Michigan Football’s defense has its fair share of question marks heading into the 2021 season — but one position group where the starters are already apparent is at safety.
“The safety room is probably one of the stronger positions on the team, just because it’s loaded with obvious talent,” safeties coach Ron Bellamy said recently.
Here’s a look at the predicted safeties depth chart.
Free Safety: Dax Hill, junior
Hill is arguably the best athlete on Michigan’s team, and is the most versatile player on defense. Hill is locked into the free safety spot — but that comes with a caveat — Hill will be moving all over the field this season.
“With a new defense, what we asked him to do in the spring, he impressed me just being able to move around the football field and play at a high level,” Bellamy said. “Whether it’s at nickel, safety, or being able to line up and cover receivers playing corner — whatever he was asked to do, he kid did it at a high level.”
If Hill lines up at nickel and corner at a higher frequency it will mean other players will slide in at free safety for that specific play/package, so look for others to contribute here (we’ll talk about them shortly).
Strong Safety: Brad Hawkins, senior
Hawkins has appeared in 28 games for Michigan with 118 total tackles - and is undoubtedly one of the biggest leaders on the team due to his experience and the knowledge that’s come with it.
“B-Hawk, the way he practices, the way he teaches, motivates the younger guys… He’s a great lead by example kind of guy, as well,” Bellamy said. “And he’s passionate, he’s passionate, and Brad wants to win. He wants to go out a winner, and I’m glad I have a guy like him in the room.”
Hawkins will need to sharpen his coverage skills in his final collegiate campaign — with a good season he’ll wind up in the NFL.
With Dax Hill shifting to various spots on the defense, look for R.J. Moten to get a good chunk of snaps this year, and more if he plays well. Moten recently noted how he was thankful to redshirt last year to learn the nuances of man and zone coverage. Moten’s teammates have taken notice of his hard hitting prowess and could potentially be versatile in his own right.
Bellamy said that Makari Paige, who appeared in six games last season, is still learning but is going to be great for Michigan, and that Jordan Morant had a heck of a spring and can play both safety spots. Then there’s Jalen Perry, who played in the secondary two games a season ago and is also vying for more playing time.