If the quicker faster players in the front seven can put the type of pressure on opposing quarterbacks that was lacking last fall, it will ease the burden a relatively young group of defensive backs. Fortunately for the Wolverines there are three returning players with significant experience. According to Coach Carr, one in particular looks poised to take his game to the next level.
"Leon Hall has a chance to be one of the better corners we've had here," Carr said. "I think he has made dramatic improvement. He is tough, he's smart, and what he ahs done this spring has been impressive. He is 195 lbs. now and he has great feet. I like him a lot."
Both Hall and Grant Mason were steady performers Saturday. They were beat on a few deep patterns on the day, but that was exaggerated by the fact that the defense wasn't allowed to hit the quarterbacks. Mason had a good spring and is the favorite to start opposite Hall, but he has not cemented that position just yet.
"I think Grant has competition there," Carr said. "I think he has done some very good things. I think he has to win the position and keep it. That means doing the things that we need to do within the framework of what we're trying to do on defense. But he is tough, he is competitive guy, and I like him. We need consistency."
Redshirt freshman Charles Stewart is a guy that "made an impression" this spring according his coach. He appears to be Mason's primary challenger at this point. Stewart's physical style of play has certainly turned a few heads. That said, he is still learning. On one occasion Saturday his aggressiveness got the better of him, causing him to get beat on a double move. Defensive backs coach Ron English spent a great deal on time instructing his pupil on proper technique, but it was still clear he made strides this spring.
Another player progressing at a good rate is redshirt freshman Morgan Trent. He looked much more comfortable at the corner position than he did during the initial spring practice. His speed is unmatched by any player currently in the secondary, but he too is still learning proper technique. Even so, Carr indicated that Trent is right on schedule.
"I think (he's doing) very very well," Carr said of Trent. "All he need is some time. He runs extremely well, he is very competitive, he is tough, and he is very smart. I think that will turn out to be a great move for us. I think he likes it there and I think he has really come a long way in a short time. He'll definitely be a factor."
Manning the center field positions defensively were Ryan Mundy and Brandent Englemon. That Mundy lined up with the number ones this spring was expected. That Englemon did was not. Jamar Adams saw time as a freshman late last season and will battle Englemon for the spot in the fall, but he (like the other young DB's) is still learning on the job.
"I think Brandent Englemon really had a good spring," Carr said. That's probably in today's football, with the exception of offensive line and quarterback, the most difficult position to learn. You've got so many variables in terms of formations and personnel groupings. That's one of the reasons why I think you see so many big plays in today's football. People shift, they motion, and they line up with no backs in the backfield. When the ball is snapped, if you're one or two steps out of position then you're vulnerable. We just have to continue to improve this summer. I think that's always the time you get a lot of reps. On those days when the offense throws, our secondary guys work against them. Hopefully they can make some progress there. We're going to be young in the secondary, but I think Englemon has had a really good spring. I think Jamar will play an important role regardless of what happens and I think Ryan Mundy has really shown up this spring."