ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With the 2014 season opener upon us, the logjam in the Michigan secondary has been an intriguing position battle throughout fall camp. As it stands now, Michigan is rotating several players at cornerback, including sophomore Jourdan Lewis, as the competition makes the unit better.
“It wasn’t just the fall camp, it was the spring as well,” Lewis told GoBlueWolverine.com. “All of us are competing, and that’s probably what carried this momentum and competition into the season right now.”
Standing 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Lewis has generated considerable buzz over the offseason based on his performance in practice. As opposed to last year, Michigan is keying in on creating a more physical defense—with every position group—and Lewis is an important piece in implementing that attitude at cornerback.
“It’s great actually,” said Lewis. “As a whole our game plan is to be physical and be a more physical defense this year. That’s what we really are focusing on right now, being a better, physical defense.”
Falling in line with that strategy, Lewis’ physical style of play has repeatedly earned praise from the U-M coaching staff.
During Michigan’s open scrimmage held a week and a half ago, Lewis began the event with the Wolverines’ first team defense. Lewis insists that was not indicative of his position on the depth chart, however.
“It was just coach trying to get me up there and trying to just experience going out there with the ones,” said Lewis. “It wasn’t really anything that indicated where I was going to be on the depth chart or anything like that. It was just getting reps with the ones.”
Once Michigan’s official depth chart for Week 1 was released at yesterday’s press conference, it became clear that Lewis was correct in his assessment. For the start of the season, Lewis will be used as a rotational piece with senior Raymon Taylor.
“We are all competing pretty much,” said Lewis. “Everybody—me, Blake [Countess], Ray, [Channing] Stribling. We are just trying to see what’s going on and where [coach] is going to put us after that.”
Outside of the cornerback position yet still in the secondary, Michigan continues to experience heavy competition at the safety positions. Lewis gave praise to the position as a whole when asked about senior Jarrod Wilson and his communicative skills.
“All our safeties are amazing,” said Lewis. “They do a great job of getting us the call, and just do a great job being playmakers. We communicate a whole bunch and that’s probably why we picked up our game. Our communication has been somewhere where we hadn’t had it.”
One newcomer to the Wolverines’ defensive backfield has received rave reviews so far, and Lewis only reinforces the positive sentiments shared regarding Jabrill Peppers thus far.
“Knowing Jabrill, he’s a level headed guy and he just wanted to get in that playbook and he wanted to play early,” said Lewis. “It shows on the field when you see him going out there making plays with the ones.
“He has a lot of enthusiasm when he’s out there, and it just makes everyone want to pick up their game. So he’s just out there and he gives us a little pick up.”
Peppers is not the only newcomer to the Michigan secondary this season. Coaching the cornerbacks this year is Michigan assistant Roy Manning, who made the switch from his natural linebacker position. Lewis was not shaken by this change or his new position coach’s relative inexperience at corner.
“Actually just in the beginning of spring it just went and rolled, like we were with coach Mal,” said Lewis. “We just picked it up as soon as he got there.
“Coach, he knows what he’s doing out there; and if he didn’t know what he was doing, he would go ask someone. That’s probably one of his greatest aspects about being with him, because if he didn’t know anything, he would go ask someone. You can see he really cares about us and he really wants us to put our best on the field.”
One element that Manning has contributed is the ability to break up the secondary and provide more direct feedback to the cornerbacks during practice and film study.
“He has us—just with the cornerbacks,” said Lewis. “We don’t have to collaborate with the safeties. We just go on the field and watch what the corners are doing.”
In his second year wearing Maize and Blue, Lewis is also growing more comfortable in defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s scheme. He sees this as an important factor in his development from his freshman campaign to where he is at now.
“I feel very confident,” Lewis said. “That’s probably what it was, confidence and just settling down and just making sure I know the defense, and just getting all those anxious feelings out of my system. I guess just my confidence in the defense, and I know what I’m doing, and the speed of the game.”
Lewis, who recorded 17 tackles and 2 pass breakups in 2013, is also receiving some work at punt returner.
Lewis ‘Feels Very Confident’ This Season
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