Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Brandon Harrison played in 12 games as a freshman safety for the Wolverines in 2005, making four starts, notching 24 tackles and snaring two interceptions. photo by per kjeldsen Wilson In Rare Company Jarrod Wilson performing in 10 games as a true freshman safety for the Wolverines is not a terribly common occurrence. Over the past 10 years, it's happened just once. Brandon Harrison played in 12 games as a freshman safety for the Wolverines in 2005. He made four starts, notching 24 tackles, a fumble recovery, two interceptions and four passes broken up. Since that time, no true freshman safety has seen the field that much, until Wilson. Jamar Adams got onto the field in nine games as a true freshman in 2004, and prior to him DeWayne Patmon appeared in nine games as a Michigan safety during the national championship season of 1997. Going back 20 years, safety Clarence Thompson played in 11 games as Michigan's nickel back as a true freshman in 1993, securing 18 tackles, a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery. But the club, overall, remains an exclusive one, minus such ultimately strong performers as Adams, Ryan Mundy, Patmon, Tommy Hendricks and Daydrion Taylor. Wilson's starting status for the fall has yet to be determined. But there isn't any question he's off to a strong — even elite, in terms of appearances — start. — John Borton "No matter what happens, I need to continue to play football like I know how to play. Stay levelheaded, and keep a short-term memory. Anything can happen on a football field. It's a game of seconds. Just keep going no matter what — that's the biggest thing I learned from him." At the moment, he's playing the boundaryside safety that Jordan Kovacs handled last season. He also picked up a number of tips from the now-departed veteran, including how to manage the entire defense, especially getting everyone lined up correctly. Knowing where everybody is supposed to be is vital, Wilson noted — since all the parts don't always slide into place. "He knew the whole defense inside and out, and knew exactly where someone made a mistake," Wilson recalled. "He could actually fill that hole." If Wilson learns to do so without outward distress, part of the credit goes to his dad, Johnny, a construction worker who taught him to never let them see you sweat. Keep a smile on your face, and things will get better, the sage advice dictated. Wilson's mom, Audra, always emphasized there are no limitations. He can combine both of those lessons into what he faces in the notso-distant future. "My mom is like, no one can tell you that you can't do something," Wilson said. "I truly believe that. There were plenty of times I was told I couldn't do something. I'm kind of hardheaded. I do it anyway, and I get the job done." Wilson moved ahead anyway in football after his freshman year of high school at Akron (Ohio) Buchtel High School. He suffered a concussion that knocked him out for the season, and his coaches suggested he consider taking a longer hiatus. In fact, they urged him to stop playing football altogether. He played a pretty good game of basketball, so just stick to that, they urged. Wilson's internal response: forget it. "I didn't necessarily say it to them," he recalled. "I just told myself I know I'm going to play football. Football is my first love. I just played basketball to stay in shape while football wasn't in season. I knew right then and there I was going to play football." He did, enjoying a solid sophomore season, prior to the prep campaign that really set his potential college career in motion. "My junior year, I had a lot of interceptions, and now I'm here," he said. He's in Ann Arbor, with a very significant game circled on his calendar. Ohio State didn't recruit him heavily, and did not offer him a scholarship. He waves off any notion that the lack of an offer troubled him. After all, he noted, 162  ■  The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview he fielded some 20 other scholarship offers. At the same time, it's obvious that he'll be sufficiently motivated when late November rolls around. "I took it personally," Wilson said of the OSU snub. "I don't really talk about them much. I don't really have anything to say about them. Every November when we play them, come and be ready — because I'm coming." And he won't be coming alone. Wilson expresses great confidence in what the Wolverines are building on defense. In addition to the names everybody knows, he sees players such as cornerback Delonte Hollowell, defensive end Keith Heitzman and rush end Mario Ojemudia coming on. He understands how much talent the Wolverines have returning to a motivated secondary. He also sees the one irreplaceable element that can quickly turn a good defense into a great one. "We're a very fast defense, as a whole," Wilson said. "I noticed that in spring ball. We're extremely fast, compared to last year. "Coming into my second year in this defense, and others who are older than me and have been in the defense longer, we actually know the defense inside and out. That helps a lot. "I'm very excited. During spring ball, everyone on the defense bought into what Coach Mattison was saying about running to the football, making sure you correct the little things that may get us beat, so when they actually do happen during the season we're able to overcome." Wilson has seen overcoming, and sticking together. His grandfather, beset by kidney issues and Alzheimer's disease, lived with the family as far back as the young man could remember. "We were really close," Wilson said. "I just learned a lot from him when I was growing up, and spent a lot of time with him. Over the years, he got sicker and sicker. When he passed … crying is normal, but not for long. He's still with me in spirit." And, in another lesson, tucked away for safekeeping. "The best thing I got from him would be to enjoy life, and go through it without any regrets, because everything happens for a reason," Wilson said. He hopes to attack the 2013 season without regret. Wilson witnessed how steep the learning curve is a year ago, although he benefited from becoming an early enrollee at Michigan and participating in spring practice 2012. He also got a feel for the pace of the game, along with the mental aspect of absorbing a playbook the size of a big-city phone directory. Making checks is a challenge for

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