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 Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan freshman safety Jarrod Wilson brimming with talent, not experience

By Kyle Meinke

Jarrod Wilson celebrated his 18th birthday last month. Four weeks later, he was on a practice field playing safety for the Michigan football team.

The true freshman from Akron (Ohio) Buchtel High School has enrolled early with the Wolverines. And, while his raw talent has impressed coaches in spring camp, his youth leaves him a long way from cracking the rotation.

"Jarrod, he’s pretty good playing the ball and those things," coach Brady Hoke said last week. "At the same time, he’s learning all this stuff -- this coverage is this, and when they motion this guy over, what do you do? And is it a zone, a fire, or a zone blitz, or is it man coverage?

"I mean, there’s a lot of things and it’s always hard at the safety position. Probably as hard as any within the defense because of the adjustments they have to make.”


Jarrod Wilson

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Wilson is one of three early enrollees on campus for spring camp, joined by linebackers Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden. Michigan was scheduled to hold its sixth practice Tuesday, and will have seven more before concluding camp with an open scrimmage April 14.

Wilson, one of the 20 best high school safeties in the class of 2012 according to Rivals and Scout, is getting some much-needed seasoning in his first camp. That includes not only learning the 4-3 scheme, but also its terminology.

"The biggest thing high school kids, or new people, have to adjust to when they come to a new program, or from high school to college, in my opinion, is the language of what you call things," linebackers coach Mark Smith said of the early enrollees during a recent interview.

"They’ve each done things that are similar to what we’ve done (schematically), but they have to be able to understand what we call it, and how we line up."

Wilson and the early enrollees also are adjusting to college life, while their friends back home go through proms and graduations without them.

"Believe me, those kids will be homesick," Smith said. "Every time they’re looking down, I just tell them, ‘Miss your girlfriend? Well, don’t worry. She’s back home, hanging out with your best buddy, if you know what I mean.’"

Smith was joking about that last part. What isn't a joke is Wilson's potential.

He stands 6-foot-2, which matches junior Marvin Robinson and sophomore Josh Furman for tallest player in the secondary. He's taller than any of the starters.

In recent seasons, he perhaps could have competed for one of those jobs because of massive turnover and attrition in the secondary. But this year, the Wolverines have one of their more stable backfields in years, returning seven of their top eight players from a pass defense that ranked 16th nationally last season.

The only loss is cornerback-turned-safety Troy Woolfolk, who was outplayed by Blake Countess at cornerback and Thomas Gordon at free safety anyway.

Gordon is back at free safety, with all-Big Ten strong safety Jordan Kovacs alongside him as a fourth-year starter and probable team captain.

Kovacs has started 33 career games, which trails only defensive end Craig Roh (38) among returners. His experience could help Wilson's development.

"I think he's going to be a good ball player -- but at the same time, it's a bit early," Kovacs said of Wilson. "He's made quite a few plays so far. He's had the opportunity because we've been somewhat thin at safety (in spring).

"He's been getting a good look and he's been taking advantage of it. But like I said, he's still got a ways to go, he's still young. But I think he's got a bright future here."

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


Terry Star21

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

It's good to hear these stories, and the most important part is becoming clear - we're loaded with talent. Even though the coaches say we're not and we're alway looking, I take that as a good recruiting sign. Michigan football fills holes quickly, someone graduates/leaves and there is always a kid ready to work hard to fill that spot. Michigan appears to be stealing all the great players from sparty land and ohio pawntattooville, and it will only get better for us.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

Thanks Steve, I love hearing those stories about the leather helmet days.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

Dang Arizona, Sounds like you got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Lighten up francis.

Steve McQueen

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

lol yeah and not having facemasks sucked big time... but somehow we managed to survive, minus a few teeth and with broken noses.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

And more recently, the Brady Hoke days. Does 40-34 ring any bells? That's the most recent game of all. How about 11-2 and a BCS bowl victory, as well as finishing 5 GAMES ahead of the hapless bucks. That's as recent as it gets. Yeah, the leather helmet days were nice...kind of remind me of the 'ol Tressselgate days...


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

Michigan looks stacked at the safety position for years to come. Thomas Gordon will be back after Kovacs leaves next year. Furman is only a sophomore , Robinson, and Johnson only juniors. This year Gant and Clark are arriving along with Wilson. Next year Dylonte Thomas arrives- whose ranked even higher than Wilson. Go Blue.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Yup. I missed him leaving. Thanks


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

Do u mean Carvin Johnson? Cause he's gone.

Steve McQueen

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

The safety is the QB of the defense. You have to make the calls and adjustments back there. Its the most important secondary position. I may sound a little biased, since I used to play strong safety...back in the day... but its true. Coach Hoke is correct in his remarks about how difficult of a position, safety is to learn. It takes awhile for a young player to know the defenses, the calls and adjustments, and in particular play the angles in the passing game. A good safety, particularly in zone coverage or 2 deep....must know how to take good angles in both run and pass support. That is a skill that comes from experience. You also need to know how to hand-fight with WRs and TEs. With Jarrod's size and frame, he could be a good one for Michigan for the next few years. It is interesting that the same could be said for Robinson or Furman, but neither of them has caught on yet and made a significant impact on defense. Robinson is supposed to be a big hitter...and Furman is very very fast... it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Perhaps Jarrod will end just being the guy who plays the position best.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Very helpful insights. I'm hopeful that Wilson will eventually be one of the great Michigan safeties. In the meantime he's in a fortunate position of being able to enroll early and start the learning process ahead of his fellow freshmen. Also, this is the year Furman and Robinson need to step up and start making major contributions. They've been in the system for two years+ now. We're so lucky though to have a smart, experienced guy like Jordan Kovacs this year at safety. That will really be a boost to our defense.