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What the addition of UMass transfer Josh Wallace means for the cornerback room

UMass grad transfer Josh Wallace committed to Michigan on Wednesday, adding depth at Michigan’s biggest position of need.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Pittsburgh
Josh Wallace makes a play on Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, UMass transfer cornerback Josh Wallace announced his commitment to the Michigan Wolverines.

Wallace, a four-year starter and two-time team captain, made 41 tackles with two interceptions and eight pass breakups last season as a senior, playing for former Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.

Wallace adds experience to a relatively young cornerback room. With DJ Turner and Gemon Green both graduating, sophomore and former five-star recruit Will Johnson is expected to take on a big role, but prior to this transfer, he was the only player with significant game reps on the outside.

Mike Sainristil and Rod Moore bring experience inside the secondary at nickel and safety, respectively, but outside of Johnson, most of the potential cornerbacks in the room would be first-year starters.

Other options to start opposite Johnson include converted wide receiver Amorion Walker, Myles Pollard and Ja’Den McBurrows, but Wallace’s addition suggests Michigan isn’t fully comfortable with those options out of the gate.

Walker, prior to this addition, was considered the favorite to start next season, with Harbaugh praising his athleticism and saying he, “feels good about how he’s coming along” last week. Wallace brings an experienced voice to help mentor the younger players and creates more security for a unit that, between Walker, McBurrows, Pollard, Cam Calhoun, Keshaun Harris and Jyaire Hill, played just 159 combined snaps last fall.

During a spring media availability, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter praised the group despite its inexperience.

“We have a lot of young guys at corner. (McBurrows, Pollard, Hill, Calhoun, Harris), all those guys have had really bright moments. We’ve moved (Sainristil) around a lot so we’re trying to do different things with him. It’s a really good group. A lot of inexperienced but talented players. I look at DJ Turner, DJ didn’t play a meaningful snap here for two years. Mike Morris didn’t play a meaningful snap here for two years, Mazi Smith didn’t play a meaningful snap here for two years. It’s these guys’ turn to go into that second year, third year and put themselves in a position to make plays. Excited about the group overall.”

Wallace has experience in man coverage playing under Brown at UMass and shores up depth at the position of greatest need. If Wallace doesn’t start next year, that will be a strong indicator of the confidence Harbaugh and the rest of the staff have in whoever does start alongside Johnson.