Cullen Christian, ex-Wolverine

Cullen Christian, ex-Wolverine

April 22, 2011
Cullen Christian made a brief appearance on the Michigan football team

Like so many others before him, Michigan defensive back Cullen Christian has departed before ever making an impact in Ann Arbor.  The 6’0″, 187 lb. cornerback told Superprep, “I came here to be a part of something big and it has all fallen apart.  Part of you feels like you failed, while another part of you wants to go prove them they were wrong.  I need to move on now and do what is best for me.”

When Christian says “prove them they were wrong,” he’s of course talking about the two coaching staffs who had him lower on the depth chart than lightly recruited fellow freshman Terrence Talbott and walk-on Tony Anderson, among others.

Christian played in ten games as a freshman and made 6 tackles.  However, he was beaten badly on a couple plays and often looked a step or two slow.  There were some questions about his speed coming out of high school, and the biggest question I had was about his tackling.  Despite those apparent faults, he was a top-six cornerback to both Rivals and Scout.  And as a senior in high school, he was selected for the Army All-American Bowl.  I’m not sure that many people expected he would be an instant star at the college level, but I don’t think many people expected him to be buried on the depth chart, either; in addition to the aforementioned Talbott and Anderson, he also seemed to be behind fifth year senior Troy Woolfolk, redshirt junior J.T. Floyd, and classmate Courtney Avery.

Christian is the eighth (or ninth, depending on where you slot 2010 quarterback/defensive back Conelius Jones) defensive back to sign a National Letter of Intent for Michigan from 2007-2010 and then transfer or fail to qualify.  In other words, there are nine defensive backs floating around the free world (or the imprisoned world, in Boubacar Cissoko’s case) who could be playing out their eligibility for the Wolverines right now.  He’s also the seventh player of the 27-member class of 2010 to depart prior to the end of his freshman year.  Rich Rodriguez looks like less and less of a recruiting expert as more than 25% of his class disappears in less than a year.

This probably doesn’t hurt Michigan in the short term.  Christian was likely a third-string cornerback, and that doesn’t even take into account the incoming freshman class, which includes a few talented corners.  But it does potentially hurt Michigan in the long run, especially if other defensive backs continue to flame out at similar rates.  James Rogers essentially defaulted into a starting cornerback job as a senior in 2010, and continued departures could provide more opportunities like that in the coming years.

On the plus side, the Wolverines’ small 2012 recruiting class just increased by one.  A class that looked to be 16 should now be able to take 17 players, and I would not be surprised if that number continues to grow.

I would bet a nickel that Christian ends up transferring to Pittsburgh (UPDATE: You owe me a nickel.).  He’s from the Pittsburgh area, the Panthers were one of his finalists coming out of high school, his former position coach Tony Gibson latched on at Pitt, and he also has a former high school teammate and good friend, Brandon Ifill, who plays defensive back there.  Fellow ex-Michigan defensive back Ray Vinopal transferred to Pitt in recent weeks as well.

For summaries of other departures, check out the Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia button at the top of the page.


  1. Comments: 21383
    Painter Smurf
    Apr 22, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    Interesting that tackling was not a strong suit for him. If that's true, I don't think he would have ever seen the field because he did not look particularly quick/agile either. There were some 2010 game clips I remember where he was noticeably slow to react and recover.

    The 2010 season was the opportunity of a lifetime for UM DB's and if a guy could not earn PT amongst that group, he probably never will. DB should get a lot more competitive starting this season.

    Do you have any opinions on the incoming DB's? If I remember correctly, two or three of them looked like solid prospects.

  2. Comments: 21383
    Apr 22, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    What's the deal with Gibson? He seems to get a decent amount of flack for not being a great coach, and just getting the job because he was one of RR's guys. But he quickly got a job at Pitt, had 1 and maybe 2 former players follow him there, and turned Mundy into an NFL draft pick. So does he just get undeserved criticism?

  3. Comments: 21383
    Apr 22, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    @ Painter Smurf 5:22 p.m.

    I'm really high on Countess, somewhat high on Raymon Taylor, and not too excited about Hollowell.

  4. Comments: 21383
    Apr 22, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    @ Anonymous 6:20 p.m.

    Gibson is a solid recruiter in the WV/PA area, which might have helped him land the job. And the players did seem to like him, so I'm not surprised that they might follow him there. But results on the field are what matters.

    Besides, Bruce Tall was the safeties coach at WVU when Ryan Mundy was turned into an NFL draft pick.

    Frankly, the defensive backs at Michigan were atrocious, and there was some talent to work with (although not a whole lot of depth). The safeties were bad when he coached them in 2008, the defensive backs were bad in 2009, and the corners weren't very good in 2010 when he just had the corners. I just don't see much positive there.

  5. Comments: 21383
    Painter Smurf
    Apr 23, 2011 at 2:30 AM

    I've read the Gibson had some strange relationship with RR. Like if a player needed to discuss something, they had to go through Gibson first to get to RR. Anyway, those two seemed really tight for some reason. We will see how Gibson does on his own now. I do not foresee RR getting a decent HC job anytime soon, so I doubt a reunion is in the near future.

  6. Comments: 21383
    Apr 23, 2011 at 5:07 AM

    I don't understand the loyalty that these guys have to Gibson. It's like he's Jafar from Aladdin and he is hypnotizing people with his evil snake staff. The guy is a terrible terrible terrible coach.

  7. Comments: 21383
    Apr 23, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    Smurf – at a minimum, if Clemson gags on again this year, RR is probably the favorite to take over for Dabo Swinney.

  8. Comments: 21383
    Apr 23, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Yeah, lets not kid ourselves, RR is an elite coach. He's young, well respected, and he'll learn from what didn't work at Michigan. I think most people think RR, while he did make his share of mistakes, failed at Michigan largely because the situation was a poor fit. Get him in the ACC or SEC and he'll do well. I'd be shocked if he wasn't coaching again by 2013, but probably 2012.


  9. Comments: 21383
    Apr 23, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    I'd be surprised if another BCS program hires Rodriguez as a head coach. Unless they buy into the myth that Rodriguez flamed out terribly at Michigan just because he didn't fit in, and not because his defese was a disaster, he ran off bunches of players, and he made terrible decisions with assistant coaches.

  10. Comments: 21383
    Marc Shepherd
    Apr 23, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    “This probably doesn't hurt Michigan in the short term.”

    I would actually make a stronger statement. If he’s no better than 3rd string on last year’s worst defense in the Big Ten, it’s better to free up the scholarship for someone else. Michigan has four incoming freshman cornerbacks, and the odds are that at least one or two of them will be better than Christian. If he stayed, there’s a strong likelihood that he would never see the field again. If there is such a thing as “good attrition,” this would have to be a prime example of it.

  11. Comments: 21383
    Marc Shepherd
    Apr 23, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    Regarding Rich Rodriguez’s next coaching stop, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him land at a BCS school.

    Until Michigan, he had a track record of improving every program he touched. Despite his mistakes in Ann Arbor, I think someone will be willing to take the bet that his previous successes weren’t flukes.

    I don’t think you’ll see him at a top-tier program like Alabama (where he once had an offer, and turned it down). But there are plenty of mid-tier BCS programs where a guy like Rodriguez would be an upgrade.

  12. Comments: 21383
    Apr 25, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    @ Lankownia 10:46 a.m.

    I would be surprised if an SEC team took a chance on Rodriguez. I could see him in the ACC or Big East, but he probably needs to prove himself in a lower-tier conference before going back to a power conference again.

  13. Comments: 21383
    Apr 25, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    Football people know that the old blue patricians have erected a Chinese Wall around Schembechler Hall and only the annointed are allowed entrance to the sacred shrine. The old geezers shunned Rich Rod and made sure he would fail. AD's know RR was unfairly blackballed and he will land on his feet with a big time program.

  14. Comments: 21383
    Apr 25, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    We'll see Thunder. I agree he's not getting an elite job like Georgia or Florida for a while, but the lower half of the SEC is in play. Teams that know they're at a talent disadvantage will look for an edge in scheme and Rich Rod brings that (on one side of the ball at least). I could see him do well at Kentucky for example. Or MSU if Mullen moves on. Even Tennessee or S.Carolina could work in a few years if they end up firing their coaches for some reason. Things can change fast and I expect RR to be one of the hottest names within the next 2 years.


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