Spring surprise Cam Gordon wants to perfect his craft at safety
Ask anyone associated with Michigan’s football program to name their breakout players of the spring and one name is at the top of the list: Cam Gordon.
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“He’s really surprised me,” receiver Roy Roundtree said after Michigan’s April 17 spring game. “He’s a hard worker. He’s going to hit you. The other day we had a practice where I stiff-armed him to the ground and I told him, ‘I’m not no young boy out here. I’m going to play against you like I’m playing in a game.’ And then the second play I caught a reverse and he came and hit me so hard, I was like, ‘OK, you got me back.’ So he never lets up.”
But considering the state of Michigan’s secondary - the Wolverines welcome three new starters to a defensive backfield that bordered on decrepit last year, two who’ve never played in a college game (Gordon and fellow safety Thomas Gordon, no relation) - he might be the most important.
A converted receiver who redshirted last year, Gordon switched positions at the behest of his coaches this winter. He opened spring practice third on the depth chart at free safety, but quickly took hold of the job after knee injuries sidelined both Vlad Emilien and Jared Van Slyke a week into spring.
Teammates praised his physical play, and coaches lauded his instincts.
“Cam Gordon has been really consistent all spring,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. We’re “really getting some confidence with him.”
At 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, Gordon’s physical presence is no surprise. He was one of Michigan’s most aggressive special-teams players on the scout team last year, turning heads with an array of big hits and bone-crushing blocks.
As a former receiver, no one doubted his ball skills, either, though Gordon said his backpedal is still a work in progress.
“I got to make it more natural, everything more natural,” he said. “They say my instincts (are) natural, but I really want to be a defensive back. Perfect my craft, that’s what I say.”
This summer, Gordon plans to spend his time doing just that. He played just one season of safety in high school, as a senior at Inkster after playing linebacker his junior year at Melvindale, and knows he's speeding through a steep learning curve in order to get ready for his debut this fall.
"I feel like the coaches, they just like the way I swarm to the ball and they just like the intensity," Gordon said. "They feel like having me on the field, I help the team as far as the energy. My opinion on that, I feel like I did good in spring ball, could have been better. Still got things to learn. Hopefully, when camp comes around with more practices I can keep on moving forward."
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.