Zordich Much Happier With Michigan's Cornerbacks This Fall Camp

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Zordich Much Happier With Michigan's Cornerbacks This Fall Camp

Football

Zordich Much Happier With Michigan's Cornerbacks This Fall Camp

ANN ARBOR, Mich — A year ago at this time, Michigan cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich was not happy where most of his unit was, halfway through fall camp, with the Florida game only a few weeks away.

On August 21, 2017, Zordich proclaimed, when asked how his group was progressing:

“Not fast enough,” Zordich said. “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this — Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. The other guys, they’ve shown flashes. They just need to grab it. Somebody’s got to grab it and run with it and take it. It’s just not happening. Hopefully somebody will in the next five to seven days because we’ve got to get ready for a game in less than two weeks.”

What a difference a year makes.

Just six days shy of 365, Zordich was singing a much different tune. His cornerbacks have done well through fall camp thus far, and he, admittedly, doesn’t feel there’s much suspense going into the 2018 season, compared to last year’s fall camp.

“I am not in that mode,” Zordich said on Wednesday. “I’m in a good place! The fellas have got me in a good place!”

As one could expect, it’s a three-headed monster for Michigan at the cornerback position, with the two nationally-recognized standouts, and the somewhat unheralded Brandon Watson — who had a solid season in 2017.

Zordich says that the young players are progressing nicely, but they’re not quite as ready for primetime as his star players.

“Brandon Watson, David Long and Lavert doing very well,” Zordich said. “Having a really good camp. Ambry Thomas, working extremely hard. He’s right behind those guys. And then a good crew – the young guys. Gemon Green, Myles and then Vincent – Vincent Gray. Got some talent, got some talent. They’ve got a long way to go, but they’ve got some talent.”

One name was notably absent — Benjamin St-Juste.

The second-year player was a late scratch near the end of the season in 2017, suffering from hamstring injuries that kept him out of bowl prep. Those same injuries seemed to have hampered him through the spring, as well.

Zordich spoke of St-Juste in a similar fashion to how he spoke about Lavert Hill coming out of spring ball in 2017 — saying that he’d like to see him play through those minor injuries.

“Benny’s just got to learn – he’s very talented – (but) he’s got to learn to strain a little bit,” Zordich said. “It’s a lot of talent in the body, though. Unbelievable amount of talent. Could be really good.”

So, for now, Michigan is relying on the three big names to make the impact once the season rolls around.

But, Zordich cautions, don’t sleep on Ambry Thomas, who’s an emerging player, and should see some playing time at corner this season.

“I definitely trust those first three,” Zordich said. “They rotated all last year. And now they’ve got another year under their belt. Very comfortable with those three and want to get to that point with Ambry. And he’s working towards that, he really is.”

Looking at his two stars more specifically, Zordich likes what he has.

Obviously — considering both David Long and Lavert Hill have been mentioned time and time again by scouting site Pro Football Focus as two of the best cornerbacks in the nation.

But things haven’t always been so rosy with either of them.

First, looking at Hill, it wasn’t just spring of 2017 when he wasn’t a full go in practice. Just this past spring, Zordich was dismayed at his lack of playing time.

“He hasn’t practiced, so he’s losing valuable time unfortunately for him,” Zordich said. “But that allows Brandon Watson and Ambry Thomas to get better, David Long to get better, Hunter Reynolds and Myles Sims. We’d like to have him out there for sure, but we’re not waiting for him.”

Now, months later — or even a year-plus later, when you consider how similar those two spring situations were — Zordich is singing a much different tune when it comes to Hill.

Saying that he doesn’t need to call him out in the media as he has previously, Zordich insists that not only has Hill gotten the message loud and clear, but he’s acting as a true leader on this Michigan defense.

“He’s awesome, man,” Zordich said. “From the spring and our little hiccup with each other – he’s great. He’s just great in the classroom. He does a helluva job in meetings. He’s being a leader. And it’s good to see.”

It was a year ago that Zordich as somewhat bearish on David Long. But, Long got going late in fall camp, and by the time he took the field against Florida — and beyond — he was a stalwart defender.

Zordich says that Long’s focus and preparation are second to none.

“He takes coaching,” Zordich said. “He really takes coaching. He studies. He’s a great note taker. He’s a professional, he really is. He’s a great kid, great person. I’m really excited for him, I really am. He just works at it.”

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