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Monday, January 21, 2013
Depth chart analysis: Cornerback

By Michael Rothstein

Raymon Taylor
Sophomore Raymon Taylor was thrust into a starting cornerback position when Blake Countess went out for the season due to injury, and his experience should help Michigan's secondary next season.
Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each position on the roster heading into the offseason.

This was considered a position of strength entering last season, with two experienced corners getting ready to man their positions and have breakout years. It didn’t really take place as Blake Countess missed all but one game of the season with an injury and J.T. Floyd was consistent but didn’t make the next leap.

Now, entering next season, Michigan is in the same position. It has two starting cornerbacks ready to jump up a talent level and a bunch of guys behind them who are talented but don’t have much experience at all.

The starters: The redshirt sophomore Countess and junior Raymon Taylor. Entering last season, Countess was starting to emerge as a potential shutdown cornerback, the Wolverines’ best player at the position since Donovan Warren and a big key in Michigan’s pass coverage. Then he tore his ACL against Alabama and was sidelined for the season. His injury, though, might have improved the 2013 team. It gave Taylor a chance to start opposite Floyd for the majority of the year and now gives the Wolverines two experienced corners instead of one learning on the go.

The depth: Senior Courtney Avery, junior Delonte Hollowell, sophomores Terry Richardson and Dennis Norfleet, freshmen Jourdan Lewis, Ross Douglas, Delano Hill, Channing Stribling and Reon Dawson. If Countess and Taylor hold on to their expected roles, Avery can slide back to the nickel, where he had much success throughout his career. The rest of the group -- specifically Richardson and the freshmen -- have a lot of potential at the spot but have either not played any college snaps and certainly no meaningful ones.

The question mark: A couple. Can Countess come back at full strength ready to go and could a freshman make the move up the depth chart? Countess’ health is the key to this entire position group. If he has hesitation on his knee or isn’t able to come back at full strength right away, Michigan could be in real trouble unless Avery is able to grow entering his final season. The other question, about the freshmen, is a valid one. Lewis is a rare talent and could find himself pushing for playing time early, especially if he can add some bulk to his frame. It wouldn’t be surprising to see at least one of the four freshmen in the two-deep midway through the season.

The bottom line: This is a group with experience at the top, but if there is an injury or another issue -- consider, neither one of Michigan’s starting cornerbacks against Alabama played in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina -- the Wolverines could be very green at the position. There is a high talent level among the inexperienced, which bodes well for Michigan’s future. But this season, Michigan is deceptively thin at corner.