An open letter to Donovan Warren, second-team All-Big Ten defensive back and one of the few beacons of hope for the 2010 Michigan defense:

Donovan, please don’t leave Ann Arbor.

Shortly after the Ohio State game, when you were surely stricken with some pretty intense emotions, you hurriedly said, “Uh, yeah,” you’d be back next year.

You gave Michigan fans false hope that the defense might turn the corner in Year Three of the strange experiment that is the Rich Rodriguez era. Your presence alone could help shore up a defensive backfield that, without you, will likely have to start at least one player who has never seen the field.

And regardless of how fluid Cullen Christian’s hip movement is, he’s never going to be able to fill the void left by you.

At last week’s end-of-the-year Football Bust, you told reporters that you were heavily leaning towards entering the NFL Draft in April. That announcement alone plummeted Michigan’s defensive outlook from “cautiously optimistic with a lot of big questions that have to be answered” to “panic-stricken, full-on disaster mode.”

We get it — you’re good. Good enough to be mentioned as a potential mid-second round pick, even. But you have the potential to be so much more than that:

A leader, a personal savior of a Michigan defense that has fallen on extremely hard times. And, for more personal reasons, a much higher pick — with a much bigger signing bonus — after next season.

Without you, the future looks pretty bleak. The third worst passing defense in the Big Ten needs a senior leader — and although Troy Woolfolk can provide some of that, he needs your help and your skill on the other side of the field.

But more than that, you’d bring some stability to a unit that was a downright mess at times this season. Look at the situation opposite you — Boubacar Cissoko started, then J.T. Floyd, then Troy Woolfolk. It got to the point that it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Brandon Graham matching up with a wideout — he was willing to do just about everything for the team this year.

Speaking of Graham, you, Donovan, could learn a lot from him. He put off the NFL for another year in college — he just “didn’t want to grow up too fast” — and had one of the best years a defensive end could have.

Sure, his success was bittersweet, since the team tanked in the second half of the season, but he’s never going to regret the decision. He believes in Michigan football, and he wanted to help Rodriguez lay a foundation. You, on the other hand, could really negatively affect the team by jumping ship.

You have four years to be in Ann Arbor — don’t cut that short. You haven’t yet had the full experience of being a Michigan Wolverine: two years without a bowl game, a losing record against Michigan State, no ‘W’ over the Buckeyes.

And this isn’t all about the team. With another dominant year, you could vault into first round, where the Draft’s big money is. What’s it going to be: the fourth best cornerback on the Draft board this year, or hands-down No. 1 next year?

The fact of the matter is, Michigan has a very good historical track record of keeping talented juniors in school. Braylon Edwards and Leon Hall stayed. Sure, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson left — but you haven’t cemented a legacy even close to as large as theirs in your three years in Ann Arbor.

Please stay — for you, the team, the coaches and the fans. I promise you won’t regret it.

— Reid can be reached at andyreid@umich.edu.

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