The Wolverine

October 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 38 of 75

OCTOBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 39 they were wondering no more after the non-conference slate. When senior safety Delano Hill went down with an injury late in the 45-28 win over Colorado, Peppers moved back to safety and dominated from there, as well. "He's a great athlete and a really smart football player," McCray said. "He's picked up the position really well, and he's a freakishly good ath- lete." "The unique thing is all the posi- tions he can play," Harbaugh added. "If you start counting them, it would be safety, it would be corner, it would be nickel, it would be outside line- backer, it would be slot receiver, it would be wildcat quarterback, run- ning back, kick returner, punt re- turner, gunner … that's 10 right there. "I know there are others he could do, and do well. Those are all the things he's already done for us here, and he's done them all well. He's spe- cial — a special type of athlete, a spe- cial type of football player." Any remaining concerns about the group centered on depth and pass coverage. Redshirt sophomore Noah Furbush, Peppers' backup, has been sidelined with an injury and didn't play in the first three games. Fresh- man linebacker Devin Bush took the fifth-most snaps between spring and fall camps but had played sparingly on defense, seeing most of his time on special teams, putting a lot of pressure on the starters. Colorado, meanwhile, took ad- vantage of an overly aggressive linebacker corps to complete several slants to the middle of the field. "They were doing play-action re- ally heavy, and our emphasis is to stop the run first," McCray said. "We adjusted in the second half and didn't give them the plays they wanted like they got in the first half. "But plays are going to happen sometimes. I feel like we've done pretty well so far, and I don't think we've reached our peak yet. We're on our way there." DEFENSIVE BACKS This group has been a mixed bag through three games, but only be- cause of big plays allowed against Colorado. The Buffaloes picked on the crashing linebackers for several open slants in game three, and CU receivers got behind safeties for three touchdowns, including a 70-yarder to open the second half. Lewis' absence, however, has been the biggest disappointment. He missed the opener with a back in- jury — more a precautionary move, Harbaugh explained — and then sat games two and three with a leg injury. "He knows he's got to get his body right before he can play so he doesn't spend more time on the sidelines," cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich said. "He's taking the right approach, but he's frustrated." Senior Channing Stribling and fifth- year senior Jeremy Clark have taken the next step in their progression and are holding down the fort in Lewis' absence. "Jeremy has done a great job since spring — very steady and improved," Zordich said. "He's doing well. He definitely has a safety's body. I think a lot of teams would love to have a corner with that length, certainly his size and strength. "Moving from safety, he did have a couple little glitches in his game with his feet at corner — it's a totally differ- ent deal especially with all the press- ing we do. You're up in people's faces. But he's starting to get it down and working hard at it, for sure. "And Strib has played really well. He's improved his physical-ness at the line of scrimmage. He's improved in his eyes, too. "I think all these guys from spring on, bowl game on, have taken a differ- ent kind of attitude … It's our senior year, we have to step our game up, possibly thinking they can go places to continue to play. "I really, really like the way they've approached it. The work ethic has been pretty good." Redshirt sophomore Brandon Wat- son has also played well, Zordich praised. "Brandon Watson has done a great job and is coming along really good for a young kid," he said prior to the Colorado game. "He's playing more than a year ago and handling it well." Stribling (eight tackles) and Hill (11, two for loss in three games) both had pick-sixes against Hawai'i, though Hill let the 70-yarder over his head against the Buffs. Senior Dymonte Thomas, fourth on the team in tackles through three games (16), also let a few balls over his head, but Harbaugh was impressed with the entire second- ary's play in the first two games. Backup and redshirt sophomore Tyree Kinnel has come a long way since spring, safeties coach Brian Smith added, and should only get bet- ter with experience, adding to a group with great potential. ❏ Senior cornerback Channing Stribling has one of the Wolverines' two pick-six interceptions, returning a Hawai'i pass 51 yards to the end zone. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - October 2016