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August 18, 2013

Analysis: Avery more than depth at safety

Many wondered if Michigan would be deep enough at safety this year, the one position in which it appeared the Wolverines might be lacking qualified bodies. It shouldn't have surprised when the coaches announced Courtney Avery had been working at free safety over the last several days.

Not much has been said about veteran Josh Furman since camp started, while redshirt freshmen Jeremy Clark and true frosh Delano Hill have been the ones mentioned as backups behind sophomore Jarrod Wilson and fifth-year senior Thomas Gordon.

Enter Avery, who has played nickelback and corner since his arrival. As such, he's learned about the nuances of each of the secondary positions and seems as qualified as anyone to provide not just depth, but a quality defender.

"They asked me what I thought, and I said, 'anything that's going to help the team out, help us reach our goal,'" Avery recalled. "I was ready to do anything I could do.

"There are different parts about it I like. It makes you be more vocal, quarterback the defense a little more. I like that part. It's different than corner but not terribly different from nickel. I feel playing nickel, being a veteran and knowing difference between the positions, the transition has been smooth."

He's had some "beginner's luck" as well as some mistakes in the early going, and he's still adapting. But that's what film and camp are for, he said, and he still has a few weeks before the first game.

The downside, and to keep from sugarcoating it - it's clear the coaching staff wasn't entirely comfortable with the last line of defense. At the same time, the reports on junior corner Raymon Taylor have been positive - Avery acknowledged his teammate has been stepping up in a leadership and playmaking role - and young corner Delonte Hollowell, too, is proving capable.

"Right now I have no idea where I'm going to play. I'm just going to go out there and go at safety or corner, so it's really up to them," Avery said. "I'm going to try to master both positions so we can put our defense in the best position."

More than anything, he wants to be counted on to help them win.

"I want to play," he said.

One thing he shouldn't have to worry about given the way he's played so far in camp. Though not as gifted as some of the talent around him, he's intelligent - a former high school quarterback - and a leader, and should be every bit as valuable.


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