You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Michigan senior Troy Woolfolk embracing position change, understands why it was made

By Kyle Meinke

Troy Woolfolk lost his starting cornerback job to a freshman this year, after losing it last year to a vicious leg injury.

The fifth-year senior rehabbed hard to get back into the Michigan football team's lineup, but now has switched positions to make room for Blake Countess at cornerback. Woolfolk will be relegated to backing up both safety positions and playing in nickel packages.

He started last week against Purdue for injured regular Jordan Kovacs (knee), but is expected to play a reduced role once Kovacs returns.

It's been a humbling journey, but Woolfolk is relying on his experience at safety to help him make the transition. He started six games there as a junior in 2009.

"It's not a new position, so it's not that hard to adjust," Woolfolk said. "(It's) just making it more exciting because sometimes, at corner, you don't always get the ball thrown your way, so you really don't have anything to do. At safety, I feel like I could have impact on both sides of the field."


Senior Troy Woolfolk has moved from cornerback to safety.

Melanie Maxwell |

With Kovacs' status for Saturday's game against Iowa (noon, ESPN) in question, sophomore reserve safety Carvin Johnson departing the program and reserve safety Marvin Robinson still battling health issues, Michigan needs Woolfolk to stay healthy and perform.

Beyond starter Thomas Gordon, Kovacs and Woolfolk, the only healthy scholarship player is redshirt freshman Josh Furman, who has played almost exclusively on special teams this year.

"I'm about to buy a rabbit foot to keep for good luck," said Woolfolk, who also has struggled with ankle, hand and nose injuries this year and was in a car accident two weeks ago. "I feel good. That bye week was much-needed.

"I don't have any injuries. I feel like a regular person for once."

Woolfolk said he was approached after the Michigan State game about making the switch to safety. He used the off week to get comfortable with the new position.

The move provides some depth there, but originally was executed to get Countess in the lineup. The 18-year-old from Baltimore has played a progressively larger role each week (at the expense of Woolfolk) since debuting against Eastern Michigan, and played all but the first few snaps against Michigan State.

"Our thing will always be to put the best 11 on the field," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "Having Blake and Troy rotating wasn't really necessarily having the best 11 out there. The combination of him and Jordan (at safety) should be good."

Countess has 27 tackles, four pass breakups and a forced fumble. However, defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said earlier this week the best sign Countess is excelling is not a statistic, but a lack thereof.

"Other teams will try to pick on a freshman, especially in the secondary, because of how exposed they can be, especially in a man coverage," Van Bergen said. "I don’t think anybody’s really been trying Blake."

Woolfolk understands the reason the move was made, and is trying to embrace his new role. He noted his speed might actually be better utilized at safety rather than cornerback.

"We need a little bit more speed back there," Mattison said.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

There's this one guy that I know and he said that Woolfolk will win the heisman next year. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football!!!!!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

Was it a 'viscous' or a 'vicious' leg injury last year? :-) Team player, Michigan Man, quality human being, this young Mr. Woolfolk.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

I was wondering about that myself...

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

Ronnie Lott started out as a cornerback and then made the transition to safety. Result? The most feared corner in NFL history became the most feared safety in NFL history. Troy, there is absolutely no shame in transitioning over to the safety role. If that is where your skills are better suited, embrace it, and become the best safety that you can be.

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Jerry Zuver may be a wee bit before my time, LOL


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

Years and years and YEARS ago I recall Jerry Zuver of Michigan being referred to as a "Wolfman." At the time I never did understand what that meant. Yet another well-known safety. Wasn't Rod Woodson a safety? And Troy Polamalu?

David Vande Bunte

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Yep. Ronnie Lott, Steve Atwater, John Lynch, Jack Tatum, LeRoy Butler, etc. You don't need to be the fastest defender if the WR is so afraid of you demolishing him that he is distracted and drops the ball. The ability of a free range safety who can absolutely level an offensive player cannot be underestimated. Intimidation is a powerful tool for an NFL defender. Safeties do not get nearly enough love from fans.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

Yes, good point. Where is it written that cornerback is the more "prestigious" position? It seems to me there's a good case to be made for the value of a fearsome safety in the secondary.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 10:03 a.m.

Woolfolk is a great team guy. He has the character that exemplifies our seniors. The seniors on this team have been through allot these during their career at Michigan, and guys like Woolfolk, Van Bergen, Martin are true leaders that will be missed next year. However, the guys see how it is done and can be the example that was shown to them. Hail to the victors! Seniors, we salute you. Woolfolk has played through everything...this is a Michigan man.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

Agreed. Woolfolk has always showed a great attitude and leadership, despite going through one of the roughest patches in M football history.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:03 a.m.

So when Kovaks comes back we have only one experienced backup safety, and a freshman. That hardly seems like an issue. Chances are good there will always be at least two experienced guys at safety in the last 4 games of the season and the freshman will never be used.