With the addition of blue-chip 4-stars Makari Paige and RJ Moten in the past week, Michigan now boasts a trio of highly-rated safeties in the 2020 class. When you throw in 4-star Jordan Morant and 3-star William Mohan, along with Michigan’s targets still on the board, questions pop up on which position each player will slot into once they reach campus.
There are an abundance of roles in the back seven these prospects could play, whether it be free safety, rover, nickel or Viper. There’s even been talk this offseason of Don Brown having two Vipers on the field at once, which could explain why Michigan is taking so many players in that mold.
While basically all safeties Michigan is recruiting get the Jabrill Peppers/Viper pitch, one of the 2020 commits (Mohan) has been talked about playing the position exclusively. This 6-foot, 183-pound missile off the edge has the perfect skill set to fill this role, and probably won’t be looked at anywhere else. He will probably have to add some weight on his frame before he sees the field at Viper, though.
The other commit with which Viper has been brought up often is Moten. He’s closer to Viper size than Mohan already at 5-foot-11.5 and 200 pounds. However, as a top-tier baseball prospect, and with five interceptions and 13 pass breakups last season, he definitely has the athleticism to play at the rover safety position that’s currently occupied by Josh Metellus.
Unfortunately, Moten’s junior tape barely shows him playing defense, so it’s hard to determine his playing style. What it does show are his skills at running back, which is also a possibility if the safety room is too crowded and Michigan doesn’t land another guy at the position to pair with 4-star Blake Corum. The staff has always recruited Moten on the defensive side of the ball, however, so a switch to offense probably wouldn’t come until he’s a few years into the program.
Morant is an interesting case because he already weighs 212 pounds with his 5-foot-11 frame. Despite this larger size, Morant has excellent coverage skills and an elite 4.22 shuttle time that allows him to break on balls quickly and violently. He should definitely start out at safety, probably at the rover spot even though Brown likes the rover and free safety to be interchangeable. But if he gets blocked in the depth chart or he keeps on growing Viper and even WILL linebacker could be in the cards for Morant.
The latest to join the class is Paige, who at 6-foot-3 and 182 pounds is by far the lankiest of the prospects. That length makes him likely to play at free safety, where he can roam the open space downfield and track down balls. But with Daxton Hill as another candidate for this role, Paige may be moved into the nickel instead of a cornerback, where his height can help take away fades. If Michigan doesn’t land anymore cornerbacks in the class, he could move to the outside, similar to Jeremy Clark.
Despite all these prospects on board, the Michigan staff is still looking to add members of the secondary, mainly at cornerback. Their one top target remaining who is listed at safety is 4-star Malcolm Greene. The coaches are incredibly high on Greene, and would take him in almost any situation.
Now that the class is full on safeties, Greene would move to the outside as a cornerback. Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 180 pounds, he has the standard size to play the position. Darion Green-Warren and Henry Gray are two others who would join Andre Seldon at cornerback, if they were to commit to Michigan.
Jim Harbaugh has made it clear he values positional flexibility and is willing to take players who may not fit into a traditional role because of their outstanding athleticism. With the many moving parts in Brown’s defense, everyone should be able to slip into their role and find a way to contribute. As last year’s Ohio State game showed, having depth and speed in the secondary cannot be overrated, and the 2020 class is set to balance the scales.