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Michigan Wolverines 2015 Position Overview: Safeties

Michigan returns all of its safeties from last season, including one that fans have been drooling to see since he stepped on campus last summer. Here is an overview of the safeties Michigan has on its roster for the upcoming season.

Bryan Fuller-MGoBlog

Yesterday, we reviewed the cornerbacks Michigan has on its roster. If you haven't read it yet, you can here. Now, it's time to look at the safeties that will be joining them in the secondary. Like the corners, Michigan's safeties have talent -- including one potential superstar -- at the top of the depth chart. However, though Michigan has more bodies that it can use at safety than it does at corner, Michigan would prefer not to test that depth based on last season's performances.

Jarrod Wilson

No. 22 | Senior | 6-2 | 210 lbs. | Akron, Ohio

It's hard to believe it, but Jarrod Wilson already is a senior. Entering his final season of eligibility, Wilson has appeared in 36 contests, with all 18 of his starts coming in the past two seasons. Though Wilson has made some momentum-swinging plays during his time in Ann Arbor -- like saving Michigan's skin with a key interception that thwarted Akron's upset bid in 2013 -- he has not been much of a play-making safety, tallying only two interceptions and one forced fumble in his career. However, it shouldn't be inferred from the lack of turnovers forced that Wilson is a poor free safety. In fact, he has been very solid in his career, providing Michigan's defense with a safety net. He understands his responsibilities in the back and prevents opponents from exploding for big plays. For example, Michigan was sixth in the nation in fewest passing plays of 30 yards or longer allowed and seventh in fewest plays from scrimmage of 30 yards or longer allowed last season. That's a testament to how well Wilson can monitor and execute as a free safety.

Jeremy Clark

No. 34 | RS Junior | 6-4 | 205 lbs. | Madisonville, Ky.

Jeremy Clark was a gamble that Brady Hoke took in Michigan's 2012 class. That class was littered with four-star recruits, but Hoke reached out and offered the two-star Clark a greyshirt, giving Clark the option to walk on the team for a semester before handing him a scholarship the following winter. Clark accepted, but the greyshirt became irrelevant because, later, his offer was upgraded. Nonetheless, the point remained: Clark came to Michigan as a project at free safety. Hoke liked Clark's potential and raw physical attributes, knowing he could have a 6-foot-4 specimen roaming around the secondary if things panned out. However, last season was the first time Clark received extensive action on defense, and the results were so-so at best. He started in six of the 12 games in which he played but tallied only 18 tackles and one pass defended.  He seemed to lack the instincts needed to play the position and made more than his fair share of mistakes. Clark now is a redshirt junior, so, if he wants to show Hoke made the right bet, now's the time.

Delano Hill

No. 44 | Junior | 6-0 | 204 lbs. | Detroit, Mich.

Delano Hill's preparation for the season has been much smoother in 2015 than in 2014, and Michigan hopes it will remain that way. Last season, Hill missed fall training camp and the opener with a broken jaw before a leg injury and suspension sidelined him for an additional four games. In the seven games in which Hill did appear, five of which were starts, he recorded 20 tackles and a fumble recovery. Similar to Jeremy Clark, Hill made many mental errors, which is unsurprising given the distractions he faced prior to and in the early stages of the season. However, unlike Clark, Hill seems to have flipped the switch in the offseason and will shine in 2015. There have been various reports that Hill was one of the most consistent playmakers at safety along with Jarrod Wilson and a certain redshirt freshman in spring practices and summer workouts. Though Hill likely will not crack the starting lineup given whom Michigan has at the top of the depth chart, he should see lots of playing time in Michigan's nickel package, which will be used often.

Dymonte Thomas

No. 25 | Junior | 6-2 | 191 lbs. | Alliance, Ohio

Dymonte Thomas was supposed to be a firecracker at safety. He was a headliner of Michigan's touted 2013 class, finishing as a top-100 prospect and even a five-star according to one recruiting service. Thomas was special in high school because of his strong, athletic build and punishing mentality. He wanted to hurt ball-carriers. His one drawback was awareness in coverage because he played more linebacker than strong safety in high school, but it was presumed he would have time to build his awareness and learn the proper techniques in practice. However, because Brady Hoke wasted Thomas' first season in Ann Arbor on special teams rather than redshirt him, we may never see Thomas explode. Last season was the first time that Thomas earned snaps at strong safety, totaling 27 tackles and a forced fumble in 10 games, and it was clear that he was unsure of himself in coverage. So, rather than having three years of eligibility left and a still-bright future, he has only two left and seems to be on the outside looking in. Maybe those fireworks will ignite this season, but it appears there will not be a show to see.

Jabrill Peppers

No. 5 | RS Freshman | 6-1 | 205 lbs. | East Orange, N.J.

Even though Jabrill Peppers played in only three games last season before a leg injury forced him to redshirt, the hype hasn't dissipated. The Charles Woodson comparisons -- as unfair as they may be -- still are rolling in, and fan expectations for how Peppers will perform somehow seem to be higher than ever. This is because Peppers was ranked as the third-best player in the entire 2014 recruiting class, making him the highest-ranked recruit that Michigan has landed in the era of online recruiting services, and practice reports from last season and this offseason have been glowing. During the spring, people claimed that Peppers had been "outstanding at safety" and a "leader of the defense," and that talk hasn't simmered at all during the summer. Due to his superb athleticism and strength, he is the perfect fit for Michigan at strong safety and nickel -- two areas where Michigan can use him as a weapon in space. He's only a redshirt freshman, so he'll still make mistakes. But, unlike the other safeties on the roster, Peppers has the speed and athleticism to recover. And, when Peppers stops making those mistakes, watch out.

Tyree Kinnel

No. 17 | Freshman | 5-11 | 200 lbs. | Huber Heights, Ohio

As the Michigan football program was thrown into a tailspin by a tremendously bad 5-7 season in 2014 that ended with Brady Hoke's termination, many 2015 recruits that had committed to Michigan jumped ship. One recruit that thought about doing so, tempted by luck of the Irish in South Bend, but decided to stick with Michigan -- because those who stay -- was Tyree Kinnel. Kinnel is a four-star safety from Ohio and has a promising future ahead of him. Scouts, like Rivals' Josh Helmholdt, believe that he has the physical tools to be a proficient safety at the collegiate level and the cover skills to switch out to cornerback if need be. MGoBlog's Brian Cook has called him a "non-superman Jabrill Peppers" because Kinnel, even without Peppers' "wow" athleticism, can be an effective hybrid space player. I tend to agree. However, though the ceiling for Kinnel's potential may be high, Kinnel likely will not see the field in 2015. Michigan has five safeties with starting experience, so it may be in Kinnel's best interest to redshirt him.


Check back in a few hours as we will have a full depth chart of the secondary for you.