Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo, Angelique Chengelis and Matt Charboneau look ahead to Week 4 for Michigan and Michigan State. Detroit News
Ann Arbor — It seems so long ago — when Michigan cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich was distressed with his group and made sure they read about it.
He was particularly tough in those final days of preseason camp on sophomore David Long, who seemed a sure pick in the spring to start at one of the corner spots opposite Lavert Hill this fall.
“Why is David Long not running with this?” Zordich wondered aloud. “We’ll figure it out.”
“I just kept pounding away,” Long said after practice Tuesday. “Didn’t let that discourage me. They’re supposed to coach me and be hard on me, so I progressed as the weeks have gone on.”
Long and Hill have been the starting corners through the eighth-ranked Wolverines’ first three games and are preparing for what likely will be the biggest test for the secondary when they travel to face Purdue in the Big Ten opener on Saturday.
Michigan is now ranked fifth nationally in total defense, allowing an average 208 yards a game. Defensive end Rashan Gary promised there’s more this defense can show, and collectively there’s a confidence in the group that never thought there would be a dropoff from last season.
“We’re young but that’s just more opportunity for us,” Long said. “We learned a lot from the older guys. Another year in this defense. We’re flying around. We’re really used to things, really comfortable with coach (Don) Brown. I definitely feel we had this potential.”
So far this season, Long has six tackles and one for loss. He had a career-best five tackles against Air Force last week.
Receiver Grant Perry was asked this week what makes Long a good corner. Perry sees similarities to two of Michigan’s corners last year, including All-American Jourdan Lewis.
“I see a lot of things in him I saw in Jourdan Lewis and (Channing) Stribling,” Perry said. “He got a full year under (his wings). They got to walk him through the ropes. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s physical. Everything you saw in Jourdan and Stribling, you see in David.”
That’s high praise considering everything Lewis accomplished last season.
Long said he and Lewis, now with the Dallas Cowboys, speak at least four times a week, maybe more. They speak after games and he considers Lewis a role model.
“Jourdan’s a great guy,” Long said. “He helped me a lot when I got here. Just relax and just playing. Just keeping a level head out there. Corner, you’re out there on an island and you can’t get worked up. Just stay calm on the outside and everything else will work itself out.”
Lewis offered calming advice to Long.
“He said you’ve got to focus,” Long said. “He said, ‘Whatever level you’re at, it’s just football. You can’t let the outside noise get a hold of you. You’re going to make mistakes, but you have to get in there and battle back.’”
It took some time for Long to transition to playing cornerback in college. He played in four games last season and contributed on special teams.
“When I first got here I was in here a lot with Jourdan Lewis as far as the technical stuff, but playing receiver (in high school) did help me,” Long said. “I was able to pick up schemes and stuff, so as far as the book stuff of football, I was able to break that stuff down quick as far as the coverages and everything.
“The stuff in the meeting rooms, he didn’t really have to help me with that. He was helping me with stuff on the field, getting me comfortable with that.”
And finally, he feels comfortable in a starting role.
Michigan at Purdue
Kickoff: 4 Saturday, Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Records: Michigan 3-0, Purdue 2-1
Line: Michigan by 10