Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview Week 2 games: Michigan vs. Western Michigan and Michigan State vs. Arizona State. The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Ambry Thomas, Michigan’s reserve cornerback and kick returner who dazzled in the season opener with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, is considered to be among the fastest players on the team, if not the fastest.
Running back Karan Higdon raved about Thomas’ speed during Big Ten media days, saying he is the fastest player on the team and has posted a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. Receiver Nico Collins’ face brightened this week when asked about Thomas’ speed as he reiterated what Higdon said.
Last fall, Thomas told reporters he couldn’t reveal specifics but said they were working on a “little something” for him because coaches had seen what he can do on kick returns.
“I’m trying to go both ways,” Thomas said last season. “I’m a playmaker, like the ball in my hands. I feel like I can help this team no matter where I’m at on the field.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh this week didn’t rule out moving Thomas to offense. He played receiver in high school and he could run the jet sweep. Michigan plays its home opener Saturday against Western Michigan at Michigan Stadium.
“We consider all things,” Harbaugh said when asked if someone like Thomas could be moved around to shore up certain spots.
Michigan receivers coach Jim McElwain was asked this week if Thomas has worked with the position group.
“Yeah, he’s worked before,” he said.
“Let’s go pin that on the Western board,” McElwain said, laughing as he pretended to post something on a board.
It certainly isn’t unusual to have a defensive player play both ways and on special teams.
“Everywhere we’ve been, if there’s a guy with a skill set that can help you it doesn’t matter what position they are,” McElwain said. “(Harbaugh has) done it before where they put six or seven O-linemen in there …. It’s definitely something that can happen with anybody. Precedence has been set. They did it with a pretty decent guy by the name of — was it (Jabrill) Peppers — who did some things.”
Cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich said he doesn’t have a say in where Thomas plays.
“That’s out of my court. Out of my court,” Zordich said, laughing. “If Coach Harbaugh wants to take him, he can take him.”
McElwain stays in lane
McElwain was Florida’s head coach last season and is now coaching receivers at Michigan. Harbaugh has spoken this offseason about the collaborative effort on offense when explaining why he had not named an offensive coordinator.
This week, McElwain was asked his input in the offense.
“I just try to stay out of the way and coach our guys,” he said.
For his part, McElwain said he has enjoyed focusing on coaching one position.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “We’ve got a really good group of guys, we’ve got a good staff to work with offensively and defensively. Learn every day from the things coach implements. What makes it fun is you’ve got an eager group of wide receivers in that room and they come in every day to get better.”
He said injured receiver Tarik Black, who broke his right foot a week before the first game, has been in meetings with the receivers.
“When he was getting his stuff done, I missed his smile,” McElwain said. “He’s got a great smile. When he wheels into the room now, that same smile is something that’s important to all of us.”
Re-evaluate targeting call
Michigan safety Josh Metellus was ejected from the opener at Notre Dame after a targeting call early in the game.
Zordich, a longtime NFL veteran, said how the penalty is evaluated should be reexamined.
“I think the way it’s being called probably needs to be looked at, as well as we’ve got to police and not let our players do it,” he said. “But I think the way it’s being called has to be looked at, too.”
Some could argue Metellus’ shoulder made contact with the helmet but that still qualifies in the spirit of the rule.
"We watch film on things of that nature to remind the guys of those hits, those helmet-to-helmet," Zordich said. "Was it helmet-to-helmet? I don't know. Looked like a shoulder to me. You've got to be smart. The play was made. Just play the ball in the air rather than try to drop the shoulder on a guy."
Western Michigan at Michigan
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Records: Both teams 0-1
Line: Michigan by 27.5