There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it will do so likely in empty stadiums with a conference-only schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Vincent Gray, redshirt SO
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (CB 63, Overall 700)
2019 Stats: 20 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 5 PD
With Ambry Thomas suffering from ulcerative colitis ahead of the 2019 season, the number two cornerback responsibilities looked like they were heading to Vincent Gray, a redshirt freshman with barely any playing experience. Though still fairly young, the corner was receiving praise from the coaching staff and was on track to see the field one way or another last fall.
Thomas wound up recovering much better than anyone expected, which ended up putting Gray third behind Lavert Hill and a healthy Thomas. However, the young Gray still was good enough to get on the field in every game and was a consistent part of the defensive back rotation. With Hill gone to the NFL, he will have the opportunity to start opposite Thomas in 2020 and move from package player to every-down contributor.
Will Gray be able to improve enough to hold the second cornerback role?
Gray was the third cornerback on the depth chart last season, but he still saw plenty of playing time. This is important as he slides up a rung in the order, and this experience is something that none of his competitors can offer. Players like Andre Seldon, Gemon Green, and Jalen Perry could make a run at the second outside corner spot, but Gray has already shown that he can handle the responsibilities required.
There are still opportunities for growth, however. Gray is noted for being disciplined and technically sound, but he is still perfecting these areas. A few occasions last season saw him get his head turned around in coverage and beat down the sideline, while more minor bumps and bruises came from positioning errors where receivers had a bit too much cushion. He was not necessarily a liability, but offenses will probably choose to target him over Thomas, so he will need to clean up his game.
Despite his low recruiting ranking, Gray does have a good ceiling. The aforementioned coaching comments likely come from his good size and ability to play the ball in the air, and the staff believes he can become a key contributor. While he did not record an interception in 2019, he did have five pass break-ups last season. Look for both numbers to climb this fall with more playing time and more reps under his belt.
Nothing about Gray’s play last year should hinder him from grabbing a starting role at the beginning of the season, but Michigan will need him to show some improvement. He might not ever be a true lockdown corner, but if he can continue to provide a little more consistency it would go a long way for the secondary. If he does stay stagnant or even stumble a bit, it could be time for some of the younger options to take a swing at it. The expectations will be higher this year, but as a redshirt sophomore, Gray is still early on in his development.