ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Entering the 2017 season, the Michigan football team’s secondary was well aware of its youth.
With the news of the potential departure of Keith Washington, Michigan’s secondary gets a little younger.
Scout.com reported Monday afternoon that Washington, a redshirt sophomore, has notified Michigan that he will transfer. A Michigan source told Land of 10 that Washington has elected to transfer.
The loss of Washington hurts Michigan’s depth and experience at cornerback. Michigan’s secondary isn’t thin, but it’s definitely young. Its top candidates to start in Michigan’s opener Sept. 2 against Florida are sophomore Lavert Hill, sophomore David Long, redshirt junior Brandon Watson, freshman Ambry Thomas and redshirt junior Drake Harris. (Harris moves from wide receiver to cornerback this season.)
Freshman Jaylen Kelly-Powell, a safety and a 5-star recruit, also has taken preseason reps at cornerback.
Washington enrolled at Michigan in the summer of 2015 and played primarily on special teams last season. This season would have been Washington’s prime opportunity to earn a spot in Michigan’s secondary, especially after a strong spring game in which he had 5 tackles and a pass breakup. Secondary coach Mike Zordich said Monday — prior to the news of Washington’s transfer — that Washington was working at cornerback and at safety.
Earlier this summer, it appeared that Washington was prepared to compete for a starting position. Michigan lost all four of its starters from 2016 to graduation and to the NFL, and Washington, a converted quarterback from Prattville, Ala., began to find his legs at a new position.
“This is definitely is as high as [my confidence] has been,” Washington told the Detroit Free Press earlier this summer. “I’ve been through the process. Of course, I’m still learning a lot of technique and things like that, but this is probably the most comfortable I’ve been since I’ve been at Michigan.”
Washington had the physical tools, but at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds he fit more of the physical mold of former Michigan cornerback Channing Stribling, who utilized his length and his athleticism. In fact, Stribling praised Washington earlier this year.
This move also likely adds one more level of concern for Zordich, who has expressed concern about the maturation of the secondary, particularly the cornerbacks.
“It could be experience,” Zordich said Monday. “It may just be they don’t understand how to dig a little deeper to find it, and that could be part of the problem, too.
“I’m not going to tell a story that isn’t true. Is that fair enough? We’ve got a game to play in, what, 12 days? They’re working hard, they’ve just got to work hard more consistently and do the right things more consistently.”