ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s path to winning the Outback Bowl just got more difficult. For the Wolverines, already trying to beat a top-10 team with a strong defense and a capable offense, losing starting cornerback J.T. Floyd, the most experienced and consistent corner on the roster, along with Big Ten punter of the year Will Hagerup is a big blow.
Now Michigan has to face South Carolina with sophomore Raymon Taylor and junior Courtney Avery as the starting cornerbacks. Taylor has proved he can play well against topflight opponents this season, but Avery has rarely been in a position to be an every-down player throughout his career.
When he was out earlier this season, he was quickly passed on the depth chart by Taylor, who gained his starting position after sophomore Blake Countess went out for the season with an ACL injury. Floyd’s suspension also crushes Michigan’s depth at cornerback. One in-game injury, and the Wolverines will be forced to play either sophomore Delonte Hollowell or freshman Terry Richardson, neither of whom has seen more than a handful of snaps on defense and none of them with a game in doubt. Another option is Dennis Norfleet, who moved to cornerback two weeks ago.
Where it also hurts the Wolverines is when they go to a nickel or extra defensive back package. It now leaves Michigan either sitting in base personnel and putting a linebacker at nickel -- something Michigan has done with some success this season -- or moving safety Thomas Gordon down into the nickel.
It is a role Gordon has played in the past, but Michigan could use him more as a deep safety along with Jordan Kovacs. If Gordon has to drop down, expect freshman Jarrod Wilson or junior Marvin Robinson to see the bulk of the snaps at safety in that scenario.
With Hagerup, Michigan likely will see sophomore Matt Wile gain the starting job. He had punted in certain situations this season and had the starting job while Hagerup was suspended for four games last year.
For Floyd, it is a tough ending to a career that had finished with a good two-year stretch for him coming off a major ankle injury. As a potential late-round draft pick or priority free agent, he will now have to spend some time explaining the suspension in interviews as he tries to land a pro gig.