Michigan secondary coach Curt Mallory continues to tinker with personnel in what he calls a big week for his defensive backs, an opportunity for some to make a move. Freshmen and upperclassmen alike are being given every chance to separate themselves.
They've learned enough, too, that Mallory has been able to move people around.
"It's going to be a big week because we've got great competition," Mallory said. "It's wide open. I've been encouraged that a lot of these guys have picked up where they left off in the spring. Jordan Kovacs, Thomas Gordon … it was hard for a guy like Troy Woofolk, and that shows his maturity, that even though he wasn't out there practicing [due to injury in the spring], he was locked in at meetings. When he was out there full go, he knew what to do."
Woolfolk has also spent some time at nickel back, as has Thomas Gordon.
"Thomas has been playing nickel and also been playing safety. We're moving him around," Mallory said. "They will eventually [be interchangeable].We went into it playing sides, and now as they've learned it, you can play your next best safety rather than next best strong or free. As we get closer to it we'll hone it in a bit and get guys where they best fit the defense.
"No position is locked up. We've got good depth at nickel, and at corner a lot of guys are getting equal reps."
That includes the freshmen cornerbacks.
"They've all been working in there," Mallory said. "Delonte Hollowell has been in there, Blake Countess has been working quite a bit, along with Raymon Taylor.
"I see them come out, get into it … they are chomping at the bit to get in there … that's good. No one's hiding. They all want to be out there, involved, competing. That's probably the most encouraging thing. If Thomas Gordon could, he'd be out there the whole time, and he's not the only one. That's good. They all want to be out there … it's a healthy thing because they are all helping one another."
Head coach Brady Hoke has fostered that atmosphere, Mallory said, creating the healthy competition.
"He's very positive. The kids are enjoying being around him, being pushed. Coach [Greg] Mattison is the same way," he said. "It's a great energy in the meetings, on the field. We've just got to get out there every day and get better."