The "Inside the Game" position preview series concludes with a look at the Michigan and Ohio State secondaries.
Like many of the other position groups discussed by Austin Ward of BuckeyeNation and Michael Rothstein of WolverineNation, a peek into the secondaries of Michigan and Ohio State reveals a lot of similarities between the schools.
Ward: No infusion of new talent is necessary for Ohio State.
All the Buckeyes need is a deep pool of veteran defensive backs to take another step forward, and throwing the ball against them could be one of the tougher challenges in the Big Ten.
Bradley Roby is shaping up as an emerging star at cornerback, and while Travis Howard and Doran Grant could battle for the right to start opposite him, the Buckeyes figure to be fine with either of them or backup Adam Griffin on the field.
C.J. Barnett might be poised to breakout as well at safety, though there’s plenty of experienced depth alongside him at the back of the defense. A pair of juniors in Christian Bryant and Corey Brown and senior Orhian Johnson provide plenty of options for defensive backs coach Everett Withers, who brings a proven track record of creating turnovers with him to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes picked off 13 passes last season, with Johnson and Roby tied for the team lead with three apiece. But both of those numbers will have to improve for Withers to be happy at the end of the season, and there is more than enough know-how and ability to make that happen.
Rothstein: What once was a group of players thought to have little talent and no experience has turned into this: the best unit on Michigan’s entire roster.
A few holdovers from the disastrous 2009 and 2010 seasons for the Michigan secondary remain on the roster in key positions, including starting cornerback J.T. Floyd and safety Jordan Kovacs, both of whom were thrown into unenviable positions as young players in a 3-3-5 defense few inside the Michigan program were familiar with.
But they learned and went from questionable players to two of the more reliable players anywhere on the Michigan roster. Joining them in the likely starting defensive backfield are safety Thomas Gordon and sophomore cornerback Blake Countess.
All four started at least half of Michigan’s games a season ago.
The four are just the front line of an incredibly deep secondary with both experience -- nickel back Courtney Avery -- and a youthful push, including highly touted freshman safety Jarrod Wilson and sophomore cornerback Delonte Hollowell, who stood out on special teams as a freshman.
There could be trouble if Kovacs were to be injured, but otherwise this is Michigan’s most dependable position group.