Michigan Wolverines Football: Clinkscale On Frosh Secondary Standouts, More
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Michigan Wolverines Football: Clinkscale On Frosh Secondary Standouts, More

Michigan Wolverines football’s secondary has been a pleasant surprise in coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense, and one defensive back has taken the lead. But there are several young corners and safeties catching coach Steve Clinkscale’s eye, too, ready to make a move.

The first thing the coach said he learned when he arrived after spring ball was just how motivated his group was to better themselves. They all knew their shortcomings and acknowledged them, returned determined to ensure last year’s disappointments wouldn’t happen again.

“The kids have really worked hard; they’ve grinded it out,” Clinkscale said on the Inside Michigan Radio Show Monday night. “They’ve been physical, paying attention to detail. I think it’s all starting to come together.”

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Michigan Wolverines football secondary coach Steve Clinkscale is excited about his group's growth
Michigan Wolverines football secondary coach Steve Clinkscale is excited about his group's growth (EJ Holland / TheWolverine.com)

But they’ve still got a lot of work to do, he added, and fifth-year safety Brad Hawkins is the guy making sure they get it done.

“Brad, without a question … he’s done a great job getting the entire group together,” Clinkscale praised. “Some of the corners, Vince Gray and Gemon Green, are seeing those habits; DJ Turner is constantly in there with Brad watching film. Of course, RJ [Moten] and Dax [Hill] are in there together, but Brad is the one I see some of the texts he send out — ‘hey be here … be here … you guys coming?’

“That’s what guys need. They need a leader within the team in that group.”

But they were all receptive to coaching the second he got there. When he asked them to identify areas of weakness, all of them seemed to be on the mark, Clinkscale said.

For Green, it meant a sense of urgency when he lined up rather than being too relaxed.

“To not be ready, have the urgency … you’ve got to get lined up, see what’s going on in front of you, have a plan of attack … the No. 1 thing [he said] was locking in, being more urgent, and we had not ever talked about it.

“They understand how to self-evaluate. If you can do that, you can teach them.”

The entire room has been outstanding in that respect. They take pride to fix their mistakes in their own meetings without coaches, and they listen when they’re getting some tough love.

That was the case a few weeks ago, Clinkscale recalled, when they were making the same mistakes repeatedly.

“I usually try to be positive, but I tell them all the time, we can fix the mistake, we can work on mistakes, but to do the same thing wrong over and over, that’s not a mistake; it’s a habit,” he said. “If you’re not adjusting the way you need to, you have to take ownership in this defense, who you are, what you want and what the outcome is.

“It goes back to who is watching film, passing quizzes, staying after on their own working on something for two, three minutes. That’s all it takes. The more you build into a dally lifestyle, the more you excel on the field. I see them do that constantly.”

NOTES

• Two freshmen in particular are standing out among the young secondary as players to watch down the road.

“I’m excited about DJ [Turner] though he’s not ‘young’ young, but he’s finally gotten his opportunity and is starting to take advantage of it,” Clinkscale said. “Ja’Den McBurrows is another one; so is Rod Moore. Those two freshmen, I’m thinking you’ll continue to see more and more of them on defense and definitely of special teams.

“They’ve done a really good job of trying to take advantage of their opportunities and take that step forward to show us their talents.”

• Sophomore Dax Hill has met the hype as an elite player, Clinkscale said.

“He’s a freak athlete. He has a toolset you don’t really have at that safety spot, even at the corner spot,” he said. “He’s really long, very quick, very sudden, athletic, powerful, strong. He can attack the ball. He’s really versatile.

“The thing with Dax is we just can’t overload him. He can play a lot of different positions and we’re doing a good job of moving him around, giving him access, blitzing him, covering man to man. He had a big play in the game on the first third down, playing man on their best receiver. He’s very, very talented, and I think learning a new scheme has really helped him. I think each game we’ll continue to build off his skill set. He’s a remarkable player.”

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