The Michigan football team has allowed just 207 passing yards in the first two games of its season, but one lingering void in the secondary is growing more ominous by the day.
Senior All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who established himself as one of the best cover men in the country with a breakout 2015 season, has not played a snap this season due to multiple injuries. According to secondary coach Mike Zordich, Lewis’ intense workout regimen over the summer led to a number of muscles flaring up during fall camp, including his back, hamstring and quadriceps.
“He worked his tail off all summer — probably worked a little too hard,” Zordich said. “I think that might have been a little too much torque on his body, and some of the issues that he has had the last couple weeks may have been from that. He had a hell of a camp, and then all of a sudden, things just started (to tighten up).”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Lewis was almost healthy enough to play in the first week against Hawaii, but ultimately was held out as a precaution. The next week, though, Harbaugh said an MRI had shown one of the aforementioned muscles had suffered a “near pull,” leaving Lewis out against Central Florida as well.
On Monday and Tuesday this week, Lewis worked with the training staff, with the plan being to see how he feels come Saturday. As his status remains up in the air, Lewis has had to find other ways to contribute to the team without overexerting himself.
“He’s in the meetings, he’s attentive in meetings, he was great on the sideline the last two games helping out,” Zordich said. “Just another pair of eyes to see what they’re doing. He’s been a good help, a big help.”
The loss of Lewis has been mitigated partly by the stellar play of the rest of the secondary — senior cornerback Channing Stribling and fifth-year senior cornerback Jeremy Clark have shut down the downfield passing attack, and Stribling picked up his first career pick-six against Hawaii. Even redshirt sophomore cornerback Brandon Watson, who had just eight tackles while making brief appearances in 12 games last season, has had some early success as a third corner.
It may end up being beneficial for the Wolverines to get those players some extra game action early in the season, but tougher tests are coming. This Saturday’s opponent, Colorado, boasts the 17th-most avergage passing yards in the country (albeit against inferior opponents Colorado State and Idaho State), and next week, Penn State comes to Michigan Stadium with wide receiver Chris Godwin, who broke the 1,000-receiving-yard mark last season.
With the level of competition quickly ratcheting up, Lewis is as anxious to get back on the field as the Wolverines’ fanbase is to see him there.
“As a competitor, I think he’s frustrated. I don’t know if (he’s) discouraged,” Zordich said. “He wants to play, but he knows he’s got to get his body right before he can do that so he doesn’t spend more time on the sideline. He’s taking the right approach, but (he’s) frustrated, yes, certainly.”
There remains no announced timetable for Lewis’ return — the next step will be to see how his body handles a week of practice. Zordich said he expects Lewis will have some rust to shake off, but called him a “pretty competitive kid.”
In the meantime, the responsibility will fall to Clark, Stribling, Watson and others to continue holding down the fort.
“It is good in a sense to get these other guys experience,” Zordich said. “But at the same time, you do miss a kid like Jourdan Lewis.”