The Wolverine

October 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 33 of 75

34 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2017 BY JOHN BORTON T yree Kinnel didn't choose the stage upon which to make his starting debut as a Wolverine. Once it loomed on the horizon, the junior safety didn't stumble. AT&T Stadium, formerly Cowboys Stadium, AKA Jerry World in Arling- ton, Texas, isn't a place for wallflow- ers. The Dallas Cowboys perform there on Sundays, and 100,000 look on regularly, gazing up for replays on a 175-foot-wide video screen. In other words, there's nowhere to hide. "That was my first start, and I felt great," Kinnel reflected on Michi- gan's opener against Florida. "Com- ing into the game, I had a lot of emo- tions going through my head, a lot of excitement. As soon as I got out there, I said, it's normal again. We're just playing ball." Kinnel and Michigan's defense played hardball. He made six stops, 1.5 behind the line of scrimmage, on an afternoon that saw the Wolverines surrender a single field goal with its defenders on the field. D e f e n s i v e c o o r d i n a t o r D o n Brown's crew ran roughshod over the Gators in Michigan's 33-17 win, and Kinnel allowed himself a mo- ment of satisfaction. "That was a great start for me," he said. "We played good as a defense, and I'm happy about that." It's been a long road from Wayne High in Huber Heights, Ohio, to the starting lineup for Jim Harbaugh's third crew of Wolverines. Kin- nel originally committed to Brady Hoke's staff, before shifting gears rapidly to Harbaugh prior to his freshman season. "I liked Michigan growing up," the native Ohioan assured. "When Coach Hoke recruited me and I came up on a lot of visits, the campus itself, the facilities sold me." He's well aware of the venue and the sensibilities involved. He's on a mission regarding his state of birth, but knows it's too soon to talk about it. "I'm not a big fan of …" he said, catching himself. "I'm happy to be here." He is a big fan of Brown's defense and his role in it. After becoming a special teams stalwart as a freshman, and staying with special teams while working his way in as a backup safety last season, Kinnel has stepped fully into the fray. He's the elder statesman of an all- new starting secondary, and acting like it. NEW YEAR, NEW SWAGGER Kinnel reflects the boldness of his defensive teammates, and the Wol- verines in general, when it comes to the 2017 season. He's setting no lim- its, despite the personnel losses from last year's 10-win team, including an All-American cornerback among 10 overall starters lost off the defense. Kinnel acknowledges the change. He just refuses to relate it to a plum- met off a cliff. "People will say that because we did lose a lot," he offered. "That's obvious. The talent is still there. The system is still there. So I don't think we lose that much." Kinnel said the combination of Brown's schemes, talent willing to learn and dedication to self-improve- ment simply produces results. "I have extreme confidence in Coach Brown, and he has extreme confidence in us," Kinnel stressed. "That's the way he coaches. He sets a high expectation for us, and that's the way we play. We feel comfortable with each other — he feels comfort- able with us, and we feel comfortable with his coaching style. "I feel like I've gotten faster, stron- ger. The game has slowed down for me. Being in Coach Brown's system for two years, I feel comfortable ev- erywhere I'm at on that defense. I feel like I can fly around faster." The Wolverines flew by the Gators in the opener, some of them incensed over Florida players' comments re- garding their perceived lack of mo- bility. When the smoke cleared from a reptile roast, Michigan's defense proved fast and furious. Head coach Jim Harbaugh, in fact, insisted it's the best he's seen a Mich- igan defense fly to the football since he's been back in Ann Arbor. "Getting that comment from Coach makes me feel pretty good because that's what we worked on in camp, flying to the ball," Kinnel said. "Coach Brown and Coach [Greg] Mattison, they tell us that here at Michigan we run to the ball, and we took that personally. I think we did a pretty good job." Kinnel insists former Wolverines such as Jarrod Wilson, Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas guided him through the process of becoming a well-grounded defensive back. Now it's his turn to do so for others. According to all those around him, he's done it well. "Tyree has been excellent," sopho- more safety sidekick Josh Metellus offered. "He has a lot of experience at his position, and he's just been doing what he's supposed to do. "Most of the young guys go to Tyree when they need something, because they know Tyree has been in the system for about a year and a half now, so he knows what he's talking about when it comes to the plays." "I've learned a lot from Tyree — that's my boy," assured sophomore viper Khaleke Hudson, who played safety last year. "We talk a lot outside of the building about football, and he helps me a lot with the plays — he's just very helpful." Even on special teams, Kinnel con- tinues as a force, according to coordi- nator Chris Partridge. "I coach Tyree every day," Par- tridge said. "He's a special teams guy that graded out the highest [in 2016], and he'll continue to do that. Tyree is a leader. That's what he is — he's a natural leader. "He gets those guys going. He's another guy that loves the game and loves all aspects of it. He's someone THE NEXT STEP Tyree Kinnel Leads A New-Look Michigan Secondary Tyree Kinnel started his first game in the 2017 season opener and finished with six tackles, including 1.5 for loss. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - October 2017