DETROIT — It’s not often that a Michigan football coach questions one of his players publicly. But that was the method Michael Zordich used when junior Lavert Hill missed at least eight practices with a hip and leg injury earlier this spring.
The secondary coach said Hill needs “learn to play with some nicks” in mid-April, marking the second consecutive offseason where ailments have kept the cornerback off the field.
But Hill didn’t need the message for motivation.
“I don’t get none of that. It just goes through one ear and out the other,” Hill said Sunday afternoon. “I don’t really know. I just focus on my game.”
In any case, Hill says he’s now fully healthy after participating in the final few practices of the spring.
“I’m good. I’m 100 percent right now,” Hill said. “It just came over time, keep exercising, doing stuff, what the trainers told me to do. It worked out pretty fine.
“It just felt like I never left. Just being 100 percent feels good. When I’m 100 percent, I can do anything.”
That was evident for Hill last season, when he made 25 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions in 13 starts. But as one of Michigan’s nine returning starters on defense, he realizes there’s plenty of room to grow.
Hill said he’s specifically working on jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, along with perfecting route reading — both physical intricacies of his trade. In the past year, however, he’s noticed his biggest improvement is on the mental side.
“I’m better as far as the mental part of the game,” Hill said. “Just slowing things down, studying film, getting to know things better, and just pacing myself and keeping it slowly in my head.”
Hill, along with Michigan sophomore Ambry Thomas, even got a taste of what could lie ahead if those improvements continue. The pair visited Jourdan Lewis – the former Michigan All-American and current Dallas Cowboys corner — to train in Dallas last weekend.
And even when Lewis’ attention shifted to attractions of the downtown area, football took priority for Hill and Thomas, catching Lewis’ attention.
“They always want to work,” Lewis said. “It’s refreshing to see guys who just want to be a part of something great. They want to work, and everything is about football.
“It was amazing (watching them). They were way better than what I did. Just the strides they’ve been taking are so far away from where we were at their age. It’s going to come to fruition when the game slows down and they get the mental part down.”
Lewis, Hill and Thomas have known each other for years from playing youth football together in Detroit. Sunday was a throwback to those days, as Lewis, along with Hill’s brother and former Michigan standout, Delano, hosted a free WR vs. DB skills camp at Detroit PAL Headquarters.
It was one of many trips for Lewis back to his home state this offseason. In March, he returned for Michigan’s Pro Day and got to watch the current team practice.
“I noticed the schedule is different, Lewis said. “(The players are) getting more free time. It feels like (coach Jim Harbaugh) understands these kids know what to do. They know what’s at risk. They want to win.
“I believe they’re national contenders. They have all the pieces, they have all the coaches, they have the guys at every position to get done what they want to get done. It’s just about coming together now, just executing out there on the field on Saturdays.”