Michigan shut down Illinois’ offense Saturday with a little
different look in the secondary. Injuries and preparation for next
week had the Wolverines playing with a shuffled lineup.
Fifth-year cornerback Jeremy LeSueur returned from a left
shoulder injury and made his presence felt. LeSueur rushed in and
drilled Illinois receiver Carey Davis after a catch in the first
quarter, and then tipped away a pass on the Fighting Illini’s next
drive. LeSueur did not return any kickoffs, but he tied for the
team lead with five tackles – four of them solo efforts.
LeSueur, who was injured during the Iowa game and dressed but
didn’t play against Minnesota last week, said he was “a little
worried” about the shoulder and how it would hold up. But he was
able to contribute while Michigan held the Fighting Illini to 89
yards on the ground and 163 through the air.
“I was excited,” LeSueur said. “I wanted to play last week, and
I couldn’t, so it was just exciting to be back out there.”
LeSueur brings speed and pure athleticism to the Michigan
defensive backfield, and fellow cornerback Markus Curry said
LeSueur also has a certain swagger.
“When we’re out on the field, we’re just trying to hold our part
down on the field and play together, and we’re trying to have some
fun out there doing it,” Curry said.
While the secondary welcomed back LeSueur, it was still missing
playmaker Marlin Jackson and, for part of the game, safety Jacob
Stewart. Stewart, who had a pivotal defensive touchdown last week,
made two tackles Saturday before being carted off the field in the
Jackson, a safety who has 38 tackles and two interceptions on
the year, got banged up against Minnesota and was not able to
return. Carr is hopeful that Jackson will be able to play next
Those injuries, and the fact that the game was a blowout, gave
some younger safeties a chance to get some quality playing time.
Sophomore Willis Barringer took down Illinois players five times –
he had four tackles all season before Saturday – but he also
committed a pass interference penalty.
“I wasn’t happy with his penalty, but I will have to look at the
film. I think Willis is a guy with a lot of potential right now,”
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
Freshman Ryan Mundy is another young safety the Wolverines used,
and freshman cornerback Leon Hall, who filled in as a starter while
LeSueur was out last week, also saw action.
Carr said the experience those young players got will be
important for Michigan’s next two games against Purdue and Michigan
“We wanted to play some younger guys in the secondary because of
the teams we’re going to be facing the next couple weeks,” Carr
said. “Mundy is a safety, but he is going to need to be able to
cover a guy when we see the five-wide spread.”
Michigan’s secondary wasn’t hurt by the absence of Jackson and
Stewart on Saturday in part because Illinois, which had its backup
quarterback directing the offense, is not exactly a point-scoring
machine. But Purdue is a different story. The Boilermakers, who are
undefeated in Big Ten play, will bring a powerful aerial attack to
the Big House next week. Coach Joe Tiller’s spread offense averages
235.4 passing yards per game, and six different receivers have
Saturday, Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton threw the ball 55 times
and racked up 411 yards to lead his team over Wisconsin.