Michigan head coach Brady Hoke seems to have a knack for suggesting there is a battle for a starting job at positions that likely already have the starters figured out. After trying to suggest there is a competition at quarterback this offseason, Hoke is also setting the tone for the defensive backs despite having a pair of players that combined for 10 interceptions last season. The message is clear though; there is room for improvement across the board in Ann Arbor.
Fall camps in college football should always be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of a clean slate across the roster, but Michigan has senior cornerbacks Raymon Taylor and junior Blake Countess the likely starters for the upcoming season, whether Hoke confirms that or not. Hoke sees these two players as leaders but goes on the record of saying “they’ve got to play every day.”
“I think Blake and Ray, they’re both older guys, who have played a lot,” Hoke said Friday, according to MLive.com. “Then you’ve got (sophomores) [Jourdan Lewis] and [Channing Stribling], guys who have done a nice job (developing). The leadership from Blake is going to be important, and from Raymon. But there’s also great competition. They’ve got to play every day. … They all know, they’d better have a day, every day.”
Why would Hoke shy away from just leaning on his upper classmen, including one earning first-team All-Big Ten honors last fall (Countess)? Simple. Michigan’s pass defense needs to improve and cut down on big plays by opposing offenses. Everybody on defense needs to step things up this season in order for Michigan to improve in the win total and Big Ten standings. If Michigan State has a no-fly zone in effect, all air traffic appears to be seeing clearer skies in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines ranked seventh in the Big Ten in pass defense in 2013, the lowest conference ranking since Hoke was named head coach following the Rich Rodriguez era, which ended with Michigan ranked 11th (out of 11 teams at the time) in the Big Ten’s passing defense ranking. The 231 passing yards per game allowed last season by Michigan was the second highest total allowed dating back to 2007.