ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 26: Courtney Avery #5 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates a late fourth quarter interception to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 40-34 Will Heininger #39 at Michigan Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
A couple years ago, introducing Michigan's secondary would have been masochistic - the smoldering wreck that was the corners and safeties never seemed to be quite fast enough, smart enough, or able to tackle to keep Michigan in games. Now, that's a little different. Michigan's secondary has rebounded nicely due to some solid recruiting in the last few years, but is still razor-thin at positions of need. Today I'll look at another key contributor on defense, CB Courtney Avery.
Hailing from Lexington High School in Ohio, Avery starred on both sides of the ball - a four year starter at quarterback, he amassed over 50 touchdowns passing. He started his final two seasons at cornerback, notching one interception and garnering attention from many Midwestern schools at the end of his junior year. Rating as the 51st best player in Ohio and a generic three-star prospect, Avery came to Michigan without the hype of some of Michigan's other recruits (Boo-Boo rings a bell) but has been a solid citizen on and off the field, showing himself as a hard worker and willing learner.
His freshman year, he played in all 13 games, starting five due to injures in the rest of the secondary. He showed flashes of brilliance but also flashes of freshman inexperience, often attempting arm-tackles and biting on under routes. He got torched frequently, but wasn't the only one. Obviously, Michigan's secondary was awful (see Illinois, 65 points allowed, and the Gator Bowl debacle) but one has to wonder what it would have been like had a competent coach taken charge. I won't speak his name here. But Avery's development has certainly improved under Brady Hoke and DC Greg Mattison.
Last year, Avery played sparingly in all 13 games, starting three, including the Sugar Bowl. Notching his first two career interceptions (one against Ohio), Avery seemed to have taken steps forward, but still seemed lost at times - during the OSU game, Avery got torched deep a couple times by OSU's veteran wide receivers, only to be bailed out by Braxton Miller's horrendously inaccurate arm. Still, Michigan yielded 34 points, and from my vantage point behind the OSU bench, Avery seemed to be targeted on most of the deep bombs. Not what you want to see from your starting corner heading into 2012.
The coaches seem to love him. Like Blake Countess, Avery has done the work in the weight room, and has the opportunity to play nickel corner and push JT Floyd for sporadic playing time opposite Countess. Avery has to improve his tackling consistency and reaction time off the line in order to compete with some of the bigger WRs in the Big Ten. We'll see how he pans out as the season goes on, but look for another modest step forward from Courtney as he pushes for starting contention after JT Floyd's departure next year. He's got the speed to stay with most receivers, but needs to work on his readiness off the line. Obviously, he weighed in at 167 lbs last year, so time will tell if he can gain muscle this summer needed to not get blown away by physical running backs on the edge.
Twitter Entertainment Factor
Here it is. Nothing scandalous. Seems like a good kid who genuinely loves the University of Michigan. Entertainment factor: moderate to low.
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