2013 Roster Breakdown: The Corners

Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

MnB continues its early look at the 2013 Michigan football roster by examining the corners. We already know that Taylor and Countess will make a solid duo, but exactly how high of a ceiling do they have? Is there anyone else who can bring an added dimension to the pass defense?

The Group

Courtney Avery (Senior; 5'11", 173)

Avery is one of the many nickel corners on Michigan's roster, although he's one of the few capable of playing inside and outside in the defensive backfield. He doesn't have blazing speed, but his top speed and quickness are both good enough to play at the BCS level. He started as a freshman before the Hoke staff arrived, putting in minutes as a nickel and backup boundary corner ever since.: 2012 should be much more of the same.

Blake Countess (RS sophomore; 5'10", 180)

Countess was expected to be one of the best players on the defense heading into 2012. He left the Alabama game during the first half and never came back in: he had torn a ligament in his knee and miss the remainder of the season. We don't know if Countess will have any side effects from the injury during this upcoming season, but we do know that he was playing at a high level in practice throughout last spring and fall. If he isn't slowed at all by the injury we can expect what we saw before: a corner with a fluid backpedal, good instincts, the ability to tackle, and enough recovery speed to play aggressively. Countess never had elite speed, but he has enough athleticism to become an NFL pick somewhere down the line.

Reon Dawson (Freshman; 6'2", 175)

Dawson was one of the last commitments in the class of 2013 because he didn't have an offer until better prospects were all off of the table. A generic three-star recruit, Dawson doesn't have elite straight-line speed and lacks the lateral agility to stay with quick receivers at the college level. He has above average balls skills and instincts, but the staff loves his length, which is something they so desperately wanted to add to the secondary. I personally didn't like the offer, but there's always the possibility that Dawson hits the weight room and blows up.

Ross Douglas (Freshman; 5'10", 180)

Douglas was committed to Penn State when the scandal of the century brought the program down, forcing him to rethink his decision. He visited Michigan not long after and switched his verbal there and then, giving Michigan another quick nickel corner. Douglas also played running back in high school, racking up some pretty ridiculous numbers in the meantime. He doesn't have the highest ceiling, but he was still rated as a high three-star to low four-star.

Delonte Hollowell (Junior; 5'9", 176)

Hollowell is one of the many nickel corners Michigan has its disposal, and he gave the Wolverines a boost on special teams in 2012. He's quicker than fast and probably won't see the field with Avery, Richardson, Douglas and possibly even Lewis fighting for minutes in the nickel and dime packages. Look at the bright side: Michigan has at least four(!) players ready to step in at the nickel spot.

Jourdan Lewis (Freshman; 5'10", 160)

Lewis is yet another four-star Cass Tech player turned Wolverine, and he might be the most talented defensive back the Technicians have produced to date. He's a bit closer to 5'9" or 5'8" than his listed height, but his extremely fluid hips, great hands, instincts and tenacity all make up for it. Funny thing, as all of those traits translate directly to receiver, where some suspect Lewis might end up. He has the ball skills and speed to pull off the transition, but I think the staff would rather have him in the defensive backfield because of his unique skills.

Dennis Norfleet (Sophomore; 5'7", 161)

Norfleet has had the spotlight on him ever since he switched to corner for the Outback Bowl, and he'll remain a topic of discussion until someone comes out and gives us all an official decision on where he'll play. He has the wheels to play corner, but the staff doesn't need him there: Douglas, Lewis, Richardson, Hollowell and Courtney Avery are all capable of playing the nickel spot that Norfleet plays. I think he ends up back at running back, where Al Borges can use him on jet sweeps, tosses, screens and anything else in between. He'll remain the primary kick returner no matter what.

Terry Richardson (Sophomore; 5'9", 162)

Richardson might take offense to what I had to say in Jourdan Lewis' section; many considered him the best defensive back to come out of Cass Tech until Jourdan Lewis came along. Richardson is very quick and capable of running a true 4.4 in the forty-yard dash, but he also lacks the size and strength to play an every-down role as a corner. I think he could give Courtney Avery a run for his money at the nickel spot this year if he gets into the weight room, and he better get a look on kick returns (I'm not a fan of Dileo returning kicks).

Channing Stribling (Freshman; 6'2", 170)

Stribling camped at Michigan and earned an offer by dominating his competition in Ann Arbor. The staff seemed to be the only group of people who knew about the North Carolina product at the time, but he quickly came on to the national scene afterward by creating turnover after turnover during his senior season. He's very similar to Reon Dawson, flashing above average speed and agility for someone so lanky, but Stribling is a better jump-ball player and could even play safety or receiver if corner doesn't work out. He and Dawson should both redshirt.

Raymon Taylor (Junior; 5'10", 182)

Taylor came into 2012 as the third corner on the depth chart and ended it as the strongest corner on the roster. Blake Countess went down against Alabama and JT Floyd's tendency to give up the deep ball eventually caught up with him, leaving Taylor as the lone high-level corner Michigan had to rely on. He's clearly stronger than he was as a freshman: his lower body is more filled out, allowing him to plant and squat deeper on cuts, and also allowing him to square up and make a tackle when necessary. He played well for such an inexperienced corner in the beginning of the year, but I really started noticing him during the game against Michigan State. He stayed with Aaron Burbridge for much of the game and made a handful of touch tackles look easy, giving me hope for the future. He's actually 5'10" and could get to the 185-190 range without losing his speed, which is solid but not elite. He should start for the remainder of his career, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him play on Sundays.

The Outlook

Michigan is good but not great at corner, lacking great depth at the boundary while possessing enough nickel corners for two teams. The starting duo outside should be one of the better duos in the conference as long as it can stay healthy; I don't think Countess has many issues with his knee after rehabbing for months on end. Both Countess and Taylor have experience and the physical tools to be future mid-to-late NFL draft picks. Things could get dicey if one of them goes down: Michigan would be left with Courtney Avery and a host of freshman or undersized nickel corners.

The nickel spot is safe, with Avery returning and talented youngsters like Terry Richardson and Jourdan Lewis ready to make an impact if necessary. This group could give Michigan plenty of options if stays healthy, as Avery could slide around and let Richardson step into a nickel spot on long downs, allowing the defense to bring in another true cover man instead of a safety.

Overall Michigan could use another boundary corner or two, but the group has the potential to be one of the best in the Big Ten if it can just stay healthy. The staff needs to start adding elite talent instead of targeting lanky guys on the outside; they can do just that in the 2014 class with so many corners on the roster right now.

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