Remember the Homeland Security Department’s biggest PR move, the terrorist threat level indicator? You know, this thing. Well, I decided — in a desperate attempt to figure out what type of content to post during the slow summer months — to apply these threat levels (minus the whole, you know, terrorist thing) to Michigan’s position groups. In other words, which groups are the Wolverines comfortably stocked at, and which ones have you buying mass quantities of bottled water and canned foods to prepare for the football apocalypse? Over the next week, I’ll be placing each of the position groups into one of the above categories. So far, I have covered the “Low”, “Guarded”, “Elevated” , and “High” threat categories, and today, we we end with the “Severe” position groups. Duck and cover, everyone.
Cornerback: No surprise here — with the early departure of Donovan Warren from an already-disappointing secondary, cornerback is a major area of concern heading into the fall. The team will rely heavily on senior Troy Woolfolk, who is back at corner after bouncing between the position and safety last season. He is perhaps the only player in Michigan’s secondary who we can definitely expect to start every game when he’s healthy (Cam Gordon may also fall under this category, but he’s still a redshirt freshman who just switched from wideout to safety), and he’ll be relied upon to shut down the opposition’s top receiver. Woolfolk doesn’t quite measure up to Michigan’s usual standard of a #1 corner (think Law, Woodson, Jackson, Hall, and even Warren), but he should be a reliable starter.
The other starting spot should be hotly contested perhaps even during the season, as redshirt sophomore J.T. Floyd will have to hold off competition from redshirt freshman Justin Turner, senior James Rogers, and a host of talented true freshmen. Floyd has appeared much-improved this spring after looking overmatched at times in 2009, but his ceiling is relatively low compared to the players competing for his spot. Turner could be ticketed for safety, as he has looked big and a little slow for a corner this spring, but he was a highly-touted recruit who has the potential to be a special player. As for the true freshmen, Michigan secured a pair of blue-chippers in Cullen Christian and Demar Dorsey — both should see the field early and often when they get to Ann Arbor, although it appears that Dorsey has a large uphill climb with regards to qualifying academically. Courtney Avery and Terrence Talbott were both three-star recruits — if either is immediately thrust into a major role, things have probably gone very wrong.
The good news at corner is that Michigan is filling in the depth chart with talented young players after being burned by depth issues the past couple seasons. The bad news is that, besides Woolfolk, there isn’t a proven corner on the team right now. That’s a major concern for anyone who has witnessed the Wolverines’ secondary play of recent years.
Safety: Have I mentioned that last year’s secondary was disappointing? Well, a cursory look at this year’s projected depth chart does little to dissuade any fears that Michigan’s back five (remember, 3-3-5 defense this year) won’t be the weak point of the team again in 2010. Yes, Cameron Gordon has emerged as a potential impact player at free safety — he’s still a redshirt freshman who was playing wide receiver last season. That’s your last line of defense. Although it appears Gordon has the free safety position locked down, he will get some competition from sophomore Vlad Emilien and potentially freshman Carvin Johnson and redshirt freshman Brandin Hawthorne in the fall. Regardless, a first-time starter will be the man tasked with protecting Michigan from big plays over the top — I can’t be the only person who is somewhat petrified by this.
As for the box (strong) safeties, it looks like redshirt sophomore, and former walk-on, Jordan Kovacs will start on one side, while redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon is your current leader across from Kovacs. Competition will be heavy for these spots, however — redshirt junior Mike Williams, freshmen Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman, redshirt sophomore Floyd Simmons, and sophomores Mike Jones and Teric Jones will all get a shot at playing time. Of those guys, I’d expect Robinson and Furman to have the best shot at unseating one of the starters, although the coaching staff could be (legitimately) wary of plugging in a true freshman into an already-green secondary. Regardless of who starts, the team will be heavy on youth and light on experience at safety.
Kicker: Michigan signed kicker Brendan Gibbons to a scholarship in the class of 2009, with the expectation that he would start from day one. Instead, walk-on Jason Olesnavage handled the kicking duties last season, and performed well, but Gibbons has once again failed to grab the starting job against a pair of walk-ons in Kris Pauloski and Scott Schrimscher. There’s not a whole lot to analyze here: Rich Rodriguez has said the kicking game has been inconsistent, and that’s never a good sign when you’re looking at a first-time starter at kicker no matter who wins the job. With so much pressure to win games, and a defense that will likely give up its fair share of points, Michigan can’t afford to miss out on points in the kicking game. Let’s all hope that Gibbons, or one of the walk-ons, can step up and at least be somewhat reliable, or else Rodriguez’s very job could hang on a kick or two this season.