For most Michigan fans the 2007 loss to Appalachian State game is a horrible memory whose sting hasn’t been lessened by time. Fortunately for most members of the current team, however, it’s not a nightmare they’re being distracted by.
“I was like 12 and was not watching Michigan,” Jarrod Wilson said laughingly. “So I don’t have a memory about the game.”
Even without direct recollection of that defeat Wilson knows that any time he steps on the football field the Wolverines can be beaten. It’s a message that he won’t hesitate to share with his teammates. Now that he’s an elder statesman on defense it’s actually just one of many messages he passes along.
“As a leader out there I understand that I’ve got guys out there along side of me that haven’t had as many reps as me in the game,” said Wilson. “I just take charge out there and help them when it’s needed.”
That’s an assertiveness that the normally quiet youngster recently acquired thanks in part to watching former safeties like Thomas Gordon direct traffic in the secondary.
“He was a real good leader,” Wilson said of Gordon. “He spoke up a lot. By working with him I actually improved my vocal skills out there I’d say.”
“(Leading) kind of sort of came naturally, but it did take a lot for me to speak a lot more. People say I’m a soft spoken person, so speaking up more (was) probably the hardest thing. But once I got used to it, it was easy”
“It was kind of like a process. Coaches didn’t necessarily come to me (saying they needed more leadership). They just kept harping that safeties must communicate. I kept communicating a lot more, a lot more. Once I started understanding the defense I could tell guys where to line up.”
Wilson’s experience has been made all the more valuable by all of the inexperience of those around him. Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill, and Dymonte Thomas have all seen time time, but hasn’t impacted the connection he feels with the other safety on the field.
“It’s pretty comfortable because a lot of guys have been working with the first team reps,” Wilson explained. “We’ve built that chemistry. It started off in the spring and then carried it through this camp.”
And that improved chemistry isn’t just evident in the secondary. Throughout camp Wilson has seen it everywhere.
“(Camp) is really a grind and that guys actually come together,” he said. “I feel like we’ve built a pretty solid family in this team.”
Now the key is to turn that chemistry into wins on the football field. That’s something that Wilson and company plan to do, even if most of the talking heads believe they aren’t capable.
We don’t really pay attention to what the ESPN says or top 25 rankings. We’re just trying to build a great team and by doing that wins will come.”
“It just motivates us (and) makes us more hungry.”