Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Michigan doing exactly what it needed to in transfer portal: Replenish a suddenly-depleted secondary

When Michigan in March lost safety Rod Moore to the entirety of the 2024 season, it was a crushing blow — mostly for Moore, but also for a secondary that was suddenly reeling.

Coming off its national championship, the secondary had seemed like it’d be a strength for Michigan in 2024. Yes, the defense’s Swiss Army Knife, Mike Sainristil, would depart for the NFL. But the core of a group that ranked third nationally in opposing passer rating projected to return with junior cornerback Will Johnson alongside Moore, Makari Paige and Keon Sabb at safety. That foursome gave new Michigan defensive backs coach Lamar Morgan something to build around. 

Just a few months after the national title game, 50% of that group suddenly was out of commission, though. Moore was injured and Sabb had transferred to Alabama

While Johnson and Paige were cornerstone pieces, the Wolverines needed to turn toward transfer portal reinforcements to bolster the secondary. And they’ve succeeded in doing just that. 

Michigan scored its second commitment out of the transfer portal in a little over twelve hours on Friday morning when three-star safety and Louisville transfer Wesley Walker committed to Michigan and Morgan. Walker started for Tennessee last season and had transferred to Louisville over the offseason. The Wolverines were able to hold off LSU and USC among others to reel in Walker, who participated in spring ball with the Cardinals. He took his trip to Ann Arbor last week and came away impressed. 

The addition of Walker gives Michigan another defensive back addition via the portal after the Wolverines added FCS All-American cornerback Aamir Hall on Thursday evening. A product of Albany, Hall is viewed by the staff as a perfect fit for the role Josh Wallace, himself a transfer from Mass, occupied a season ago. 

The staff is expected to continue to pursue another defensive back with former in-state star and Michigan State safety Jaden Mangham at the top of the list. 

More: Latest VIP info from 247Sports on Michigan’s continued pursuit of portal defensive backs

Sophomores DJ Waller and Jyaire Hill showed promise as true freshmen last season. They’ll battle for the cornerback spot opposite Johnson that Wallace occupied last year. Senior Ja’Den McBurrows, one of the better downhill tacklers on Michigan’s roster, figures to get the first shot at Sainristil’s job. 

Safety is also not without internal options. Sophomore Brandyn Hillman forced his way onto the field last year as a true freshman, playing in nine games and showing great promise. 

The hit-rate on spring transfers isn’t great, as they miss valuable practices and scrimmages and also need time to acclimate during the summer. But at least with the recent additions of Walker and Hall, Michigan’s secondary no longer looks like a unit relying solely on hopeful projections instead of proven production.

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