When Leon Hall was picked in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2007 NFL draft, it left a gaping whole in the Michigan secondary. Despite an 11-2 record and a pass defense ranked No. 25 in the nation in pass defense efficiency, the Michigan secondary was exposed over the final two games of the 2006 campaign.
One option that the Wolverines have to replace Hall is Morgan Trent, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder from Orchard Lake St. Mary's High School. A starter opposite Hall in the previous campaign, Trent is the most experienced player in the secondary, and as such, Trent expects to see an expanded role in the 2007 season.
"It's pressure, but I think it's a good pressure," Trent said to GBW at Michigan's football media day. "It's a pressure that I welcome. It's time for me to be a leader and just set an example for these younger kids."
As the lone returning starter at cornerback, Trent has taken the brunt of the criticism for the fall at the end of the season. After allowing 707 passing yards and eight touchdowns over the final two games of the season, Trent experienced all the ups and downs that came with last season.
"It's just executing really," Trent said on the final two games of the season. "You’ve got to execute in the big games and it’s just s something that we didn’t do. We did it for 11 games straight. That’s just something that needs to get corrected. Every man needs to step it up on every play. We’ve got to finish."
According Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr, there is another element to success for players that excel at the cornerback position… an element in which Trent has to show growth.
"I think Morgan has wonderful ability,” Carr said. “The biggest thing is confidence. That's the test back there. You have to have a guy with a short memory. You can't dwell on the bad plays because everybody sees them. That's pretty much true with any positions, but it's particularly true back there. So, Morgan has wonderful ability. I think our coaches did a good job with him in the spring. I think Vance Bedford will have a significant impact on him, and I expect that he'll have an excellent year."
As promising of an athlete Trent is, Carr has stopped short of guaranteeing his position this fall. While it’s clear his combination of experience and talent give him the best chance of any of the corners at locking down one of the starting spots, Michigan’s headman is going to give his impressive crop of incoming freshman a fair shake as well.
“I think you prefer to put a guy to one side, but we’ve just got to find out how fast (the freshmen) pick things up,” he said. “Certainly with the receivers we have we’ll get a pretty fast read on how they react to the pressure of guys that can run and are experienced. I don’t think it’s going to take a long time.”
In the end, Carr’s open outlook may just serve as motivation for Trent. The criticism both he and the unit have received heading into the fall certainly seems given him a little extra.
"It's definitely motivation,” said Trent. “It's like coming off that 7-5 season that we had two years ago. We're at Michigan here. When you're at Michigan you're expected to be No. 1.”
“We’re all gonna hold it down,” Trent continued. “We might be young, but we’ve got a lot of talent.”