Michigan football player J.T. Floyd fighting to reclaim starting cornerback job after ankle injury
It's good to have options.
Senior Troy Woolfolk and junior J.T. Floyd were expected to be Michigan's top two cornerbacks a year ago, but Woolfolk missed the entire season after suffering a brutal leg injury in fall camp and Floyd missed the final four games due to an ankle injury.
Neither is guaranteed his job back.
Specifically, it seems Floyd is battling sophomores Courtney Avery and Terrence Talbott for the second starter's spot at cornerback.
"(Woolfolk is) is a guy who I think, as a senior, has taken some ownership and he's done everything," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Sunday during the team's media day at Schembechler Hall. "J.T. is fighting. Courtney Avery is fighting, Terrence Talbott, they're all fighting with each other to see who's going to be the guy."
Michigan lost several players from its secondary the past few years due to various forms of attrition, including enrollment hang-ups, transfers and dismissal. The injuries to Woolfolk and Floyd exacerbated the issue last year, and led to inexperienced corners such as Avery, Talbott, Ray Vinopal and James Rogers receiving significant time on the field.
Michigan allowed 261.8 passing yards per game last year, 112th in the country. Opposing quarterbacks posted a rating of 144.79, 104th in the country, and completed 63.8 percent of their passes, 106th nationally.
It was painful at the time for the Wolverines, but the consolation is they are deeper and more experienced this year. They lose Vinopal and Rogers, but gain back Woolfolk and Floyd, who both say they now are 100 percent (Woolfolk left Saturday's practice with a mild hamstring strain, but isn't expected to miss more time).
Avery and Talbott now add game experience to the mix.
They're all vying for playing time.
"We have a lot of depth there, a lot of competition, and the more competition you have, the better you get," Floyd said. "It's been a blessing to have all those guys there, working with us and getting each other better every day."
Floyd finished with 66 tackles last season — fifth-best on the team, despite playing in only nine games — and one interception. He also broke up one pass and forced one fumble.
He was a steady hand, despite facing tougher assignments in Woolfolk's absence. He's a better player for it, he has said, but that doesn't guarantee he'll reclaim his starting spot.
"Nobody in this program is ever handed anything," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said last week. "It is unfortunate when a guy gets hurt, but when a guy gets hurt, he has to come back and earn that position. So, we're still in the initial phases of deciding who our best 11 are.
"Troy and J.T. have got experience They've played in the Big House. They've played against some good teams. (But it's) what they are like now and how they perform now that will determine who plays and who doesn't."
Mattison is installing a 4-3 defensive scheme that is designed to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which also should help take some of the pressure off the secondary. Michigan had just 18 sacks (93rd nationally) in its 3-3-5 last year.
By comparison, the Wolverines had 32 sacks in former coach Lloyd Carr's final season in 2007.
Floyd is seeking his shot to start in the new system.
"Nothing is ever given," he said. "Every day, every practice is another chance to go out there and prove yourself and show that you belong out there.
"Michigan is held to a high standard, and we hold ourselves to high standards. Coach always says the best 11 players will play, so let that speak for itself."