The Wolverine

December 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 75

26 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2017 BY CHRIS BALAS E ntering the 2017 season, Mich- igan football's list of concerns centered on the defense, and primarily on the four new starters in the defensive backfield. All four departing players — a pair of cor- ners in Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling, along with safeties Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill — are or have been on NFL rosters this year, and Lewis was acquitting himself as one of the league's top rookies with the Dallas Cowboys. Cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich made no bones about his concern with their replacements in the days leading up to the season opener with Florida. Other than sophomore Lavert Hill, nobody had really stepped up at the all-important corner position. The safe- ties were solid, secondary coach Brian Smith said, but Zordich made it clear he had higher expectations of the en- tire group. Weeks later, following a 27-20 over- time win at Indiana and heading into a game at Penn State, he was singing a different tune. Hill had notched an incredible 18.6 passer rating against heading into the game, according to, and had emerged as one of the most dominant cover corners in the conference. Junior safety Tyree Kinnel said Hill even deserved comparisons to Lewis, the Big Ten's 2016 Defensive Back of the Year. "I definitely see a little Jourdan Lewis in him," Kinnel said in October. "That's a great comparison, because Jourdan is a great corner and a great technique guy. He knows how to play the ball; he's a ball hawk, and I see the same things in Lavert Hill." He's been the catalyst for a pass de- fense that was third in the country in pass efficiency defense with a 95.98 rating and second nationally in pass- ing yards against, allowing 144.5 yards per game, as of Nov. 12. "I can see what Tyree is seeing," Zordich said. "Lavert has started to come out of his shell a little bit. I can see his fieriness, his competitiveness more and more in practice as the year goes. "He's starting to mature. He's start- ing to understand he can be a really good football player. It's just that pro- cess of every day staying on him, stay- ing on them all, helping them all grow up and understand the game." Hill appears to have taken the next step in trying to pick passes off rather than just knock them down. He had a fourth-quarter interception against the Hoosiers, high pointing the ball down the sideline, and he had another called back that probably shouldn't have been. He's since been a lockdown guy, rarely thrown at and usually is up to the task when quarterbacks test him. He ranked second on the Wolverines with seven passes broken up with two games remaining and was tied for the team lead with two picks. "He's very natural, very instinctive," Zordich said. "He'll do whatever he can do to get his hands on it. I think he's always looking for a pick, but if he can't he will try to slap it or back- hand it away. He's just instinctive in that way. "I think he's ahead of the curve a little bit. We saw it. That's the reason why we recruited him. It was great to have him here in the spring [before his freshman year]. You could see he could just do some things. He's apply- ing it now to everyday activities on a consistent basis." AHEAD OF THE CURVE Michigan's Back Four Has Exceeded All Expectations Sophomore Lavert Hill is in his first year as a starter, but looks like the Wolverines' next shutdown corner. Junior safety Tyree Kinnel even compared him to former stalwart Jourdan Lewis, who is now playing for the Dallas Cowboys. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - December 2017