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Posted on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 : 3:01 p.m.

Safety Vlad Emilien out to prove Michigan 'can win with me'

By Dave Birkett


Michigan freshman safety Vladimir Emilien snares a pass during a practice before the start of the 2009 season.

Lon Horwedel | Ann

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 He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 11:36 a.m.

Vlad had a big reputation in Fla HS but injuries have slowed him down.I have never seen so many injuries in all my years of watching UM football.Last year injuries killed us. The list is a mile long.It is very difficult to win when key players like Molk and Minor go down not to mention Forcier who played hurt most of the year.If we can stay healthy,we will be much better than last year.This points out the need for depth.To quote a famous hockey announcer Danny Galivan, speaking of the Montreal Canadians in the late 50's "for every injury as star is born".That's called depth.

Terry Star21

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Stopped back to read comments on Mr. Birketts great article.... I really think people enjoyed it, and just chose not to comment. This truly is fine writing, and we see a bit of the inner person here of Vlad - where else can the faithful get that. I think the idea of the UM Football page, was exactly what this article was about. However, the Cissoko (larceny) article has garnered 32 posts, and the spring game 'Parking Violations' article 23 - both, absolutely nothing to do with this current coach, team and season. I know many people were critical about Mr. Birkett's writings on the NCAA probe earlier in February (I was one, but his coverage/writings have changed me over), but it seems to be what a majority want to hear - or at least respond to. I think my point being, I really believe people enjoy these feel good stories - just don't criticize the writers here for coverage on articles you don't like. If you read the full articles, then go to another site on the article - you will find we have the best reporters. I look forward in the coming months to more 'individual' student athlete articles on our fine Michigan team.

Josh Ditton

Tue, Apr 20, 2010 : 4:43 p.m.

That's a good attitude to have. Hope it shows on the field next year.

Terry Star21

Tue, Apr 20, 2010 : 2:30 p.m.

Great story Mr. Birkett... I love these individual stories you do, so touching - gives us more of a feeling for the inner self of some of these great student athletes. That very last paragraph sums up what RichRod is teaching, ' my way back...prove to coaches...I'm worthy... (and the the best) - You Can Win With Me...'! That is most excellent of what we want to hear. RichRod - greatest coach for sure.....Birkett - AP worthy article, would indure