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April 12, 2013

U-M has experience, competition at cornerback

Football teams have to replace talent every year - that's just part of life, when players get four years of eligibility. But the Wolverines find themselves in an interesting situation at cornerback: despite losing a veteran starter and leader, the Wolverines may have even moreexperience at the position next year.

Redshirt sophomore Blake Countess, who showed promise as a freshman in 2011 before tearing his ACL in the first quarter of the Alabama game and missing the 2012 season; junior Raymon Taylor, who filled in for Countess last year; and senior Courtney Avery, who has been a reliable situational player for the Wolverines, are all back in 2013.

Even though Michigan is losing fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd, a reliable multiyear starter, the cornerback corps will have more depth and experience next year than last.

"I like that we are all competing," Avery said. "We have to work on some things, like coming out of our breaks, making sure our eyes are in the right place and we're reading out keys. I think we're doing really well.

"It's great to finally have some experience back there. Guys like Raymon, myself, Blake, who have game experience, it's nice that we know the things we have to work on. We know how practice transfers into the game and how seriously we have to take these practices."

In the last two seasons, Avery has specialized mainly as the Wolverines' nickelback in passing downs. In that role, he has compiled 45 tackles, four pass break ups, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions since the beginning of the 2011 season.

Avery still practiced at cornerback, but he saw very few game reps there. Now, Avery is working exclusively at cornerback, bolstering the depth and experience at that spot.

"Nickel has been my role, and I will do whatever the defense needs," he said. "But right now, coaches have me at corner, and I and definitely happy there.

"I like corner, because you're in every play. At Nickel, you usually come in just for passing downs. With corner, you're in there every play. That's where I want to be. I still played corner last year. I was getting practice reps at corner all season, but I wasn't getting many game reps there. It wasn't a big transition at all."

For the time being, true freshman Dymonte Thomas, an early-enrollee, has been receiving the majority of the snaps at nickel.

"The young guy, Dymonte, has looked good," Avery said. "He plays with a lot of energy. He plays with a great tempo. It's nice to see him step in there. He's a little more comfortable there now. You can see him making plays and loosening up and making plays.

"He is going to continue to work hard. A lot of things can change before the start of the season, but he is going to keep working hard. It will be interesting."

At cornerback, the competition between Avery, Taylor and Countess has been fierce.

But Avery believes it's much too early to tell how the rotation between the three will work.

"It's tough to say at this point," he said. "Right now, we're just focused on improving our skills and working on what we need to work in. After camp and summer camp, we will have a better feel for how the oration is going to work out."


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