When he first joined the Michigan football team this summer, fifth-year senior safety Wayne Lyons was practically speaking a different language.
Lyons, who transferred to Michigan from Stanford this offseason, had no trouble playing football. But when it came to Michigan’s terminology, he found himself behind the curve.
“I would see (plays) happening so fast, and the concept would be the same, (but) I would say the Stanford terminology just out of natural instinct, rather than saying the correct term for it,” Lyons said.
With about two weeks left in camp, the Michigan coaches asked Lyons to try switching to safety, which he had played in high school, but not since then. And combined with the new vocabulary, the position switch has caused Lyons’ transition to be a little slower than he might have hoped.
Still, with help from his teammates, he has been able to adjust to the change. The Wolverines’ secondary is a relatively experienced core, and with many players oscillating between corner and safety, there are plenty of resources available.
“(Senior safety Jarrod Wilson), he’s great with that,” Lyons said. “He knows what everyone’s doing back there. He’s like the general who’s like getting everybody lined up, and that’s what coach wants me to able to do as well. … When the bullets are flying, when it’s high-tempo, when everyone’s running no-huddle, knowing what checks to make, what calls to make and making sure everyone’s on the same page. That’s why communication is key.”
So far, Lyons hasn’t seen much game action. He was scarcely on the field against Utah or Oregon State, but he did get more playing time against UNLV.
He has two total tackles in three games this season, a far cry from the 69 tackles he had as a junior, or even the 30 he tallied last season. But for Lyons, the most important category doesn’t show up in the box score.
Part of the reason he decided to forego trying out for an NFL team and come to Michigan instead was to become a more versatile player. And though it hasn’t translated to statistical production, or even much playing time, Lyons is satisfied with his decision.
“It has given me this opportunity to get this experience at safety before I actually get to the next level,” Lyons said. “If I get to the NFL and they want to try me at safety, by me having this experience, I have more of a background to fall back on, more experience (and) a better grasp of what’s going on.
“I hadn’t played a snap at safety at Stanford at all. So playing a new position, I think that’s great for my career — being able to get better as a football player in general.”
With two standouts — Wilson and redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers — in front of him on the depth chart, Lyons is fighting just to get on the field.
And the more he gets acclimated to the position and the terminology, the closer that comes to being a reality.
“I can see myself stepping in,” Lyons said. “Jabrill (may) go to nickel a few snaps, I’ll come in in the dime package. Sometimes Jabrill will go to corner, it all depends on what personnel we’re in. I’m just working hard every day to try to get more reps and make an impact on this team.”