How Josh Metellus Has Transformed His Play From 2017 Penn State Game

josh metellus michigan safety interception touchdown

How Josh Metellus Has Transformed His Play From 2017 Penn State Game

Football

How Josh Metellus Has Transformed His Play From 2017 Penn State Game

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Last time Michigan played Penn State, it was a blowout in Happy Valley — the only time the Wolverines defense was truly brutalized all season long.

And how did the Nittany Lions do it? Attacking Michigan’s safeties in coverage.

This year, that’s a task easier said than done. Michigan enters the game with the nation’s No. 1 pass defense, and strong safety Josh Metellus, after a so-so start to the season — which began with an ejection for targeting at Notre Dame, and then a couple plays in the next two games where it looked like he may have been out of position — has revamped his game, having become one of the stronger players in the Wolverines secondary.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, asked about the Wolverines safety play this season, singled Metellus out as a player who’s done some really impressive things this year.

“They’ve played really good ball,” Harbaugh said. “Josh Metellus is playing really well. In coverage and getting his hands on balls – his tackling. Really improved in all areas. Really doing a fantastic job.”

Two weeks ago, Metellus’ position coach, Chris Partridge, commented on how well the third-year defensive back has performed this year, starting with amplifying his practice habits and taking his play from the practice field to the playing field.

As the season has progressed, Metellus has started to more and more look like a different player.

“From the beginning of the season to this point, I would say the practice habits,” Partridge said. “Just finishing every play in practice and then he’s just becoming smarter in terms of understanding what our defense is trying to do and the opponent is trying to do and getting everyone else in the right position.

“The Maryland game was really a great example, with all their shifts, motions and unbalanced sets and tackle oversets, he took charge back there and was able to get the secondary aligned up so we didn’t miss any gaps and miss any coverages, it was a really good job by him.”

But what do his teammates see?

Cornerback David Long tipped a pass against Wisconsin which landed in Metellus’ arms for a pivotal interception that set up a Michigan field goal in the second quarter. Metellus leads the Wolverines with 3 interceptions on the year, one of which he returned for a touchdown in Week Three against SMU.

Long says a lot of what Metellus has gotten better at is his communication.

“He’s just working harder, just communicating,” Long said. “He’s doing the little things in practice, and it’s showing up on the field.

“It’s a credit to the defense as a whole, because we’re all just communicating much better, and it just helps everybody improve. Everybody’s playing better. It’s helps another player’s stock – it helps what he’s able to do on the field.”

His play has certainly been recognized, even going into Michigan’s dominating performance against MSU in Week Eight.

Scouting website Pro Football Focus had Metellus as the top defensive back in coverage in the country going into Week Eight, allowing an opposing passer rating of just 5.7.

On Saturday, we’ll see if Penn State tries similar tactics from a year ago, and we’ll also see firsthand just how far along Metellus has come from that performance that led Michigan fans scratching their heads.

But, from what we know now, and what we’ve seen, Metellus has shown himself to be a transformed player from the one that PSU QB Trace McSorley targeted time and time again in Happy Valley.

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