Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Turner, gone; depth, gone

So word has trickled down that Justin Turner, Michigan's former standout corner prospect has asked for his release from the team. He is being pegged as one of the players that Rodriguez now infamously said were out of shape and unable to play D-I football. And for a team that's already staring down a harrowing depth chart on defense (specifically in the secondary), the loss of a should-be star is a massive blow. So with that in mind, let's take a look at Michigan's existing depth chart:

Troy WoolfolkJ.T. Floyd
Cullen ChristianTerrence Talbott/Courtney Avery
Terrence Talbott/Courtney AveryVarious walk-ons

In other words, not great. Aside from Woolfolk, who has established himself as the #1 corner, there are very few certainties here. Is Floyd the #2? Can Christian work his way into the starting rotation? Is Floyd better than he was last year? Are Talbott and Avery ready for the prime time? But before we go any further, let's take a look at what we do know (Woolfolk aside as his body of work speaks for itself):

J.T. Floyd: The projected starter alongside Woolfolk, Floyd saw limited playing time last year after Cissoko crashed and burned, and he looked woefully overmatched for much of it. He wasn't fast enough to cover receivers one-on-one, necessitating a 10-yard cushion at the line of scrimmage and opening Michigan up to a lot of quick screens that went for 7 yards. But a key part of Floyd's progression that often went unmentioned is that he was a redshirt freshman.

Floyd was a middling 3-star athlete out of high school. Rivals listed him at 179 lbs and the current Michigan roster lists him at 183, an unimpressive gain for a player going through three years of Barwis training, though much more weight than that and he risks fluidity and speed. Speaking of speed, he doesn't have much of it. Aside from what we saw on the field last year, Rivals has him running a 4.73 second 40, which is pretty low given the juicing of recruiting numbers.

Terrence Talbott/Courtney Avery: Talbott and Avery come in with basically identical recruiting resumes and are both going to be asked to contribute far too early. Both hail from Ohio and rank 47th and 51st in the state respectively. Both are listed at 5'10" and around 170 lbs.

Avery received middling-at-best offers from the likes of Standford, Vanderbilt, and Louisville, along with the likes of Eastern Michigan and Army. Talbott, meanwhile, at least comes in with a few more respectable offers: Wisconsin, North Carolina, Illinois, UConn, and Cincinnati. The point is, these two guys are nearly interchangeable (though if you ask me, Talbott sees the most playing time), neither have the recruiting hype to really make an immediate impact, and are both players that projected to be potential contributors down the line. Michigan will need their services far too soon.

Cullen Christian: Christian is now the real impact youngster to watch this year. Before the arrival and departure of Demar Dorsey, Christian was one of the gets for the Wolverines secondary. In terms of replacing Turner (or rather Turner's potential), Christian is the best bet. And a realistic one, too.

Turner and Christian's recruiting hype are at least relatively similar according to Rivals. Both come in as 4-star prospects (Turner admittedly higher and near 5-star status) and ranked in the top 10 in their respective states (1st in Ohio; 2nd in Pennsylvania, respectively). Turner ranked #35 nationally while Christian sneaks just inside the top 100 at #99. And Turner had offers from the likes of OSU, WVU, MSU, and Pitt; offers that Christian replicates along with various other BCS schools.

Rivals even has a sidebar that says, "Cullen Christian reminds us of... Justin Turner". The point is, the loss of Turner's talent/potential is not irreplaceable. The bigger issue is to depth.

Is there any reason for optimism? Yes and no. No because, well, look above. Yes for two reasons: First, corner is a position that, as is going to be repeated over and over again in the Michigan blogosphere for the next month, young players can come in and make an immediate impact. Christian is the most likely to do so, but if we see functional play out of Avery or Talbott, consider that a net plus. The other reason for optimism is the scheme shift that's taking place this year. Players have said that this year's schemes rely more on zones than man-to-man coverage, meaning Michigan will be able to get away with only two corners on the field most of the time. This will put more pressure on the likes of Craig Roh, Obi Ezeh, and Jonas Mouton, not to mention the other incoming freshmen players (I'm looking at you Marvin Robinson), but if they can get away with Floyd handling underneath zones rather than streaking wide receivers, damage might be mitigated.

This is a bad thing, but if Michigan can avoid injuries to its secondary this year, it may not be as devastating as it seems. Now we just have to pray like hell Christian came to Michigan ready to contribute and the Tao of Barwis has a fast track.


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