Mike Zorich was an All-America safety and team captain at Penn State. He played 12 seasons in the NFL before getting into coaching, where he’s tutored players at the high school, college and pro levels.
The man knows what he’s talking about and he’s not one to sugarcoat a situation. So when the Michigan secondary coach says his group of talented but mostly inexperienced defensive backs are “showing flashes but they need to grab it,” as he did Monday, he’s giving an honest assessment.
“I’m not going to tell a story that isn’t true,” Zordich said. “We’ve got a game to play in 12 days. They’re working hard, they’ve just got to work hard more consistently and do the right things more consistently.”
Michigan opens the season Sept. 2 against Florida at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the secondary must replace starters Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas. Florida will be without Antonio Callaway, its top returning receiver who has been suspended for the opener, but is feeling confident in its other receivers. Whichever inexperienced group can gain the upper hand will give its team an advantage.
There is no public depth chart for the Wolverines, but in the spring game sophomores LaVert Hill and David Long started at cornerback, while junior Tyree Kinnell and sophomore Josh Metellus started at safety. Freshmen Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Benjamin St-Juste and Ambry Thomas, as well as junior Keith Washington and senior Brandon Watson, were heavily in the mix.
Zordich said his expectations for players don’t change because of playing level.
“I’ve told them, ‘I’m demanding of myself, you better be demanding of yourself,’ ” Zordich said. “If you want to be great and play at this place, the University of Michigan, just take a step back and look around. Look at all the great players that have been here. Do you want to be a part of that? Or, do you just want to be a flash in the pan?
“It’s up to them how they want to figure it out. I’m just trying to give them the tools to make them a better football player.”
Zordich wasn’t spilling the beans on who’s positioned where on the depth chart. He also didn’t want to say the sky was falling, although he did mention Monday’s eclipse. Zordich brings optimism with his high expectations.
“I don’t want to sound the alarm, but we’re just trying to get these guys to move along,” Zordich said. “You hear the youth thing, well, that’s no longer an excuse. You’ve had the spring and you’re freakin’ two weeks away from a big game. It’s time to go. I am very confident that within the next week, one or two of those guys is going to step up.”
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