Mallory Seeing Improved Depth in Secondary

Michigan defensive backs coach Curt Mallory fielded queries from the media recently about how his unit is progressing and gave an encouraging review. The third year Wolverine assistant discussed Blake Countess' recovery, the improvement shown by Delonte Hollowell and Josh Furman, how Raymon Taylor has responded to the challenges issued him, and more.

Question: I got a chance to talk to Blake [Countess] a little bit. He said there’s a physical recovery and there’s the mental part. And he said he feels like he’s still kind of feeling his way mentally. Do you kind of see that when you watch him on the field?

Answer: “The good thing about Blake is he’s with us. [He’s] never missed a beat as far as the meeting times. But getting out there, you know, [the] first day, maybe so. But after that, he’s come along really well.”

Question: Talked to [Raymon Taylor] and he said you guys issued him some challenges in the offseason and some challenges here in camp. How has he been responding so far?

Answer: “Well, he’s been working hard. The thing about Ray is he’s going to come out every day and work on the things that you talk about and he’s certainly done that and we’re pleased where he’s at. So we know we have to keep on moving forward.”

Question: What about your young freshman Dymonte Thomas? He’s been through spring, obviously, but first fall camp, how have things been going for him?

Answer: “Going well. Going well. [He] played primarily the nickel back in the spring. [He] played a little corner but primarily the nickel. And [we’re] playing him at safety and he’s doing a nice job. But it’s good he’s getting out there. It’s making him better. He’s getting better every day.”

Question: So, regarding the nickel; who do you have working out there and then, percentage-wise, so you guys expect to play more nickel this year compared to say last season?

Answer: “Well, we’ll see when we get there. As far as how much nickel we’re going to play, I think we feel pretty good about the depth. Dymonte is in there competing with Blake. We’ve got Ross Douglas in there playing some. And then we’ve got Thomas Gordon and Courtney Avery who’ve all had experience playing that position.”

Question: Really, corner back is in a little bit of a unique position because you’re losing a multiple year starter, J.T. [Floyd] and there are so many guys with playing experience. What’s that competition like between those guys right now?

Answer: “It’s good because you can rotate a lot of guys. The good thing about them is there’s not a selfish guy in there. They’re helping each other. They’re coaching each other and doing a great job in that aspect. But the competition’s been great and it makes you better. We’ve got a lot of guys that have played. So they all want to play but they’re all in there competing.”

Question: Are you going to want to rotate them this year because you have three able bodies or do you want two guys to stand out and be the starter?

Answer: "It’s too early to say. But they’re all in there competing. The good thing is they’ve all played. You can’t put a price on playing time and they’ve all played so it benefits all of them."

Question: Ray was kind of rushed into things last year a little bit. How has he grown since that Alabama game?

Answer: “Well, I think you always tell the back up, ‘you’re a play away.’ Sometimes, all of a sudden it hits you [the] second series of a game. So it kind of woke him up a little bit. We can use an example. It was actually an experience we went through a year ago. I hope a lot of guys that have been in that room and that happens see that example and learn from it in that you’ve got to be ready at any moment. Ray has come a long way. He’s gotten better and better each week. And he knows he’s got some things he’s got to continue to get better at and that’s where he’s at right now during this camp.”

Question: Obviously, Courtney is in the mix there. He played a lot of nickel for you guys. What prompted the switch? What did you see in him that you wanted him at corner this last year?

Answer: “Well a year ago he was in the mix playing some nickel [and] some corner. He had some things that were bothering him. Not injuries. Some soreness and so forth. Maybe [it was] the wear and tear. And so we kind of wanted to settle him in at one position. So we settled him more and the corner knowing he could play the nickel. Right now he’s competing at the corner back position. We know he can play the nickel. So we’re just going to continue to play and we know he can play corner. We settling him there and [we’re] trying to get some other guys in that position. We got more numbers.”

Question: One of the guys you talked a lot about in the spring is Delonte Howlowell. [You] said he made great strides.

Answer: “Yeah. Delonte is doing well. He’s competing right now. He’s working in there with the second group and he’s been back and forth. [He’s been] doing some good things. We played him a little bit at nickel maybe in the spring and the dime. We’re settling him in just at corner right now.”

Question: Another guy you mentioned that was really making strides in the spring; wondering if it carried over. Josh Furman. Has he picked up where he left off?

Answer: “Yeah. You know, Josh had a good summer. He’s shown some strides and [he’s] shown a lot of maturity. We’re anxious to see how he progresses.”

Question: Which safety spot are you working him out at?

Answer: “He’s playing the strong safety right now but he can play both. He knows both. We’re trying to get that next guy in to be ready to play either side. And we know we have flexibility to use Tom and Jarrod [Wilson] can play both. They both have got experience at strong [safety] and free [safety] which kind of helps you a little bit if another guy comes in, the other one can slide into that position.”

Question: If you have two guys back there that both have played strong and free, talk about what you can do to get them to mix what they’re doing.

Answer: “We played some field coverage’s which have then become our field safety being our strong safety. And we played some formation defenses where you’re going to put you’re strong safety predicated on the strength of the formation. And so we have the ability to change that out depending on whether we want to make field calls or formation calls. Last year, for example, Jordan [Kovacs] was really our free safety which was also our boundary safety. At times you would see in our formation packages he would be closer to the box. And, yet in our field calls we were able to get him in the middle of the field and yet still get him down to the box. But when it all comes down to it, you’ve got to have two guys back there that are quarterbacks of the defense because when you’re starting to make checks, you’re making it from the inside out. And so the safety has got to make sure he’s making his side right and the strong safety has got to make sure he’s got his side right. And Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon have been really good at that. Of course Jordan not being with us anymore, that next guy in there has got to step it up and be that guy on that side of the football.”

Question: How is Jarrod coming along in that aspect of the game; communication? The quarterbacking of the defense.

Answer: “Last year you really saw him coming along. He was a guy that joined us mid-year. Spring. And we saw him develop over the summer. Really, going into his first freshman camp, you can see how that really helped him. And he’s always been a vocal guy. He’s always been a little bit advanced or ahead of the game I should say and you saw it really come out more-so in the spring when it was him. You see that. He’s a very smart, heady football player. He’s vocal and he’s a guy that has really grown in knowing the defense.”

Question: So many true freshman in the secondary, is that sort of a difficult task in itself trying to manage all of those inexperienced players?

Answer: “No, because we’re working a lot of guys. And it’s been nice because you’re not just…I’ve got guys going in every play. You’re able to move some guys around and get a lot of reps. All the freshman are competing and doing a great job and [I’m] anxious to see how they come along through the next few weeks of camp.”

Question: Is there anyone in that group that has stood out a little bit more?

Answer: “Not really. They’re all doing good. They’re all working hard and doing some good things.”

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