Michigan secondary coach Curt Mallory got plenty out of his defensive backs in 2011, but he's expecting even more in 2012. A pair of seasoned corners and plenty of experience at safety should give the Wolverines a talented secondary this year, but with that experience comes higher expectations.
Freshmen and non-provens are battling to get into the rotation at cornerback and safety. For now, at least, Mallory is most comfortable with the guys who have already been through the battles.
"Right now it's the guys that have played. You know them," he said. "Blake Countess, I'm comfortable with him because I've seen him play. Courtney Avery, I've seen him play. Until they get in there, you never know how they are going to react in front of 100,000 people, so I'm comfortable with the ones that have been there in the games."
Mallory approached all of them in the spring, though, with one message: the bar was about to be raised. He's asking for tighter coverage across the board, showing confidence in a group that improved significantly last year but still has a long way to go.
Finding depth at the corner position is one of his objectives. Countess and J.T. Floyd seem to have starting jobs on lockdown, leaving four others - Avery, Raymon Taylor, Delonte Hollowell and frosh Terry Richardson - battling for time.
"Just having confidence in your ability not to be able to be run by, in your own speed to be able to make it up if you do," Mallory said. "As far as being able to practice that, we're constantly talking to young men about getting up in there tight. That's where you learn. Unless you try to play a little tighter in practice - that's the time to do. It.
"You try to get them up there and get them close, and there are times they are getting run by and times they're able to play a little tighter. We're really pushing that as an emphasis this fall. Get in there and play with more confidence and their ability to play tighter."
Jarrod Wilson and Marvin Robinson are pushing for time at safety behind Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon.
"Josh Furman is running in a little bit, and behind them are the two new incoming freshmen Jeremy Clark and Allen Gant," Mallory said. "They're all together right now until I get them full time. Their plate is full right now. They've all shown great ability, and I'm glad they are all here, for sure."
Wilson has a head start over the other freshmen having gone through spring ball.
"He was thrown into the fire, has gone through the summer workouts," he said. "The other guys, we're showing them film. Until they get out there and see what it's like out there, it's different. You see it on film, but until they are out there feeling the speed of the game, certainly he has an advantage."
Robinson continues to improve, Mallory said.
"I was pleased how he came out in the spring. We saw signs that he was communicating better, which meant his confidence is higher, which is pleasing to see," he said. "He shows up. When he hits you, you notice that. He's improved on pass coverage skills. I'm pleased with way he's coming along in camp."
Fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd has developed his leadership skills, Mallory said.
"He had a good offseason," he said. "He's helping the younger guys, and we do have some younger players playing the corner position. You can tell he's confident in the defense, more vocal, confident in what we're doing."
Richardson has gained eight pounds since his arrival.
"I think he's 162 now," Mallory said. "He's a scrapper. I've played with guys that aren't as big, so they've got to play big. He's gonna scrap, compete, and he loves to play. He's fun to coach."