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Friday, July 19, 2013
Fresh ideas: Safety

By Michael Rothstein

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Can a true freshman really contribute at the college level? Is it easier to do so at one position than another? WolverineNation is breaking down the probabilities of playing time and projections of the Wolverines’ freshmen, position by position. Today, we look at safety.

What it takes for a true freshman safety to play:
A lot. Less than a handful of true freshmen made a strong impact in the last line of the Michigan defense. And even then, they didn’t have great success. One moved to receiver. One transferred soon after his freshman success.

That said, safety is a spot where freshmen could end up getting significant playing time in the future, especially as Michigan employs more nickel packages to combat spread offenses. It will be a position to watch.

True freshmen who have made an impact at the position:
Ray Vinopal (2010): The Youngstown, Ohio, native made six starts and played all 13 games his first season. He had 33 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups. He transferred after the season to Pittsburgh.

Dymonte Thomas
Dymonte Thomas figures to get playing time as a freshman, but it might not be at safety.
Brandon Harrison (2005): Harrison played all 12 games as a freshman, making 24 tackles, breaking up two passes and intercepting two others. He made three starts in his freshman season at free safety.

Erik “Soup” Campbell (1984): The future wide receiver and Michigan wide receivers coach began his Michigan career as a safety, starting five games as a true freshman in 1984.

2013 signees/2014 commit projects:
The obvious place to start is early enrollee Dymonte Thomas, who could end up as the next player on this list depending how much he plays at nickel this fall and whether the coaching staff wants to use him at cornerback or safety. There is little question, though, that he will play this season. It is just a matter of whether he plays a similar amount of snaps to last year’s freshman safety, Jarrod Wilson, or plays a more significant, defined role.

Delano Hill and Reon Dawson are other safeties in Michigan’s 2013 class. Both could be players down the road, but considering the depth at the position right now (Thomas Gordon, Wilson, Jeremy Clark, Josh Furman and Thomas), it would probably take an injury for either one to make the two-deep this season. Next year, though, is a definite possibility.

The 2014 class, for now, is intriguing because of cornerback Jabrill Peppers. The nation’s top cornerback prospect has enough size to move to either nickel or safety if he is needed there in 2014. Considering the potential depth at corner at that point, it is possible to see him at either spot by then.