Heading into the 2017 season, the secondary was a huge unknown for the Michigan Wolverines.
After losing both corners and safeties after the 2016 season, as well as every other starter on defense except for Mike McCray, defensive coordinator Don Brown and cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich had their hands full, to say the least.
Zordich was not pleased with how his corners progressed last offseason, saying they weren’t coming along fast enough and they had to play on a more consistent basis.
Now heading into the 2018 season, there is still a bit of mystery with the secondary. Although this time it isn’t due to practicing poorly. This time it’s because some of them aren’t able to practice at all.
Zordich spoke with the media Thursday night and gave the news that starting cornerback Lavert Hill has been dealing with an injury this spring. He didn’t go into specifics, saying it was either a hip or groin injury, but he expressed his disappointment in the junior’s inability to practice for the majority of the spring.
“(Lavert) hasn’t practiced, so he’s losing valuable time unfortunately for him,” Zordich said. “But that allows Brandon Watson to continue to get better, Ambry Thomas to get better, David Long to get better. And (walk-on corner) Hunter (Reynolds) and (freshman) Myles (Sims), so it’s great for those guys. They are just growing by leaps and bounds.”
Zordich can’t feel what Hill is exactly going through, but he believes Hill could, and should, be practicing to test his injury and see how much he can do.
“You watch him run and he looks fine, on long plays he just has some pain at the end of plays,” Zordich said. “I think it is (pain you can play through), but he’s gotta feel right.
“In my opinion (it is a toughness issue). You’ve got an opportunity to get better or even just to find out what really is wrong. You’re not gonna find out by not participating. It’s frustrating for us as coaches, but at the same time those other guys, you’re getting to see them blossom, which is really good for us. We’re creating depth.”
Hill missed a couple games near the end of the season due to a concussion, and he also missed time last spring due to injury. Only being able to practice twice this spring is not good for the junior, especially with so many other guys with high potential able to take reps away from him.
Hill had a breakout year in 2017, recording 25 tackles, five tackles for loss, seven pass break ups and two interceptions (one for a touchdown).
Meanwhile, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste is also dealing with an injury.
The sophomore missed every practice leading up to the Outback Bowl due to a hamstring injury, and that injury has lingered into the spring. It is not known when St-Juste is expected to return to the field.
Incoming grad transfer update
Zordich also commented on incoming graduate transfer defensive back Casey Hughes.
Although he hasn’t seen Hughes practice (because he isn’t on campus just yet), Zordich believes he is destined to play safety. However, because of the injuries at corner, Zordich said Hughes could see time at corner.
“We’ve talked to Casey about him playing safety. He’d be a good guy in the slot, cover guy in the slot, so that’s our thought with him,” he said. “Experienced player who you can see he has fun out there, he takes charge, he’s a leader and he’s a really good football player. Good tackler, tough kid.”