Comparisons have been popular around Schembechler Hall this year.
For a young Michigan football team, it’s easy to understand why. Plenty of elite talent is gone. Shoes need to be filled. And the frames of reference are made to emphasize that the young talent are worthy replacements.
And on Tuesday night, the latest of those comparisons was revealed when senior receiver Grant Perry was asked, simply, what makes sophomore cornerback David Long good.
“I see a lot of things in him that I saw in Jourdan Lewis and (Channing) Stribling,” Perry said. “He got a full year under their belt. They got to walk him through the ropes and he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s physical — you know, everything that you saw in Jourdan and Stribling, you see in David.”
That’s not bad company. And, upon further inspection, the comparison makes sense.
Long said he still talks to Lewis every day of the week — or at least three if he’s busy.
And Long could arguably thank Lewis — who he dubbed as a role model — for his current starting role with the Wolverines.
When it came to the technical side of playing cornerback, Lewis played mentor from day one.
“When I first got here, I was in here a lot with Jourdan Lewis,” Long said. “… He helped me a lot with technical stuff. He was just helping me with stuff on the field, getting me comfortable with that.”
On Aug. 6, though, Long’s fate as Michigan’s starting cornerback wasn’t so certain, as defensive coordinator Don Brown was vocal in saying that up to seven players could compete for the two starting spots in 2017.
Fifteen days later, not much had changed. Cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich admitted that sophomore Lavert Hill had seized one starting job, but expressed his frustrations with the rest of the group’s consistency. As he put it then, he wanted someone to “grab it and run with it and take it.”
As it turns out, Long did. His coaches’ words motivated him. By the time Michigan opened against then-No. 17 Florida, he was the one who claimed the second corner spot alongside Hill. And given the way he has flashed his knack for tackling — recording five for a season high against Air Force — he won’t be letting go of it anytime soon.
“I just kept pounding away,” Long said. “My progress wasn’t where the coaches thought I needed to be, but I just kept working, didn’t let that discourage me, take it like a grain of salt. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to coach me, be hard on me and I’ve progressed as the weeks have gone on.”
But really, for Long, the progression has been going on for just over two years.
When he was a senior at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Long doubled as a receiver and cornerback before arriving in Ann Arbor. Long said playing receiver helped him with the “book stuff” that comes with football. He was able to easily pick up schemes and learn coverages.
But Long admitted that he still wasn’t completely comfortable with the position until late in the summer. Now that he is, though, the small details of the position are starting to matter even more.
“Coach Brown is really preaching to me,” Long said, “ ‘See a little to see a lot’, so (I’m) working on my technique and it’s just slowing things down for me.”
This Saturday, Michigan could benefit from things slowing down for Long — and the rest of the secondary too.
Purdue is led by quarterback David Blough, who has completed 51 of his 67 passes for 597 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Blough isn’t playing rollover teams either. Three of those touchdowns and 362 of those yards came on the road against then-No. 16 Louisville and at Missouri. And unlike Michigan, Purdue has scored a touchdown on 10 of its 13 red zone trips.
Or put more simply, the Wolverines’ secondary is finally about to be tested.
What better way for people to really find out just how much Long has learned from Lewis?