Big Ten: Justin Turner
No team in America has been hit harder at key spots than Purdue, while other Big Ten squads like Wisconsin and Penn State also have lost key players.
But I can't remember a single position being ravaged more by both injuries and player departures than Michigan's cornerback spot.
The latest bit of bad news arrived Wednesday, as Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez confirmed that cornerback J.T. Floyd will miss the rest of the season after suffering a "freak" ankle injury in practice Tuesday. Floyd's ankle isn't broken, but he suffered ligament damage and needs surgery that will keep him sidelined for a while.
The redshirt sophomore has started all eight games for Michigan and ranks third on the team in tackles with 66. Floyd also has an interception, a forced fumble and four pass breakups.
Michigan's struggles in the secondary are no secret, and this certainly doesn't make things easier.
Rodriguez said true freshman Courtney Avery will start Saturday against Illinois opposite senior James Rogers, the Wolverines' only non-freshman cornerback still available.
"We're pretty young in the secondary," Rodriguez told reporters on a conference call. "We're getting younger."
Remember these names?
- Troy Woolfolk: Multiyear starter in the secondary suffered season-ending ankle/foot injury in camp.
- Justin Turner: Decorated recruit was granted his release from the team in August.
- Vlad Emilien: Young defensive back left the team in September.
- Demar Dorsey: The Big Ten's top-rated recruit signed with Michigan in February but was denied admission in June.
- Boubacar Cissoko: Blue chip recruit started the first four games in 2009, missed two games because of a suspension, returned for a game and then was dismissed for violating team rules. Cissoko is now in jail serving time for his role in multiple robberies.
- Donovan Warren: First-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 declared for the NFL as a junior but wasn't drafted in April.
- Adrian Witty: Signed with Michigan in 2009 but never made it to Ann Arbor because of academic issues.
Michigan's defense has more issues than just one position, but the Wolverines certainly would be better with some of these guys on the field right now.
Rodriguez also said Wednesday that receiver Martavious Odoms (foot) and safety Mike Williams (concussions) likely won't return this season. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (shoulder) will miss Saturday's game.
Not good for a team that desperately needs a win.
Michigan's exodus from the secondary continues as sophomore safety Vladimir Emilien is transferring. Coach Rich Rodriguez confirmed the departure Wednesday, as Emilien becomes the second Wolverines defensive back in a month to transfer (Justin Turner).
Emilien had been a bit disappointing so far at Michigan, given his recruiting hype. He appeared in five games last season, mostly on special teams, and played in the opener against Connecticut. He was listed as a backup free safety on this week's depth chart (page 17). But he was a body, and Michigan seems to be running out of them in the secondary.
Michigan really can't afford too many more departures at safety or cornerback. You can bet Notre Dame will be aggressive in attacking the young group Saturday in South Bend.
At least walk-on tryouts take place Friday at Schembechler Hall. If you think you can cover a Big Ten wide receiver, I'd suggest showing up.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Evans, a junior, started one game last fall and appeared in 10 contests but played mainly on special teams. He recorded four tackles in 2008.
"I've had three defensive coordinators in three years and I like the coaches but I'm not sure I fit this system," Evans said. "The coaches didn't understand but I have to do what's best for my future."
The Richmond, Va., native hopes to transfer to an ACC or SEC school.
Helmuth, also a junior, appeared in 14 games at Michigan, mostly on special teams and as a fullback in 2007. He played sparingly last fall.
Though Evans and Helmuth depart, Michigan got some good news as cornerback recruit J.T. Turner has been academically cleared and will practice with the team Thursday. Turner was ranked as the nation's 21st best athlete in the 2009 class by ESPN's Scouts Inc. and could contribute early in his career.
"He wasn't here for summer school so he didn't get as much done as some of the other freshmen, so he's going to be a little bit behind," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "But he's a skillful guy and with our lack of depth and the needs we have in the secondary, if he can learn quickly he can help us. But I probably won't know that for another week or two."
Michigan is still waiting on the eligibility status of safety recruit Adrian Witty. Rodriguez also could learn Thursday whether Jason Forcier, the one-time Wolverines quarterback and the older brother of freshman signal caller Tate Forcier, will be able to join the team this year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Most Big Ten teams have completed the bulk of their 2009 recruiting, and a few squads with smallish classes (Northwestern, Iowa) are essentially finished and looking ahead to 2010.
But national signing day on Wednesday will bring plenty of suspense for one Big Ten program.
Michigan is anxious to learn whether quarterback Denard Robinson and cornerback Adrian Witty, teammates at Deerfield Beach High School in Florida, choose to attend college in Ann Arbor. Robinson and Witty are scheduled to announce their college selections together on signing day.
According to the Detroit Free Press' Josh Helmholdt, Robinson and Witty "are good friends off the field and want to attend the same school together. Only Michigan and Kansas State have offered both. Florida is also a contender for Robinson, but this one looks like it will go in Michigan's favor."
Both Michigan and Illinois also remain in the mix for wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes, a Tennessee commit who appears extremely open to going elsewhere. Georgia is the latest team interested in landing Stokes, who visited Illinois last weekend.
Quarterback and cornerback both are key positions for Michigan heading into the 2009 season. The Wolverines had two quarterbacks decommit (Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver) and would love to have Robinson compete with Tate Forcier and holdovers Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan for the starting job.
Robinson ranks 102nd overall in the ESPNU 150.
Michigan loses starting corner Morgan Trent and could use another elite prep corner to join Justin Turner in the 2009 class.