Competition heats up at Cornerback
Ann Arbor, MI--Michigan junior cornerback Courtney Avery was expected to contribute as the main nickel back this season. That all changed when sophomore Blake Countess tore his ACL in the first quarter versus Alabama.
Now, Avery is the starting cornerback—But the competition hasn't dwindled. As sophomore Raymon Taylor has been challenging Avery for the starting role.
"I think they are similar," senior safety Jordan Kovacs said about the two competing corners. "I think they are both pretty good athletes. Both solid athletes. Obviously Courtney got more experience. He has played quite a bit more. Courtney has done a great job for us at nickel too. Courtney is a very versatile player. He can play multiple positions. He is a smart guy that can really play the defense well. And Ray is really picking it up. I think Ray is a very good athlete who is really stepping into that role, and really getting comfortable with it."
At 5-foot-11, 173-pounds, Avery said his play has been solid thus far. He said he is looking to improve every day in practice and is working on having a "short memory" as a defensive back.
And While Avery hasn't talked about the competition with Taylor. He said Taylor, who comes in at 5-foot-10, 182-pounds, is a good athlete, with nice speed and hips.
"Ray is getting a lot better with his feet and just his technique in general. But still that is something that all of us still need to work on, and still need to improve on that," Avery said.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke acknowledge the competition between Avery and Taylor. He said one of Avery best attributes is his intelligence as a football player.
"I think he's a smart football player," Hoke said."I think that's one of the best things that Courtney has is football intelligence. I think, you know, we still use him some in the nickel situation, but as an inside player. Competition outside with him and Ray will continue.
"Ray, you know, is making progress. His technique is a little better, his fundamentals are a little better, his eyes are a little better, which are a big part. You play defensive back with your feet and your eyes -- I think he's learning that.
Kovacs said a big part of Avery improvement has been the influence of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
"I think he is a great cover corner," Kovacs exclaimed. "I think since coach (Mattison) has been here, I think he has really improved his blitzing. He does a lot of blitzing at nickel. He is very good at disguising. But I think anything off the field he has become more of a vocal leader. That's been key to us."
Vocal or not, Taylor has also made an impression on the Maize & Blue contingency. And a big supporter of Taylor is Mattsion, who said Taylor keeps improving everyday.
"Raymon is one of the guys that is improving every week," Mattsion said. "How he played in that game doesn't tell me everything. I've noticed him in practice. I said that to him before the game. He has gotten better in practice. Every week it seems like he has gotten better. That's what we needed to happen with Blake going down."
Both players will be on the field at times, with Avery lining up at nickel back and Taylor on the outside cornerback position. Kovacs said the biggest concern is creating a chemistry with whoever is starring in the starting cornerback spot.
"Losing Blake (Countess) was a big loss, but we have new guys that stepped in," Kovacs said. "Courtney has done a good job full filling that roll. So has Ray Taylor. But it takes time to develop that safety corner chemistry. And I think that's what we are feeling right now."
While Avery is adjusting to his new starting role, he said there is still a lot of work to be done.
"I think we are playing alright," Avery said. "Obviously we have to do a lot of improving to do. And we're just working each day to get better and better. Definitely we need tighter coverage. Everyone needs to improve on that."
Young U-M CB's Avery, Taylor are improving
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