Now, well, he’s looked as U-M’s most experienced player coming into this spring, and for good reason.
Kinnel, who will most likely lineup at free safety in 2017, is expected to be just one of the new starters from a secondary group that lost four starters to graduation and the greener pastures of the NFL.
“We’re young, its not a secret,” said Kinnel, who will be entering his junior season this fall. “We lost all four starters, high level top starters, too. We are young, the talent is still there, just new faces.”
He’s not kidding, either.
Michigan is young, in fact they are super young this year. If the season started today, most expect Kinnel to lineup at safety, with sophomore Khaleke Hudson at the other safety role, and fellow sophomore’s LaVert Hill and David Long Jr. starting at the two cornerback spots.
So yeah, they’re young, that is for certain, says Kinnel, but the completion is fierce, he noted
“The competition is very strong,” he said. “With coach (Jim) Harbaugh every drill is a competition, everything we do is competition. So we’re all getting graded on everything. Everything we do is a grade. So the competition is very high ad we’re all just having fun competing.”
While most of Kinnel’s experience came on special team’s, he still finished with 17 tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble in 13 games played 2016. And that experience is already paying off this spring, he says.
“I think that helped me a lot,” he said of playing last season. “It’s just helped me out this spring knowing where to be, knowing where I need to be when I get the play call. Being out there on Saturday’s has helped me a lot, just so now I can help other guys’ lineup. I know what’s happening. I know where everything is going to be. I’m just trying to take the leadership role and just play as hard as I can.”
And his leadership role has come from being more comfortable, he says, and part of that is delegating his teammates on key situations on the field at safety.
“The safety in coach (Don) Brown’s defense is lining up all 11 guys,” he said. “We definitely have to be vocal at the safety group. We have to talk to the corners. We have to talk to the backers. So it’s very vocal back there.”
Adding: “I knew what I had to do getting a little bit of playing time last year, and making some of those calls with the starting group last year, built my confidence,” he said on being more vocal. “Now I just go out there and it’s slowed down for me now.”
Michigan plays its annual spring game on April 15 at 1 p.m.