Michigan Wolverines Football: Secondary Making Big Strides Early
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Michigan Wolverines Football: Secondary Making Big Strides Early

There are plenty of question marks on the Michigan Wolverines football team for 2021, but one position seems to be in great shape. The secondary figures to be a strength of the team under new defensive backs coaches Steve Clinkscale and Ron Bellamy, and by all accounts it’s coming together nicely.

Fifth-year senior safety Brad Hawkins, sporting the iconic No. 2 instead of his usual 20 this year, spoke of a safety rotation that includes sophomores R.J. Moten and Makari Paige … and, of course, Daxton Hill. Hill will be the versatile corner/safety who plays all over the field to use his talents this year, and the goal is to make sure offenses don’t know what’s coming.

“We try and disguise and do different things like that,” Hawkins said. “You can’t show the same pressures, so you’ve got to disguise — you’ve got to rotate.

“That’s what we’ve been doing, working on in camp: just showing different looks. When we’re in cover-two, [maybe] show cover-four.”

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Michigan Wolverines football defensive back Dax Hill has been 'amazing' next to Brad Hawkins
Michigan Wolverines football defensive back Dax Hill has been 'amazing' next to Brad Hawkins (AP Images)
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For Hawkins, it’s a switch from the norm at his position. He’s been moved around a lot, ‘trying to get a feel for playing different positions.’ While it’s only been five days with one in pads, he’s getting more and more comfortable.

Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is in his first year coordinating not just the Michigan defense, but any defense after coming over from the Baltimore Ravens. He insisted last week they weren’t reinventing defense and making it too complicated, and it’s playing out that way, Hawkins said.

“I don’t think it’s complicated at all. Just moving parts, fiddling with things,” he said. “It’s not rocket science or anything like that. He teaches it very, very well. If you get in your playbook, study, it’s going to come to you. That’s kind of the road we’re all taking, studying amongst each other, putting in the extra work.

“It’s really helped me a lot, especially the relationship I’m forming with Coach Bell [Bellamy]. He’s a great guy, a former player here, so he knows the ins and outs of Michigan football. Having him as a coach has been amazing. He knows football … him being a former receiver coach and me being a DB, it helps me out a lot. He knows how receivers line up, the routes, the stems. Things like that have definitely been helpful in our DB room.”

Hill has been ‘amazing,’ he added, showing off his athleticism. Young guys like corner George Johnson, Moten and Paige are also making huge strides.

“RJ Moten, Makari Paige are both very, very good players, coming along very, very well,” he said. “We’re all competing, trying to get the job. That’s where we stand right now.

“George Johnson … he’s coming along. He’s very aggressive, a great player. He’s also going to continue to learn. He’s somebody I took under my wing as an older guy. He’s somebody growing every day, getting better every single day, going out and competing.”

And that’s where they are five days into camp. Though there are locks to start — Hawkins and Hill, probably corner Gemon Green — everyone is getting a chance.

“All rotations are with everybody. It’s not just ones, twos, threes,” Hawkins said. “We’re trying to get everybody mixed in with everybody … no set in stone with 1, 2, 3 anything like that.

“We’re going out competing with each other, making each other better, dominating the day.”

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