During Ohio State week, Donovan Warren decided he wanted one more shot at the Buckeyes.
Following Michigan’s 21-10 loss to No. 10 Ohio State, the junior cornerback was asked if he would return next season instead of leaving to enter the NFL Draft early.
“Uh, yeah,” he said before turning to sign autographs outside Michigan Stadium.
Warren may have been caught up in the moment after the game, but he sounded much less certain about his future at last Monday’s press conference.
“I’m going to look into where I stand,” Warren said on Nov. 16. “If it’s the best thing for me to do for my family, then I’ll have to decide that. But if it’s not, then I’ll be here helping Michigan.”
Easily the Wolverines’ most talented member of the class of 2011, Warren was tied this season for fifth in the Big Ten in interceptions (four) and was sixth in pass breakups (seven).
ESPN.com’s NFL DraftTracker has the 6-foot, 185 pounder listed as the No. 4 cornerback and the 42nd-best prospect, making him a potential second-round pick.
Throughout the Wolverines’ defensive woes this season Warren remained a stabilizing force. Should he enter the draft, he would leave a young and inexperienced secondary in an even worse position.
Big Ten opponents outscored the Wolverines this season 266-177, with many of those points coming off big plays downfield that were made possible by the secondary’s mistakes. Michigan is set to return its entire back four, but without Warren, a year of experience may not be such a step forward.
Warren clearly understands how Michigan’s 5-7 season will affect his future.
“I feel like I’m right up there with some of the best in the country, but a lot of times, it’s not a matter of individually, it’s a matter of the team’s success,” Warren said. “But personally, I feel like I’m one of the top in the country with my confidence and just my ability.”
Senior defensive end Brandon Graham was in Warren’s shoes last year — the talented junior contemplated leaving for the NFL after the Wolverines’ woeful 3-9 performance. But Graham elected to stay another year to help rebuild a program and, as he puts it, “not grow up too fast.”
Although Graham’s senior year fell short of his expectations without a bowl appearance and an abysmal 1-7 Big Ten record, his 25 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks garnered him attention from NFL scouts and bolstered his image. He’s projected as the 24th-best prospect in the first round by ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper.
Warren said he must get bigger, faster and stronger to compete at the next level. Like Graham, the extra year of college football would do him more help than harm.
“The game has slowed down a lot, but for it to slow down a lot more, and just even slower, another year would definitely help,” Warren said.
Receiver union: During the final minutes of Saturday’s loss, Greg Mathews sat solemnly on an equipment chest on the sideline. Redshirt freshman slot receiver Roy Roundtree walked over and gave the senior wide receiver one last gametime high five.
Roundtree had just completed his second 100-yard receiving performance this season. Mathews, meanwhile, finished his Michigan career without ever reaching the century mark in a game.
When Roundtree arrived at Michigan, Mathews immediately took the Trotwood, Ohio native under his wing. This season, Roundtree displayed much of the same promise Mathews showed as a sophomore when he played behind former Wolverines Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington.
After sophomore Martavious Odoms was injured in the second half of the season, Roundtree filled in effortlessly. He finished as the Wolverines’ leading receiver with 32 receptions and 424 yards.
At just 170 pounds, Roundtree will need to bulk up if he wants to transition to an outside receiver, as some suspect he will next season. Should he move, he would fill Mathews’ spot.
“It’s just working in the weight room in the offseason,” Roundtree said. “I’m really going to pick up some more weight. I don’t know if they’ll put me outside or keep me at the slot, but I’m going to be ready for next year.”
Boren blunders: If one Buckeye was bound to receive a harsh welcome, it was Justin Boren.
Saturday’s game marked the former Wolverine’s first return to the Big House since he played against Ohio State in 2007. Boren transferred after Rich Rodriguez was named Michigan’s head coach, and as he left the program, he famously talked about the team’s “eroding family values.”
Boren received his fair share of flack from the Michigan fans and players. But after the game, he seemed as calm as ever.
“He was a bigger man by not turning around and not giving in to whoever was taking shots at him,” Ohio State center Michael Brewster said.
Saturday’s game was the first in the Big House for Boren’s younger brother, Zach, a freshman for the Buckeyes. And Brandon Graham wasn’t letting the brothers off easy.
“I said, ‘Yeah boys, y’all got hard hitting,’ ” Graham said. “Because when we made that tackle on Pryor, I don’t know what happened, but I seen Boren, he bump into (his brother), and I was like, ‘Yeah Boren you still, you still a Michigan Man, you still trying to tackle Ohio State players.’ But I tried to joke around a little bit.”