ANN ARBOR—Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison hasn’t settled on starters in the Wolverines secondary leading up to the season opener against Central Michigan on Aug. 31.
One thing that is clear though, Mattison and Michigan learned from Blake Countess’ injury in 2012, more than prepared and cautious should a similar scenario unfold in 2013.
“In the back end we try to play guys at a lot of different positions, just for what happened in the Alabama game with Blake,” Mattison said Friday. “So you’re always ready to put the next guy up.
“Not to say if something happens, now make it. Switch guys around a little bit in practice so you’ve got that flexibility.”
Long thought to be in a battle with junior Raymon Taylor for the cornerback spot opposite Blake Countess, senior Courtney Avery is a defensive back Mattison praised for his experience and versatility. Still time for the final rotation to shake out, a scenario that involves Countess, Taylor and Avery on the field at the same time is still under consideration, potentially even likely.
“Again we’re moving guys all around,” Mattison said. “And the great thing, when you got a guy like Courtney, when you got a guy that’s played a long, long time, you can say to him ok I’m going to play you at corner this play and I want you to be able to know the safety position.
“Let’s say your three best secondary guys are your corners. It’s not very intelligent to have one of them be on the bench if they’re better than somebody else. That’s why we always want to get the best four or five back there.”
With senior Thomas Gordon locked in at one safety spot, several young players will continue to get looks for the two deep, including true freshman and former Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech safety Delano Hill.
“Jarrod Wilson, obviously (is in the mix),” Mattison said. “You’ve got a young man by Jeremy Clark who is a freshman. A guy that is a young kid that we haven’t seen half enough of yet but all the sudden woo he shows up, is Delano Hill.”
At nickel, true freshman Dymonte Thomas continues to impress in practice, showing the versatility required at the position and a knack for wreaking havoc in the backfield coming off the edge.
“Dymonte’s doing a really good job of that (blitzing),” Mattison said. “Again, same deal, that’s a position, the nickelback position is a position you want to be able to have a lot of ways to do that because if somebody gets down at a corner, that guy has to go out there and another nickel has got to come in. The nickel has to be a linebacker, blitzer, and a cover guy, so you’ve got to make sure you teach a couple guys, at least, that, so you don’t get taken out of your package if something happens.”
“He’s everyday coming out and the one thing he’s seeing, all these freshmen, Taco included on defense, the spring was a fast pace, way faster, camp is double that. I think they’re going, ‘Whoa, I thought I was here,’ and that’s a credit to the way we practice and the way we want to do things.”
To watch video of Mattison assessing the Michigan defense, press play below.