The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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168 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW "I think leadership is something that comes with experience," Wilson said. "As I've progressed through the ranks, it's some- thing that has happened because I've be- come more confident in myself and my role on the team. "When I played PeeWee ball and then on to high school, I wasn't vocal at first, but my junior and senior year, I was a leader on those teams, and when guys turned to me, I said what needed to be said." It is easy to confuse a fiery personality that plays well in press conferences with the type of on-field presence that is required. Players rarely make impassioned speeches on the sidelines or even in the huddle that spark a team to play its best football. The coaches handle those orations, if necessary, but be- tween the white lines, players need to be able to communicate effectively, and Wilson does. "What we saw in the spring was someone that had confidence in himself and had con- fidence in the calls he was making to set our defense," Mallory said. "And that's what you need from that spot. "When Jordan was here, there was no hesi- tation in what was going on and how we needed to adapt before the snap. You could be confident that if something was wrong, he made it right, and that's a big reason we played so well defensively our first two years. "And when I watched Jarrod this spring, he reminded me of Jordan because of the way he communicated to get everyone lined up so we didn't have any of those missed as- signments that lead to big plays." No matter who starts next to Wilson, that player will be making his first career start when Michigan opens the season Aug. 30 against Appalachian State, and it is impera- tive Wilson grabs the reins. "I had Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon show me the ropes and make me a better football player, and I want to do the same for my teammates because I know I am the only upperclassman at safety and they're going to be counting on me," he said. "I've always led by example, but like when I was in my junior and senior year in high school, I needed to be more vocal and speak up, and it wasn't uncomfortable for me. I did what I needed to do." A Chance At Redemption After working his way through a dif- ficult stretch in the middle of the season, Wilson felt he had played well during a loss at Iowa. But in that game, he broke his hand and would be forced to sit out a week later when the Wolverines entertained his home-state Buckeyes. To his credit, Wilson did not sulk, but the news hit him hard. "It was really tough; I didn't expect to sit out because that week I didn't miss a prac- tice, and just played with the cast," Wilson said. "I wanted to be out there because that was my first chance to really play against Ohio State. "I don't like them and you only get four chances in your career to play them." Michigan missed Wilson's presence — OSU had three pass completions and five rushes of 20 yards or more, taking advan- tage of Wilson's inexperienced backup, Josh Furman. The Buckeyes put up 42 points on U-M after the Maize and Blue had allowed Wanted: Playmaker At Safety Michigan's all-time leader in interceptions is a safety — Tom Curtis had 25 from 1967-69 in an era where opponents averaged 232 pass attempts per season. Over the last 10 years, foes have averaged 409 passes per year, yet no U-M safety has picked off more than three throws in a single year (Jamar Adams in 2007 and Thomas Gordon in 2013). In fact, the Wolverines' top safety has aver- aged fewer than two picks per season from 2004-13 (see chart). Enter junior Jarrod Wilson. The projected starter at free safety has not been a prolific turnover creator thus far in his career, with two interceptions in 22 games defensively, including eight starts, but he was some- one that punished opposing quarter- backs in high school, recording 13 picks during his final two seasons. "Because of his athleticism, because of his intelligence, and the matura- tion he's made in every facet of his game from last year to this year, we expect that if there is an opportu- nity for him to make a play on the ball, he'll be in the right spot and he'll get his hands on it," safeties coach Curt Mallory said. "When you have some suc- cess early in the season, your confidence grows, you under- stand what's a good risk and what's a bad risk, and you know when to go get it and when to hold off. Jarrod has that awareness now, and he could really have an impact on our defense." — Michael Spath U-M's Interceptions Leader At Safety, 1994-2013 Year Safety Picks 2013 Thomas Gordon 3 2012 Thomas Gordon 2 2011 Jordan Kovacs* 1 2010 Jordan Kovacs* 2 2009 Jordan Kovacs 1 2008 Stevie Brown 2 2007 Jamar Adams* 3 2006 Jamar Adams* 1 2005 Brandon Harrison* 2 2004 Ernest Shazor* 2 2003 Ernest Shazor 2 2002 Charles Drake* 1 2001 Cato June 2 2000 DeWayne Patmon 3 1999 DeWayne Patmon 3 1998 DeWayne Patmon 4 1997 Marcus Ray 5 1996 Marcus Ray 3 1995 Chuck Winters 3 1994 Clarence Thompson 2 * Another safety was tied with the same amount More confident in himself and his role on the team, Wilson has grown into a leadership position that includes making the pre-snap calls that set up the defense for success. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN 166-169.Jarrod Wilson.indd 168 6/19/14 2:05 PM

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