ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Mike Zordich knows there’s plenty of room for growth in Michigan’s secondary.
Many of Michigan’s safeties and cornerbacks haven’t had much live experience at the college football level and will go into fall practices continuing to learn the defensive playbook.
Zordich is in his third year as Michigan’s secondary coach and coaches the unit with Brian Smith, who is beginning his second year as Michigan’s defensive backs coach. Zordich and Smith face a challenge, though, as Michigan has lost its entire secondary from 2016 to graduation and/or the NFL, including All-American CB Jourdan Lewis and CB Channing Stribling. Lewis and Stribling combined for 6 interceptions and 24 pass breakups in 2016.
Now, Michigan has to count on players with little experience to fill those holes as it prepares for its season opener Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas. Among the candidates: returning CBs Lavert Hill, Keith Washington and David Long; returning safeties Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus; and freshmen Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Benjamin St-Juste and Ambry Thomas.
Kinnel led the secondary with 7 tackles in the spring game Saturday, while Washington had 5 tackles and 1 pass breakup.
“We’re going to do everything we did with those guys,” Zordich said Tuesday, referring to the 4 starters Michigan has lost in the secondary. “We play man, and we’ll make all the same calls, make all the same adjustments with those young guys as we did with those old guys, because that’s what we do.”
It’s no secret that Michigan will have a young secondary in 2017; of its returning players at cornerback or safety, only a handful appeared in more than 10 games last season, including Kinnel, Watson and Hudson.
“But those guys being here, getting all those reps in practice right now, they’re going to come back in practice and” — Zordich motioned as if he were wiping his hands clean — “that’s pretty easy. This time would be the hardest time. Once we get into August, it will be like, getting that work under your belt and now you’re comfortable in that situation.”
In particular, Zordich discussed a few points about the secondary, including:
- What exactly his impressions were of the secondary in the spring game
- The play of Keith Washington
- What Zordich learned from the group in the spring game. “They’ve got a ways to go. Even though they should still be in high school. We’ve got to change their habits, if you will. Happy, but a lot of room for improvement.”
You can hear more of what Zordich had to say Tuesday in the video above.