I’ve been posting highlights of commits, top whatever lists, etc. on the Message Board (LINK), so check it out if you get a chance.
Starters: Michigan features a two-time First Team All-American in senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis (5’10”, 186 lbs.), who missed the first 25% of the season with a hamstring injury. He still ended up with 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 12 passes defended (tied for #8 in the conference). He owns the school record for pass breakups and generally shuts down his receiver. On the other side is 6’2″, 175 lb. senior Channing Stribling (27 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack, 4 INTs, 12 PBUs), a lanky corner who has struggled in the run game but has had good coverage most of the year. Senior free safety Dymonte Thomas (6’2″, 199 lbs.) has improved from some early-season struggles and ended the regular season fourth on the team in tackles with 61, along with 1 INT and 7 PBUs. Senior Delano Hill (6’1″, 215 lbs.) has 47 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 3 INTs, and 3 PBUs. This is one of the top few secondaries in the country.
Key backups: Sophomore safety Tyree Kinnel (5’11”, 206 lbs.) is one of just a couple guys worth mentioning after a regular season that included 15 tackles and 1 TFL. He’ll spell either of the other safeties. The other guy is redshirt sophomore nickel corner Brandon Watson (5’11”, 203 lbs.), who was addressed with the linebackers and plays some on the outside. Watson is physical but not a great athlete.
Hit the jump for a look at FSU’s receiving targets.
Starters: The leading receiver is Second Team All-ACC junior Travis Rudolph (6’1″, 192 lbs.), who has 53 receptions for 807 yards (15.2 yards/catch) and 7 touchdowns. Rudolph is a big-play threat who can get over the top of the defense and catch-and-run. He has caught a TD pass in four consecutive games, and he had a 13-catch, 238-yard game against Wake Forest. (Surprisingly, he did not catch a scoring pass in that game.) Third on the team in receiving – behind RB Dalvin Cook – is 6’5″, 225 lb. sophomore Auden Tate (25 catches, 409 yards, 16.4 yards/catch, 6 TDs). He took a hard look at Michigan before picking FSU, and he’s the type of big-bodied receiver who can make it tough for opposing defensive backs to play through. Slot receiver Jesus Wilson is out with an injury, so senior Kermit Whitfield (5’8″, 182 lbs.) will continue to play in his absence. He has 33 catches for 372 yards (11.3 yards/catch) and 1 TD. The starting tight end is 6’5″, 245 lb. redshirt sophomore Ryan Izzo (19 catches, 227 yards, 12 yards/catch, 1 TD). The Seminoles have a nice array of receivers – the big-play guy, the big possession receiver, the quick slot guys – so Michigan’s best bet is to put pressure on QB Deondre Francois.
Key backups: Florida State will use sophomore Nyqwan Murray (5’11”, 176 lbs.) in the slot to the tune of 25 catches for 337 yards (13.5 yards/catch) and 3 TDs. He’s also the replacement punt returner for Jesus Wilson, though Murray has been ineffective in that regard (10 returns for 2 yards, or 0.2 yards/return). Redshirt sophomore Mavin Saunders (6’5″, 257 lbs.) is the second tight end with 10 catches for 182 yards (18.2 yards/catch).
Advantage: Michigan. Florida State has a very good group of receivers, but they’re not as accomplished as Michigan’s secondary. The Wolverines usually play a right corner (Lewis) and a left corner (Stribling), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them match up Lewis on Rudolph and Stribling on Tate to account for the size issue with Tate. However, Lewis has bullied big receivers into submission before because he’s so physical and quick. I don’t expect Tate to get bullied or go into a shell, but that wouldn’t be the worst matchup in the world. Quarterback Francois has a very good arm, so I expect FSU to test Michigan downfield if the offensive line can hold up to the pass rush.