Freshman Brandon Harrison, who was initially brought in as a cornerback, was moved to free safety recently, as announced at Lloyd Carr's press conference to name team captains Jason Avant and Pat Massey. GoBlueWolverine.com's Draft Expert Josh Turel has seen Brandon Harrison in action -- here is his analysis.
Positives of Brandon Harrison at Safety:
While Harrison is an excellent mold for cornerback, I think he also fits in nicely at free safety. The thing I think Brandon adds to Michigan's safety position is elite athleticism: the speed and range to cover the vast duties of a free safety. Although most people tend to believe the best athletes in a secondary should be at cornerback, when you look at the responsibilities of a free safety you begin to realize they are much better suited for that spot. Harrison is a special athlete who has the raw speed to cover sideline to sideline which is what you're looking for in a FS. A safety is required to cover deep halves and thirds of the field and in 'cover one' or 'man free' coverage he is the only deep help to the corners, so speed is key. I think this move, if it is permanent for the long run, will make the secondary significantly better in terms of coverage. He should be an excellent backup to Ryan Mundy. Ideally you want free safeties to be around 6-foot-1 or above, and while Brandon comes in short of that mark at 5-10 or less, let's not forget he has a 37-inch vertical which can make up for some of that.
As a free safety Harrison also has the responsibility of being the 'alley man' in stopping the run, meaning his main responsibility is cutbacks and backside pursuit of the run. As far as toughness and playing the run, I think it's always been obvious that Harrison is a fearless kid and the type of player who would crave the chance to come up and hit someone. In high school and in camps he was an 'in your face', physical type cornerback, so that should translate well over to safety. Physically speaking, nothing is stopping Brandon Harrison.
Notice, I covered size above and am NOT listing it here! But, lest we forget, football is 90-percent mental, 10-percent physical. Safety is one of the most underrated positions in terms of mental difficulty, and most do not realize just how much is demanded of them. If you ask me, the safeties have to be your most intelligent players on defense because they coordinate and adjust coverage to offensive motion among many other things. Safeties are the quarterback’s per-se of the defense, and they control the adjustments in the secondary. It's nothing against Harrison, but this is something that takes a lot of time to pull off quickly and accurately. Learning how to adjust coverage’s will take him time but he should be equipped enough to control things while substituting in. Also being a safety is predicated on instincts and film work, which helps a safety better read the field and make plays. This obviously will all come in due time for Harrison and it's understandable if he it takes him awhile to adjust and learn this part of his new role.
Overall I think this move, if permanent, could pay off very well for Michigan. In the short term, Michigan gets a bit of depth and instant athleticism they could rotate in this year if needed, while grooming a player who can physically do anything you want a safety to do. Brandon was in Ann Arbor as much as possible in the spring, working out and watching practices, so I have no doubt this young man can put in the work needed to succeed at the position. If Brandon gets the logistics of free safety down, this could blossom into quite a move for the Michigan secondary in the long run. And, naturally, he is always available at CB as well!
Johnny Sears, Chris Richards, Brandon Harrison