The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 33 of 75

34 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2019 Defensive Backs MVP JUNIOR CORNERBACK DAVID LONG Long was among Pro Football Focus' leaders in advanced metrics for much of the past two seasons, and he was elite for most of the year in 2018. He was targeted only 31 times on the year and allowed just nine receptions for 42 yards on the season. That would be impressive enough, but consider this: Michigan's sports information department noted only two balls thrown at him went for first downs or touchdowns, adding Long allowed only nine yards after the catch and led the na- tion's corners by a wide margin with 0.1 yards allowed per coverage snap. Long earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches, second-team accolades from the Associated Press and third-team recognition from the media. The Michigan coaches named him their defensive skill player of the year at the annual awards ban- quet, and he's now off to the NFL. OVERALL GRADE This group was cruising along after a tough open- ing 18 minutes of the season at Notre Dame, but reality hit against a powerful Ohio State offense. In fairness, the guys on the back end got left out to dry in a 62-39 loss to the Buckeyes — the defensive line got zero pressure against a future top-10 draft pick in OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins — but the secondary got torched, too, in allowing six touchdown passes and 396 passing yards. Junior cornerback Lavert Hill had a solid season after struggling in the opener against the Fighting Irish, a 24-17 Notre Dame win, earning unanimous first-team All-Big Ten honors and even third- team All-America honors from the AP. He still has another gear to reach, however, and admitted he was playing half a step slow due to injury this year. Fifth-year senior Brandon Watson got picked on at OSU, but had an otherwise great year. The safeties were hit and miss, especially in coverage, but junior Josh Metellus really emerged as a force. He'll be the rock in the backfield next season. NUMBERS TO KNOW The Wolverine secondary ranked second nationally in arguably the two most important statistical categories for a defensive backfield — oppo- nent completion percentage and passing yards allowed per game. Michigan held opposing quarterbacks to just a 49.5 completion percent- age (Cincinnati was the only team better at 48.6 percent), while also limit- ing foes to an average of 147.8 yards through the air (Miami's 135.6 was the lone mark that was better). They also ranked seventh nationally in team pass efficiency defense (105.61). status Of schOlarship players GRADUATED: DB Casey Hughes S Tyree Kinnel CB Brandon Watson GOING PRO EARLY: CB David Long ELIGIBILITY REMAINING (YEARS): CB Lavert Hill (1) S Josh Metellus (1) S Brad Hawkins (2) S Jaylen Kelly-Powell (2) CB Ambry Thomas (2) S J'Marick Woods (2) CB Benjamin St-Juste (3) CB Sammy Faustin (4) CB Vincent Gray (4) DB Gemon Green (4) DB German Green (4) CB Myles Sims (4) B 2019 PLAYER TO WATCH AMBRY THOMAS With fifth-year senior Brandon Watson out of eligibility and junior David Long off to the NFL, Michigan's experience at cornerback will be incredibly thin in 2019. Junior Lavert Hill, a third- team AP All-American in 2018, will likely start once again after doing so the past two years, but who wins the cornerback job opposite him remains a mystery. The 6-0, 183-pound Thomas is the most likely candidate, but has yet to prove he's capable of being a suc- cessful full-time defensive back. He played just 104 defensive snaps last year and 24 in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. David Long PHOTO BY LOH HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - February 2019