Zordich Assesses Michigan's Corners Through Six Games

mike zordich michigan cornerbacks coach

Zordich Assesses Michigan's Corners Through Six Games

Football

Zordich Assesses Michigan's Corners Through Six Games

ANN ARBOR, Mich — When Michigan takes the field defensively, you already know they’re going to be solid. While the defensive line gets much of the headlines, the Wolverines have been just as consistent over the years at cornerback, and the team is again this year.

Through six games, the maize and blue are fielding the nation’s best passing defense. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some growing pains early on, however.

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush went after third-year corner Lavert Hill with some success in the first half. Penalties against Hill and fellow third-year David Long cost the Wolverines a few times at Northwestern.

But, with every little bit of stress that comes their way, the unit locks down and becomes that much tougher in man coverage.

Their position coach Mike Zordich says he saw what was once a young, inexperienced group a year ago — that still had the nation’s top pass defense, regardless — take that necessary step forward this year, and it’s been incremental.

He knows that he and the defense are asking a lot for the corners to be on islands all the time in man coverage, yet they’ve all continued to rise to the occasion.

“I think I’ve seen all three of those guys take the next step and understand their job and responsibility to this team and obviously for themselves,” Zordich said. “Brandon Watson, David Long and Lavert have all just each week taken little steps fo getting better.”

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the season has been Brandon Watson, the fifth-year and least talked about cornerback of the trio. Considered to be a third starter, Watson leads the team with two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown a week ago.

Zordich has been impressed with how Watson has emerged as a leader, even if that doesn’t mean that he’s doing so vocally.

“Experience, leadership values, lead by example – definitely that kind of guy,” Zordich said. “He’s not a vocal guy, but in practice, he works his rear end off every day. Coach Brown – it’s funny, we’ll watch film together in the mornings from the night before, and there’s B-Wat, causing some kind of problems somewhere, some way along the line in practice. And it gets noticed. He works hard in practice, which is a helluva thing.”

Outside of the starters, second-year phenom Ambry Thomas is starting to get more and more playing time.

In the fourth quarter against Maryland, David Long was called off the field during some integral moments, and Thomas acquitted himself well. As a player that’s come into the program with a lot of hype and has already shown off how dynamic of an athlete he can be on special teams, it’s been a good sign to see Thomas get pivotal playing time at defensive back in non-garbage time situations.

That said, Zordich continues to be happy with his ascension.

“Ambry, as we’ve been talking about, Ambry since spring has done nothing but gotten better,” Zordich said. “He had a great fall and he’s continuing to improve as we’ve gone through the season. He’s the next man up! It’s fun watching him on game day, because he’s always right there ready to go. He’s definitely earned that spot.”

But, unlike Thomas and injured CB Benjamin St-Juste, we haven’t seen the true freshmen in real game action.

Coming out of fall camp, local product Vincent Gray seemed the most likely to contribute, despite former four-star GA CB Myles Sims having been on campus since January.

Zordich says that Gemon Green has shown flashes, but hasn’t taken his game to that next level as of yet.

In general, he says he would like to see more from his three freshmen, and hopes that continue to understand what is needed of them at the college level.

“They need to grow up and get used to being in college and understand it’s a little different than being a four, five-star guy,” Zordich said. “You are now a zero-star guy and you have to start from the beginning and compete every day and get better every day.”

That doesn’t mean he’s disappointed with their progress at this juncture, but he does still want to see them find that extra gear and emerge as the year progresses.

When they find that extra gear, then that’s when they’ll be ready for that step forward, like Thomas is starting to find now.

“They’ve got a long way to go, brother!” Zordich said. “But, as long as they understand that and they come to work every day, we’ll be fine, because they’ve got talent. I’ll tell you that right now, they’ve got talent. That’s why they’re here.”

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

Latest

More WolverinesWire
Home