigan had the top-rated pass defense in the country in 2017, and while cornerbacks Lavert Hill and David Long get all the (deserved) credit in the world, the safeties are somewhat lost in the fray.

A big part of that has less to do with the unit’s success as much as it does with their failures a year ago.

For the most part, the safety play by both Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus was solid, but the duo got absolutely torched, by design, by Penn State, who had recognized that both could be liabilities in man coverage. Thus, when quarterback Trace McSorley dropped back to throw, it was an afterthought of which receiver would get the ball — it was whoever Kinnel or Metellus was on.

The duo got better as the season went on, but that game still haunts the memories of Michigan fans, despite how solid the unit was as a whole. In an effort to not let history repeat itself, Kinnel and Metellus have worked diligently all offseason to improve in man coverage, knowing that it was a weakness a year ago, and one they hope is a strength in 2018.

“(We worked on man coverage) a lot,” Kinnel said. “We both communicated with each other and it’s not a secret that we had to work on it. That’s what we’re doing everyday – we’re working hard on our technique. Coach Partridge is putting us in great positions. They’ve changed a couple things to help us. That’s what we do. It’s not a secret that we’ve got to work on our man coverage.

“We’ve gotten a lot better in the spring and offseason. You’ll definitely see a change in the season as well when the time comes around.”

But Kinnel doesn’t get nearly the amount of flak that Metellus does.

In big part, that comes not just from the Penn State game, but also having dropped a pivotal interception against a driving Ohio State last season, one that could have kept the scoreboard at a 14-0 favor towards Michigan.

Between the two mistakes — the game and the play — Metellus has reportedly made vast improvements in coverage as well as in the weight room. Kinnel says it’s beyond evident, but also notes that the whole group is improving.

“He’s improved a lot,” Kinnel said. “He’s put some good weight on, too. He’s stronger, faster – he’s doing really well. But, together the whole safety group has gotten a lot better. Even with Brad Hawkins, J’Marick Woods, Jaylen Kelly-Powell. Everyone’s getting better in that safety group. It’s going to bring a lot of depth and competition. That’s good for us – it’s going to make everyone better.”

He may have been the last name mentioned, but according to sources we referenced in the above mailbag, second-year safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell seems to be advancing rapidly.

Working with the ones now — along with Kinnel and Metellus — Kelly-Powell has been more dedicated at safety than he was previously. A positional journeyman as a freshman, the decision was made this offseason to try to simplify his role and make him as great at safety as possible.

Kinnel says of Kelly-Powell that his progress is evident, and he’s a name that fans should get to know quickly.

“I just see consistency,” Kinnel said. “You know he’s always going to come to practice with a good mentality. He’s always working hard. You never hear complaining out of him. He’s getting better – you can tell he’s getting better. And it’s going to show up this year when he plays. He’s all over the place at corner, nickel and safety. His main spot is safety, as everyone knows. I feel like he’s going to do good this year. He’s made an extreme leap in the spring. Everyone is excited for him.”

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

Latest

More WolverinesWire
Home