There is only one senior remaining in the Michigan secondary after Ambry Thomas announced he was going to the NFL in August, and that young man is safety Brad Hawkins. Suddenly, Hawkins is now the voice and the leader of the unit as we head into a hopeful winter or spring season. That’s a responsibility that he is ready to embrace.
“Becoming a leader on this defense means a lot,” said Hawkins in a press conference last week, “I know I was supposed to play a big role in the secondary as a senior leader.
As the most experienced veteran, he gave an update on who has stuck out the most in early practices for the season. One name in particular has been buzzing since his arrival in Ann Arbor, Daxton Hill. As a former five-star recruit and the No. 8 prospect to ever walk through Schembechler Hall according to 247sports, Hill will have some lofty expectations on him once the season begins.
His safety counterpart, Hawkins, had nothing but praise to heap upon him when speaking to the media about their chemistry:
Both of us do a real good job communicating with each other. I feel like we both cover very well, so versatility with both of us back there, playing free safety, rover — it really doesn’t matter between both of us in-between. Having him back there is something that helps out a lot. With his athleticism, his smarts and his speed, it definitely helps out a lot.
Hill was one of the few true freshmen that saw time in every game last season, mostly on special teams. When he was on the field for the defense, fans saw his versatility of playing both the slot corner and safety positions. He showcased his speed (reportedly hovers around 4.3 for a 40-time) and athleticism throughout the 2019 campaign.
But Hawkins has seen even more from Hill after his first collegiate offseason at Michigan and he sees Hill making even more of an impact this season. “He’s growing as a player. He got a lot bigger, a lot stronger, a lot smarter. He’s definitely a guy to watch out for.”
The tandem of Hill and Hawkins at the safety position will be one of the stronger suits of the defense, but the cornerback position will be one of the biggest question marks for Don Brown this year after Lavert Hill and Ambry Thomas’ departures.
Vincent Gray, a redshirt sophomore who was the third cornerback last season, will now be propelled to the No. 1 roll and two vacancies will be left behind him. Hawkins named three guys (who have seen little-to-no playing time in their collegiate careers) who are behind Gary at the position. “You’ve got (redshirt sophomore) Gemon Green, (redshirt freshman) D.J. Turner, and (redshirt freshman) Jalen Perry... All those guys are getting better. Everybody has to step up, because you got people opting out and different situations. Those guys are guys that are definitely stepping up and looking good right now.”
If it happens, this season won’t be an easy one for the Michigan Wolverines who will lean on a lot of youth on both sides of the ball after losing several starters on both sides of the ball via the opt-out or the NFL Draft. But no matter who is out there, Hawkins says they’ll be ready. “We want to be ready whenever our number is called, whether it’s next month or January. We’re preparing every day and hoping they overturn this thing to give us the opportunity to go out there and show what we’ve got.”