The Fence the Mitten Project: Defensive Backs

The Fence the Mitten Project: Defensive Backs

May 6, 2020
Lavert Hill (image via Wolverines Wire)

I took a few days off from posting about this project, but it’s time to get back to it. So what would Michigan’s roster and recruiting look like if they signed the top 25 in-state prospects each year? Here’s the answer.

If you missed them earlier, there were posts about QB (LINK), RB (LINK), TE (LINK), OL (LINK), WR (LINK), DE (LINK), DT (LINK), and LB (LINK).

Hit the jump for the rundown of corners and safeties.


  • Tyson Smith (RS Sr.): 3-star, #38 CB, #398 overall
  • Ray Buford (RS Sr.): 3-star, #81 ATH, #984 overall
  • Tyrone Miller (RS Sr.): 3-star, #112 CB
  • #*Lavert Hill (RS Jr.): 4-star, #12 CB, #132 overall
  • #*Ambry Thomas (RS So.): 4-star, #12 CB, #90 overall
  • #Donovan Johnson (RS So.): 4-star, #38 CB, #332 overall
  • Richard Bowens III (RS So.): 3-star, #100 CB, #923 overall
  • #Kalon Gervin (RS Fr.): 4-star, #20 CB, #188 overall
  • Davion Williams (RS Fr.): 3-star, #48 CB, #470 overall
  • #*Vincent Gray (RS Fr.): 3-star, #63 CB, #700 overall
  • Jaeveyon Morton (RS Fr.): 3-star, #72 CB, #812 overall
  • #Julian Barnett (Fr.): 4-star, #8 CB, #57 overall
  • Roderick Heard (Fr.): 3-star, #86 CB, #923 overall


  • #*Brian Cole (RS Sr.): 4-star, #5 ATH, #72 overall
  • Dior Johnson (RS Sr.): 3-star, #49 S, #709 overall
  • Khari Willis (RS Sr.): 3-star, #64 ATH, #830 overall
  • Rayshawn Wilborn (RS Sr.): 3-star, #88 ATH
  • #Demetric Vance (RS Jr.): 4-star, #8 S, #243 overall
  • Stefan Claiborne (RS Jr.): 3-star, #49 S, #782 overall
  • #*Jaylen Kelly-Powell (RS So.): 4-star, #21 S, #250 overall
  • #Scott Nelson (RS So.): 3-star, #60 S, #802 overall
  • #Allen Stritzinger (RS So.): 3-star, #62 S, #839 overall
  • Jordan Ulmer (RS So.): 3-star, #89 S
  • DeAndre Square (RS Fr.): 3-star, #37 S, #544 overall
  • Reggie Pearson (RS Fr.): 3-star, #49 S, #686 overall
  • #Marvin Grant (Fr.): 4-star, #23 S, #276 overall
  • Jalen Graham (Fr.): 3-star, #57 ATH, #846 overall
  • Tate Hallock (Fr.): 3-star, #73 ATH

#Offered by Michigan
*Signed with Michigan


First up are the cornerbacks. Lavert Hill (Michigan) made 16 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 interceptions, and 10 pass breakups on his way to being named 1st Team All-Big Ten. Ambry Thomas (Michigan) made 38 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 7 pass breakups while being named 3rd Team All-Big Ten. Donovan Johnson (Penn State) did not record any stats in two games. Richard Bowens III (Iowa State) made 2 tackles in six games and teammate Jaeveyon Morton did not see any game action. Kalon Gervin (Michigan State) made 8 tackles in ten games, while teammate Davion Williams made 6 stops and 1 forced fumble. Vincent Gray (Michigan) made 20 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 5 pass breakups. Roderick Heard (Northwestern) made 1 tackle.

At safety, Rayshawn Wilborn (Ball State) made 83 tackles and 2 interceptions after moving from linebacker to free safety, earning a free agent deal with the Falcons. Stefan Claiborne (Western Michigan) made 51 tackles and 3 pass breakups. Jaylen Kelly-Powell (Michigan) made 2 tackles in three games and is transferring to a destination unknown. Scott Nelson (Wisconsin) made 4 tackles while playing in just one game. Allen Stritzinger (Syracuse) made 18 tackles and 3 pass breakups. Jordan Ulmer (Missouri) made 2 tackles but decided to transfer mid-season. DeAndre Square (Kentucky) made 69 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 interception while playing a hybrid safety/linebacker position. Reggie Pearson (Wisconsin) made 60 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 4 pass breakups in a starting role. Marvin Grant (Purdue) contributed 2 tackles, while teammate Jalen Graham tallied 37 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Tate Hallock (Michigan State) made 1 tackle and 1 forced fumble while preserving his redshirt.


We don’t even need to think hypothetically in this case: Lavert Hill, Ambry Thomas, and Vincent Gray make a nice three-man rotation at cornerback. The non-Michigan corners combined weren’t even as productive as Michigan’s third corner. This is a pretty good combination of players.

At safety there are a few solid options, but none outstanding. Reggie Pearson and Rayshawn Wilborn are the starters with Stefan Claiborne, DeAndre Square, Allen Stritzinger, and Jalen Graham providing depth and flexibility.


If Michigan landed and developed all these guys, you’re probably looking at a pretty good secondary consistently. There are good players in and around Detroit to fill these defensive skill positions, but the highest-upside guys seem to come from other areas of the country. Committing to 13 cornerbacks and 15 safeties over five recruiting classes is a lot; that’s 5-6 defensive backs in every class. And while some can move down to linebacker or play a safety/outside linebacker role, this is 28/125 signees (22.4%), which is too high of a percentage for this position group. Many secondary players play young and leave early, whereas positions like quarterback, offensive line, tight end, defensive line, and linebacker need more depth and experience.

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