With wide receivers continually getting bigger, faster, and stronger in college football, the Michigan coaching staff made it an priority to get defensive backs that could match up in every way.
The Wolverines’ signed six defensive backs in this year’s class: Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill, Dymonte Thomas, Reon Dawson, Ross Douglas, and Channing Stribling. With size being a major focus — the Maize and Blue coaching staff managed to fulfill their needs.
"They make us better because they give us competition, and I think that's the best way to get better -- you have to compete every day,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “With Stribling, Ross, Dymonte, Delano, and Reon, you've got some guys with some real leverage, especially with Reon and Stribling. That part of it is exciting.”
Stribling and Dawson are both 6-foot-2, and fill the need of bigger cornerbacks in this year’s class.
“You’re playing against some bigger taller wide receivers,” said defensive back coach Curt Mallory. “Not that you can’t play with smaller guys, because we have certainly had success doing that. A lot times when you are playing with smaller guys as long as they play big, play physical, then you’re fine. …But the guy that is a little bit longer, sometimes match up (and) have some flexibility and maybe move to another position, too.”
“You’re seeing guys who have got long arms because you want to be able to reroute a receiver. You get in on him and go for a ball, and that extra few inches can get that ball out of his hands.”
Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said having taller cornerbacks will only enable the defense to match up better against taller wide outs.
“You could be the best corner in the world, and if a guy has a foot difference on you – it’s just like the basketball court,” Mattison explained. ‘You couldn’t ask our guys to go out there and cover centers. It’s the same thing in football, so you’ve got to be able to have that kind of range to be able to cover them.”
Detroit Cass tech teammates, Lewis and Hill, both camped at Michigan, and that experience was one of the major factors behind their offers to play at Michigan.
“We saw them both on film and thought they were both tremendous players,” Mallory recalled. “We saw them live in camp and everything we saw in film held true. Jourdan is a great competitor. He is a great athlete. He’s got great ball skills. Which you see that on the offensive side of it. We are really please with him. Delano brings a physical presence, and just being able to hit and run and being able to move around with a big physical presence that he brings. So we’re really pleased with both those young men.”
“Channing not only came to our camp, not only for a day but for all week,” Mallory added. “And so I got a chance to be around Channing all week long form Sunday through Thursday. You really get to work with him more than just once. When you see him, you see his height, you see his range... the competiveness... there is a lot that we saw in that week. And the more your around, the more you fell in love with him. We were really pleased with him. He just brings a length to it. "
At 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, Thomas is an early enrollee who was rated a five-star safety out of Marlington (Alliance, Ohio) High. The opportunity to get acclimated to college a half year before his first football game offers the talented youngster a distinct advantage.
Said Mallory, “he’s going to have an opportunity to compete just like all the freshman. At safety, he’s a guy that can come in, and going through spring ball just going to give him a head start.”