The Wolverine

March 2020 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 96 of 99

MARCH 2020 THE WOLVERINE 97 I ncoming cornerbacks Darion Green-Warren and Andre Seldon are two of the most talented re- cruits to sign with the Wolverines in 2020. Green-Warren and Seldon are both four-star prospects and two of six Michigan signees to finish the 2020 cycle among Rivals' top 150 prospects nationally. They are not just two of the most talented future Wolverines, though. They are also the two most important, and their presence in this class is criti- cal to Michigan's future pass defenses. Exceptional pass defenses have been a trademark of Jim Harbaugh's Michigan teams since he arrived in 2015. The Wolverines were the best in the nation in both passing yards allowed per attempt and quarterback rating allowed in 2015, and they were in the top 10 in both categories each season from 2016-18. Though Michi- gan's pass defense has had its issues the past two years against Ohio State, the Wolverines typically can count on having an elite back unit. U-M's cornerbacks were often the reason why its pass defense ex- celled. Their ability to be physical at the line of scrimmage and jam receivers off their routes has made it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to string together completions and made throwing a daunting exercise. The Wolverines have had a parade of cornerback stars march through Ann Arbor with these skills in recent years. Jourdan Lewis was the first and exemplified what press cover- age should look like. He became one of the nation's best cornerbacks in 2015 and 2016, and should have won the Thorpe Award as a senior. David Long and Lavert Hill then picked up the mantle after Lewis went to the NFL, becoming a dominant duo as sophomores and juniors in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Long chose to leave early for the NFL after opposing quarterbacks chose to stop looking at the half of the field he was covering, so Ambry Thomas overcame colitis to succeed Long as Hill's partner in crime in the secondary and became one of the best corners in the Big Ten. A common trait with all of these Michigan cornerbacks is that they were highly touted recruits. All of them were four-star prospects, and all of them were ranked in the top 15 at their position. Michigan has had to recruit the best corners in the country to have one of the best pass defenses. However, in the 2018 and 2019 classes, Michigan did not recruit the cornerback position as well as it did previously. In 2018, the Wolverines secured three cornerback commit- ments: Gemon Green, Vincent Gray and Sammy Faustin. Only Green was a four-star, but he was listed as the country's 39th-best cornerback. Both Gray and Faustin hovered around the top 60 at their position. In 2019, Michigan landed Jalen Perry and D.J. Turner. On paper, Perry fits more closely with the mold of Lewis, Long, Hill and Thomas. He was a four-star and ranked just outside the top 15 at his position (17th). However, he was originally a top-100 recruit that slid down the rankings near the end of the cycle and athletically seems more likely to move to safety. Turner has received hype, but he was a three-star prospect ranked 47th at corner in his class. George Johnson III is also a corner in that class, but he was a three-star athlete that switched from slot receiver to cornerback. Therefore, Michigan had no top-15 corners in either of its 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes, so there has been much uncertainty about what would happen to Michigan's pass defense in the future. Hill just graduated. Next season, Michigan's starting corners will likely be Thomas, who is about to enter his senior season, and Gray, who was 46th out of 56 Big Ten cor- ners who played at least 20 percent of their team's snaps in Pro Football Focus' defensive grades for 2019. Michigan may have a concern at the corner position opposite of Thomas next season, and when Thomas departs after that season, Michigan will need two corners to step up and fill those spots. Green-Warren and Seldon may be the two best suited to do just that. Both have the recruiting accolades that Michigan's former and current cornerback stars have. Green-Warren was deemed the 12th-best cornerback in the 2020 class, and Seldon was considered the 15th-best. Addition- ally, Seldon had an eye-opening per- formance on the All-American circuit and showed he is one to watch. They could be the superb sopho- mores like Long and Hill were for Michigan in 2017. After one year as freshmen learning from Thomas and adjusting to the speed of the college game, they could have the chance to jump into the starting lineup and keep Michigan's pass defense elite. Harbaugh could not afford to go another cycle without landing a blue-chip corner. That's what makes Green-Warren and Seldon the most important members of the 2020 class. ❏ INSIDE THE NUMBERS   DREW HALLETT The Corner Jewels Physical cornerbacks have set the tone for Michigan's exceptional pass defenses in recent years, perhaps none more so than All- American Jourdan Lewis (2013-16). The suc- cess of 2020 signees Darion Green-Warren and Andre Seldon will be critical in carrying on the Wolverines' tradition of excellence at cornerback. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DrewCHallett.

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