Michigan Football has the potential to flash some nice playmaking ability on the back end of the defense this season with a handful of guys that figure to be key pieces of the unit on that side of the ball. Here’s a rundown of who is set to fill out the safety room in Ann Arbor for 2019.
The Key Players
Josh Metellus, senior
2018 stats: 12 games played, 47 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions (one for TD), five passes defended
One of the original satellite camp products for the Wolverines has developed into one of the more underrated safeties in the Big Ten and a playmaker on the back end of Michigan’s defense. The improvements he has made in the last few yeas have been impressive and his best football could still be ahead of him.
Brad Hawkins, junior
2018 stats: 10 games played, 23 total tackles, three tackles for loss, one pass defended
It’s been a wild ride for Hawkins, originally being recruited as a wide receiver before attending a year of prep school and then switching over to safety when he finally got to Ann Arbor. They like what he brings to the table a lot and he developed into a nice player throughout the year in 2018. He probably starts out with the No. 1s next to Metellus and has a chance to stick there if he plays well. At the very least, he should get a decent amount of snaps in the slot in nickel and dime packages. He is a player to keep an eye on early this year.
J’Marick Woods, junior
2018 stats: 11 games played, 13 total tackles, one blocked punt
Woods carved out a role for himself on special teams last season, highlighted by the blocked punt that he had in the bowl game. He has made one start in his 23 career games with the Wolverines and was named an Academic All-Big Ten honoree in 2018.
Sammy Faustin, sophomore
2018 stats: Did not see game action
Faustin was a three-star recruit coming out of Naples, Florida last season, but did not appear in any games for Michigan. We will have to wait and see if he is able to be a factor this season, likely again in a depth and special teams role.
Daxton Hill, freshman
2018 stats (high school): 11 games played, 79 total tackles, six tackles for loss, one interception, two forced fumbles
This is the name that Michigan fans are most interested in and might be the most-hyped recruit they have had since Rashan Gary. At first he committed to Michigan, then flipped to Alabama, then flipped back to Michigan during the early signing period. This kid is one of the elite athletes in the 2019 class and might be too good to keep off the field, but with nothing but a few weeks of fall camp, it might take some time for his role to be expanded. He will be out there quite a bit, one would assume.
Louis Grodman, fifth year
Grodman appeared in seven games last year and made one tackle.
Tyler Cochran, senior
Cochran appeared in all 13 games last season on special teams and was named the team’s most improved player on special teams after last season.
Quinten Johnson, freshman
Johnson, rated as a four-star prospect by 247Sports, is physical and looks the part of a college safety, but it’s probably going to take some time before we see him in the lineup.
Caden Kolesar, freshman
Kolesar, a three-star recruit, is a true freshman and a third-generation Wolverine after his father and grandfather both played for the program.
Right off the bat, it is important to note that safeties and corners may cross over a bit with roles in nickel and dime packages to be determined. Overall, Michigan has an All-Big Ten-caliber safety in Metellus leading the charge and a potential All-American-type of talent eventually in Hill, even if the hype has cooled on the true freshman a bit. Hawkins reminds me of Anthony Harris of the Minnesota Vikings in the way that Mike Zimmer would move him around and either play safety or in the slot in “Big Nickel” packages.
Safety play has been a concern for the Wolverines in recent memory, and there is certainly some boom-or-bust potential here, but the playmaking ability on the back end feels as high as it has been the last few years and it should be fun to watch these guys develop.
How do you feel about Michigan’s safety situation? Sound off in the comments below!