The Wolverine

April 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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44 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2019 PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 2019 SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW. DEFENSIVE BACKS BY THE NUMBERS 2 Career interception re- turns for touchdowns by senior Lavert Hill. That ties him with Brandon Wat- son, Thom Darden and Lance Dottin for the most ever by a Wolverine, with a chance to climb to the top alone this season. 15 Combined passes bro- ken up by M ichigan's leaders last year, David Long (eight) and Watson (seven). Senior Josh Me- tellus is U-M's top returner for 2019, with six last year. 16 Career passes broken up for Lavert Hill, which ties him for 25th on Michi- gan's all-time list with Mike Taylor, Calvin O'Neal, Mike Harden and Ramon Taylor. If he matches the five he secured last year, he would tie for 15th in program history. 105.61 M i c h i g a n's p a s s d e - fense efficiency rating in 2018, good for No. 7 in the nation. The Wolver- ines ranked the best of all Big Ten teams, one notch a h e a d o f Pe n n S t a te (106.1). WHO'S GONE CORNERBACK DAVID LONG A first-team All-Big Ten performer by the coaches, Long didn't get picked on much. His replacement will likely see more action, while Long seeks his fortune in the NFL Draft. SAFETY TYREE KINNEL Kinnel directed traffic from a safety spot, along with finishing second on the team with 74 tackles. A captain who could be counted on to do the right thing, his leadership will be missed. CORNERBACK BRANDON WATSON Watson provided a strong third cornerback all season, sharing the team lead with three interceptions. WHO'S BACK SENIOR CORNERBACK LAVERT HILL Hill picked off a pass and broke up five in 2018, while securing 14 tackles. Those relatively modest numbers don't fully indicate his impact — he was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick, in addition to being named a third-team All- American by the Associated Press. SENIOR SAFETY JOSH METELLUS Metellus will remain a primary communicator and di- rector of the back end of a defense that finished second nationally in passing yards allowed per game (147.8). Individually, he finished fifth on the team in tackles (48) and tied for the lead in interceptions (three). TOP NEWCOMER FRESHMAN SAFETY DAXTON HILL The unanimous five-star safety out of Tulsa, Okla., will be one of the fastest players in the nation the day he steps on campus. How quickly he learns Michigan's defense will determine how much, how soon, but he appears destined for an early impact. "You put [freshman] Daxton Hill on the field in that position, it changes everything for a defense. That is one of the reasons I think we will see something completely different when we face the Buckeyes at the end of November." — Former U-M All-American Jon Jansen QUOTABLE POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH The open corner spot will be closely monitored, but Daxton Hill's speed will make the fight at safety co m p e l l i n g. M i c h i g a n featured several safeties with an experience edge, most notably juniors Brad Hawkins, J'Marick Woods and Jaylen Kelly-Powell. At corner, look for junior Ambry Thomas to make a strong push, challenged by redshir t freshmen Myles Sims and Vincent Gray, among others. BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan's secondary looked like another no-fly zone all season long … until it landed in Columbus. Ohio State's sobering attack in that one gives the U-M returners clear motivation and video from which to improve. Retaining one of two first-team All-Big Ten cornerbacks (senior Lavert Hill) and a second-team All- Big Ten safety (senior Josh Metellus) marks a strong start for this crew. Now it's all about how things round into shape around them. There exists no lack of challengers, from veterans to rookies. Michigan will look to form a group ready to start well Aug. 31 … and finish even better. LAVERT HILL

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