Michigan is a bit undermanned at the cornerback position entering the season opener. Projected starter Ambry Thomas is out indefinitely after he was diagnosed with colitis, and the Wolverines lost both David Long and Brandon Watson to the NFL. Here’s how we predict the cornerback depth chart to look come game time:
Starters: Lavert Hill and Vincent Gray
The second starter alongside Hill almost certainly would have been Thomas, but for now Michigan will have to move forward without him. Gray has reportedly had an outstanding camp and established himself as one of the most improved players. He seems to have the early edge on the available starting job over several others, most notably Jaylen Kelly-Powell, who appears to have shifted from safety to cornerback.
Hill is a stud and will be one of the country’s best defenders once again, as long as he stays healthy. He’s been a little banged up, especially back in the spring, but he seems to be good to go now and will be a mainstay at the position.
2nd String: Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Brad Hawkins
This gets a little tricky because Hawkins will likely be the starting nickelback, but since that’s not a starting position in a tradition base set, we’ll list him as a top reserve. He can play all over in the secondary and will fit in wherever he is needed to provide key depth and cover slot receivers. Don’t be surprised to see him return some kickoffs as well.
Kelly-Powell has been battling Gray for the second starting job, but it’s more likely he becomes a key backup. He has reportedly looked good this spring too, though, so we won’t be surprised if he gets some significant playing time early in the year as the Michigan coaching staff tries to sort out what they have.
Depth: Gemon Green, Jalen Perry, Daxton Hill, German Green, DJ Turner
First things first, Hill is and will primarily play safety, but the former 5-star recruit could step in and play a little cornerback or nickel given how thin the depth is right now. Michigan will be looking for ways to get him on the field if he ends up behind J’Marick Woods at safety.
The Green brothers still have a little ways to go it seems before being ready to be key contributors, but Gemon especially will have the opportunity to push himself to the top of the depth players. Turner and Perry have had nice camps as well and could find time on the field. It’s likely a group here that won’t have a big impact on this year’s team, but will play a huge role in next year’s squad.