It was almost exactly one year ago that Michael Zordich called out his position group publicly.
“I don’t know if they’re just afraid to make plays,” said Michigan’s defensive back coach to reporters at Schemblecher Hall last August. “Again, they have the ability, and they’ve shown it … (but) it’s not happening right now.”
But this August?
“I am not in that mode,” he said Wednesday with a smile. “I am in a good place, the fellas have us in a good place.”
And Zordich has every right to feel that way. Once again, the Wolverines are well-positioned at corner, led by junior Lavert Hill and redshirt sophomore David Long. The duo took Zordich’s message last August to heart, helping Michigan allow the fewest passing yards in the country while combining for 44 tackles and four interceptions a season ago.
Both Hill and Long are back — looking to further jolt themselves up NFL draft boards — along with a steady, experienced backup in fifth-year senior Brandon Watson. The three have the Wolverines primed to compete for another No. 1 pass defense ranking.
“(With Watson), David and Lavert, we just got to keep them where they’re at,” Zordich said. “Those guys are good. I’m really comfortable with those three.”
Sophomore Ambry Thomas has also impressed Zordich with his speed but remains just beyond his coach’s top echelon.
The difference lies in Thomas’ technique and footwork. Zordich mentioned that Thomas sometimes has his head turned the wrong way at the top of deep balls, causing him to lose battles to receivers in practice.
“With all the man (defense) we play, we’re very (particular) about technique, and that part of it he’s gotten better,” Zordich said. “We’re hard on him, really hard on him about our technique because we play so much man.
“I want to get to that point with Ambry. And he’s working towards that, he really is.”
With regards to the Wolverines’ corner depth, that puts Thomas on an island. Redshirt freshman Benjamin St. Juste along with true freshmen Vincent Gray, Gemon Green and Myles Sims round out the position. They have “a long way to go,” according to Zordich.
“Hopefully, this next half of camp somebody out of that group steps up and separates themselves because it would be nice to go into the season knowing you have five,” he said.
Zordich may have just three players he fully trusts right now, but that’s certainly more than he had a year ago.
And that’s why, understandably, the Wolverines’ secondary coach is in a good place this August.