Cornerback was the position that struggled the most in 2020 for the Michigan Wolverines. Whether it was getting burned by at least one receiver every week of the season or constantly being attacked by media and fans, it was not a good season to be a corner at Michigan. However, a light emerged in the darkest of positional units last season as we began to see some real progression from an unlikely name: Gemon Green. Let’s evaluate his time in Ann Arbor so far, and what his projections are for 2021.
The story so far
Green came to the Michigan Wolverines with his twin brother, German, from DeSoto, Texas. Gemon was a borderline top 300 recruit and was recruited a little more heavily than his brother. Both patrolled the secondary, as Gemon was a corner and his brother was a safety. They both eventually found their ways to Michigan, committing together on April 20, 2017.
Green did not play in his freshman season and was awarded redshirt because of it. As a sophomore, he started to make some noise with the special teams unit, but had not lined up in the secondary to that point.
Then came the ridiculous season that was 2020 where an Ambry Thomas opt-out propelled him from a depth player to a starter alongside Vincent Gray. Gray was the more experienced of the two, having been the third corner on the roster in 2019 and earning some valuable minutes. Green grew in confidence and skill throughout the 2020 season.
In the first three weeks of the season, Green was targeted an absurd 25 times, allowing just eight receptions for 130 yards, according to PFF. While those numbers won’t jump off the page at you in terms of stellar coverage, he was good enough to fend off teams trying to pick at him for his inexperience.
Green had some bad games in there, too, but what keeps me optimistic was his final week of the season where he allowed just two catches for 15 yards on five balls thrown his way against Penn State. He earned an elite coverage grade by PFF of 88.4. It was the only time in 2020 that any cornerback for Michigan earned such a mark from their data entry.
Outlook for 2021
Jim Harbaugh said at Big Ten Media Days the battle for a starting corner spot is still underway. However, one of the spots is locked up by Green. It’s an indication of Green’s play from 2020 and continuing to get better. He was thrown into the fire last season and performed rather well for being in the situation.
Now Green has the experience and confidence, and has ascended to being the top corner in the room. Once again, it will be trial by fire as Green is going to have to line up on the other side of some of the top receivers in the country. It won’t be an easy task, especially while learning the new defensive schemes of Mike Macdonald. But there is reason for cautious optimism from Green this season.