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Matchup of the Week: The Michigan secondary takes on another tough receiver

Someone needs to step up,

NCAA Football: Michigan at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The book is out on how to defeat the Michigan Wolverines’ defense, and it has been for quite some time. The constant single-coverage that Don Brown leaves his young corners in led to their defeat at the hands of Ricky White, Rocky Lombardi, and the Michigan State Spartans.

Now, we move on to the Indiana Hoosiers who have a talented wide receiver by the name of Whop Philyor. The speedy 5-foot-11 receiver is coming off a 137-yard performance in the 37-21 win over Rutgers. The senior had four games of 100-plus yards receiving in 2019 and looks to continue that momentum in 2020.

Philyor is known for making big plays, recording a reception of 25+ yards in seven of his eleven games in 2019. Last week, he had two gains of 40 yards or more including this toss from Michael Penix Jr. where he just makes the opposing defensive back look silly.

You saw a lot of similar double-moves from the Spartans against the Wolverines this past weekend, and they really struggled against it in single coverage.

It will be very interesting to see how the Wolverines decide to cover Philyor, who has lined up in the slot on 96 of his 120 snaps this season. I would assume that the task will fall on the hands of either Daxton Hill or linebacker Josh Ross if he lines up on the inside.

If that is the case, I would prefer to see Dax Hill in coverage. Hill performed admirably last week allowing just one reception on five targets according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). The sophomore was Michigan’s highest-graded player in pass coverage with a 72.7 grade by PFF.

However, part of me thinks that after the success that Michigan State had against the outside corners like Vincent Gray, Gemon Green, and Jalen Perry, Indiana may tinker with moving Philyor to their coverage in hopes to breed similar success. When that trio was responsible for 275 of Lombardi’s 323 yards, it would make sense to try and target them for a second-straight week.

If this were the case, I think Gemon Green would be best suited in coverage. If it weren’t for a few big plays allowed, we would be looking at him quite differently.

Green has been targeted 18 times this season, the second-most in the Big Ten according to PFF. He has allowed just five completions while being targeted. The problem is two of those receptions went for 40-plus yards; one to White last week and one to Chris Autman-Bell against Minnesota. If Green could keep plays in front of him, we would be talking much differently about this him, and maybe even this unit.

No matter where Philyor lines up, he will be the focal point of this defense in Week 3 of the Big Ten season. After the onslaught that Michigan State put on the Wolverines defense, it is time for necessary adjustments to be made to stop the aerial assault from happening again. The Hoosiers have the capability of doing so, and it will fall on the hands of Don Brown to prep his players to cover one of the more explosive receivers in the conference.