Michigan's Courtney Avery still starter at cornerback, but competition heating up
ANN ARBOR -- Job battles are heating up all over the field for the Michigan football team, and that's particularly true at cornerback.
The Wolverines lost starter Blake Countess to a season-ending ACL injury early in the opener against Alabama, and have turned to Courtney Avery as their interim starter. But the junior has been a mixture of ineffective and hurt since his rise into the lineup.
Avery now is competing for the job with Raymon Taylor, who played down the stretch in last week's win against Air Force after Avery aggravated his back.
Avery is healthy now, but the two still are battling for the right to start opposite J.T. Floyd. Avery is listed as the starter for Saturday's game against UMass (3:30 p.m., BTN), but Taylor also is expected to see the field.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said even sophomore Delonte Hollowell and true freshman Terry Richardson could see time in the secondary.
"They’re evaluated every day," Hoke said this week. "If you have a bad day around here, it’s easy to get shipped to the second or third team. With Blake not being there, J.T. has to step up. I think that’s important.
"I think Courtney and Raymon and even Delonte are all competing, and I think they’re all guys -- and Terry's getting some reps in there. I think that will continue to be a competition that we’ll (consider) on a weekly basis. If one guy is the a starter, consecutively or consistently, then he’s done a good job of competing.”
Countess was one of Michigan's best players as a true freshman last season, finishing with 44 tackles, six pass breakups and one forced fumble. He was named to several Big Ten all-freshman teams.
Avery has three tackles this season, including one for loss. Taylor has nine tackles and one quarterback hit.
Both could see time, even though defensive coordinator Greg Mattison prefers not to cycle through players at that position.
“It’s hard to rotate a corner," he said earlier this month. "Corner’s different from other positions because corners get in there and he gets the feel for it.
"It’s a different deal. You don’t usually try to rotate corners very much.”
Michigan might not have any other choice until someone seizes the position vacated by Countess.