Though he appeared in 10 games a backup safety, sophomore Jarrod Wilson made one play that stands out - his last. The 6-2, 194-pounder showed off elite speed in tracking down South Carolina wideout Dylan Thompson at the four-yard line following a 70-yard pass completion in the Outback Bowl.
For a position that has lacked athleticism and playmaking skills - U-M's starting safeties the past two years, Jordan Kovacs, Thomas Gordon and Troy Woolfolk, combined for just five interceptions and nine pass breakups - it's that play that has Michigan fans excited to see what Wilson can do in 2013, and his path to a starting role starts this spring.
"You don't often see a safety that is that big and that fast and can cover the field like he can," high school coach Ricky Powers said. "And above all, you won't find one smarter.
"The scariest thing about Jarrod is his learning curve accelerates the more reps he gets, so as he gets more and more experience this spring, and especially when he gets game reps, he's going to improve dramatically and there will come a point where if you're a quarterback you'll be afraid to throw the ball anywhere deep where he can go make a play on it."
High school foes learned that lesson well; in 2010 Wilson had 10 interceptions but teams stayed away from him as a senior, and he recorded just one.
An early enrollee, Wilson was hopeful to carve out a bigger role last fall, but both Kovacs and Gordon played at a high level, garnering most of the game reps during the season. Wilson did see the field some, earning significant playing time against Notre Dame and Purdue, and he finished with eight tackles and a fumble recovery on the year.
"They threw him in there at crucial times so it wasn't like they hid him just against the teams they were blowing out," Powers said. "He was in the fire against Notre Dame, against South Carolina, and that's good for him because the more intense a situation is, the more he'll learn from him and use it going forward.
"I thought he did really well for a freshman. He was behind Kovacs and he learned a great deal from him, and as he assumes a greater role, you're going to see this kid make a bigger and bigger impact.
"I'm not trying to put additional pressure on him, but with an opportunity this spring, I fully expect him to grab the starting job, and he'll go on to have a pretty special season and career."
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