Safety Vlad Emilien out to prove Michigan 'can win with me'
Lon Horwedel | Ann Arbor.com
It wasn’t exactly the breakout spring Vladimir Emilien had in mind - a knee injury and Cam Gordon’s emergence at free safety made sure of that.
But Emilien walked away from Michigan’s spring game Saturday “90 percent” healthy and confident better days are ahead.
“Everything’s slowed down to me now,” Emilien said. “I’m playing just like I was in high school. Last year, everything was going fast for me. This year, everything’s slowed down. I’m feeling a little confident. I think I can play with the big leagues.”
Penciled in as Michigan’s starting free safety at the start of spring practice, Emilien sprained his left knee trying to tackle Tate Forcier on the first day of pads.
He missed two weeks, fell behind Gordon on the depth chart, and returned for the Wolverines’ final two scrimmages with a hulking brace on his left knee.
Though he lost valuable developmental time, Emilien said he didn’t miss a beat in Michigan’s defense.
“This knee injury is not going to stop me,” he said. “I’m trying to be the best on the field. That’s all it is to me.”
Emilien played sparingly last year as a true freshman, though his five games of mop-up and special-teams duty were enough to burn his redshirt.
On Saturday, he backed up Gordon at free safety, playing mostly with the second-team defense. He made an open-field tackle on receiver Roy Roundtree on the scrimmage’s opening drive, but got beat by Roundtree for a 97-yard touchdown pass from Denard Robinson later in the day.
“I gave him a treat,” Emilien said. “I read it wrong.”
Assuming he stays healthy, Emilien, who tore the ACL in his right knee as a high school senior, should settle somewhere in the playing group this fall.
Michigan's revamped secondary will break in at least three new starters, and Emilien is still hoping to earn one of the jobs.
“I got to work my way back up,” he said. “I got to prove to (coaches) that I’m the best. I got to prove to (coaches) that I’m worthy of playing, you can win with me.”
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.