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Position grades: Michigan might have the best safety duo in the nation

But there are still questions elsewhere in the rotation.

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Michigan returns one of the nation’s best safeties — junior Rod Moore — and another player in redshirt junior Makari Paige with a lot of starting experience. The Wolverines’ top two should be as good as any in the nation.

But with RJ Moten and Damani Dent leaving via the transfer portal, there are some questions still to answer on who the next guys up will be.

Safety - Grade: A-

  • Starters: Rod Moore, Makari Paige
  • Rotation: Quinten Johnson
  • Depth: Caden Kolesar, Keon Sabb, Zeke Berry
  • New Faces: Brandyn Hillman

Moore is the star of this position, and one of the stars of the Michigan defense in general. He finished third on the team in tackles last season with 71, and had 48 solo tackles and four interceptions, both team-highs, and became the second Wolverine since 2000 to reach 70 tackles and four interceptions in a single season. Moore was recently named to the preseason Bronko Nagurski Award watch list for Defensive Player of the Year.

With Moten’s transfer to Florida, Paige is in line to start alongside Moore. Paige played in 12 games and started five at safety, taking over for Moten over the course of the year. He recorded 41 tackles, one sack, three pass breakups and one interception. According to PFF, Paige finished second only to Will Johnson as the Wolverines’ highest-graded defender overall in 2022 with an 81.5, and a safety grade of 79.1, one of the best in the nation. Paige and Moore should form a lockdown duo in the secondary.

But after that, the picture gets murkier. Quinten Johnson is likely the next man up. He has been in Ann Arbor a long time — since 2019, to be exact. He appeared in eight games at safety last year and made 11 tackles with one tackle for loss. Johnson had an interception in the spring game and is the most experienced of the potential options in this spot.

Keon Sabb and Zeke Berry are also potential breakout candidates. The second-year players both redshirted last season, with Sabb appearing in three games at defensive back and Berry appearing in one. With Moten and Dent gone, the two former four-star prospects will have a better opportunity to fight their way into the regular rotation.

Caden Kolesar is the last player who might see regular time as a safety. Kolesar played in five games last year before suffering a season-ending injury. In 2021, he played safety in six games and appeared in 14, making nine tackles, one tackle for loss and one interception. He is another more experienced option who can take on minutes if Sabb and Berry aren’t ready.

Brandyn Hillman is a long-shot to see playing time this season. Hillman is a freshman who was a four-star prospect, the only safety in Michigan’s 2023 class. He will likely redshirt in 2023, but look for him to fill a similar role to what we saw from Sabb and Berry in 2022.