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Michigan football defensive backfield getting major national respect ahead of 2023 season

The Michigan football defensive backfield recently earned some major national praise, breaking the top-5 nationally and more.



Michigan football defensive backfield
Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive back Rod Moore (19) celebrates after making an interception in the second quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs in the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2023 college football season, this year’s team seems to boast Jim Harbaugh’s strongest roster since he assumed the role of head coach for the Wolverines in late 2014. However, there is a prevailing belief that one critical flaw remains in Ann Arbor: the Michigan football defensive backfield. To be more precise, the Wolverines face depth concerns at cornerback, although they are actively addressing these issues.

Depth concerns for the Michigan football defensive backfield

On the surface, standout players like Will Johnson and Rod Moore will spearhead the defensive efforts, both possessing valuable experience and regarded as top talents on the defensive side of the ball nationwide heading into the season. However, the Wolverines do face depth concerns, particularly behind Will Johnson, as there are few proven impact players. Amorion Walker, a newly-converted wide receiver turned cornerback, has received considerable praise during the offseason due to his physical attributes. Nonetheless, his performance in Michigan’s spring game last month raised doubts about his readiness and raised concerns about the overall depth of the Michigan football cornerback room heading into the season.

Nevertheless, the Wolverines possess an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball, and the national media still holds a positive outlook on the Michigan football defensive backfield. In a recent release by On3, ranking the top 10 defensive back rooms ahead of the 2023 season, Michigan football secured a spot on the list. Impressively, the Wolverines even managed to break into the top five nationally and claimed the second spot in the Big Ten.

Wolverines break the top-5 nationally, top-2 in the Big Ten

Despite the prevailing concerns surrounding the Michigan football defensive backfield, including the uncertainty surrounding the health of Will Johnson, Michigan’s DB room earned an impressive No. 4 ranking in the most recent 2023 defensive back rankings by On3. Georgia, Alabama, and Iowa were ranked ahead of the Wolverines, but it is noteworthy that Michigan’s seemingly weakest position group managed to secure a spot in the top five, surpassing other talented rooms like those of Penn State and Notre Dame.

These rankings present a significant challenge for the Wolverines, given their relatively young defensive backfield. However, it serves as an added source of motivation for the upcoming season, as they are determined to prove themselves and meet the high expectations set before them.

On3’s take: Why rank Michigan football at No. 4?

Here is On3’s explanation for ranking Michigan football at the 4th-ranked spot in their preseason defensive backfield rankings:

“Former 5-star recruit Will Johnson made an immediate impact as a freshman on the Wolverines’ defense in 2022, showcasing some of the stickiest coverage skills in the country. Johnson, who had three INTs, led all Power 5 corners in man-coverage grade, per PFF. With DJ Turner off to the NFL, Johnson is paired with sophomore Amorion Walker. For now, at least. Walker struggled some in UM’s spring game, but the sophomore is an athletic talent DC Jesse Minter really wants on the field. The Wolverines do have one of the more reliable nickel backs in the country in veteran Mike Sainristil, a fifth-year senior who had 58 tackles, seven PBUs, a couple of sacks and 6.5 TFLs in 2022.”

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