- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
Usually by midseason, coaches have their minds made up. If a freshman hasn’t played yet, he likely isn’t going to. He’ll be stashed away, even if he’s close to seeing the field, because the potential of four good years with a player is better than three-and-a-half.
It is what made Michigan’s decision to rip the redshirt off freshman cornerback Delonte Hollowell for essentially a half-season of special teams all the more confusing.
But as with almost every decision Michigan coach Brady Hoke made during his first season, it worked.
Hollowell was OK with essentially playing half a season and in five games, because he became Michigan’s special teams specialist.
“Coaches knew what they were doing when they burned my shirt,” Hollowell said. “It came out with a good outcome. It’s good.”
Hoke said when he made the decision he discussed it with Hollowell at first, who had no problem with it. The young player became enough of a factor during the week in practice that he was merely just too good to keep off the field during games -- especially as Michigan was still attempting to make a run at the Big Ten championship in early November.
“He’s such a pain in the butt all week,” Hoke said in November when he pulled his shirt. “Look at him on the scout team, how he competes, doing everything that we ask him to do. He’s got very good quickness, he’s athletic, he’s not big, and he’s very intelligent.
“We got to a point, we looked at some depth issues we felt we had and an opportunity for five good games under his belt for him to experience is going to pay dividends next year. He’s earned that right.”
The Detroit native played in the final five games of the season, making tackles in four of them -- including a career-high three against Nebraska. He also recovered a fumble in Michigan’s 23-20 win over Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
While Hollowell wasn’t breaking into a loaded cornerback depth chart last season, he found a niche on special teams. This coming season could be tough for him, too, as senior J.T. Floyd, junior Courtney Avery and sophomores Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor are all currently ahead of him.
But he has made a statement with his special teams play that he will be someone who sees the field the rest of his career with Michigan -- in the defensive backfield or on special teams.
And he’ll be a name most people will know by the end of next season.
“I think that I did my job this year,” Hollowell said. “I competed and if I compete like I competed this year, I think people will know who I am.”
3hTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney
1dJosh Moyer and Tom VanHaaren