We don't know exactly what Michigan's coaching staff is going to look like yet for sure, but reports are that Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach Mike Macdonald will at least be a part of the defensive coordinator picture. Regardless of who U-M's DC ends up being, he got some good news today when safety Brad Hawkins announced that he'll be returning to Michigan for his fifth year.
Because Hawkins is back, and because rising sophomore Makari Paige got some nice run at safety last year, I think a permanent position switch needs to happen and it needs to happen as soon as possible — rising junior Daxton Hill needs to be moved from safety to cornerback.
After watching receivers from Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin abuse Michigan's cornerbacks last year, it became clear that U-M needs better athletes at the position. Hill might just be the best athlete on the team, and he showed week in and week out that he can cover anyone. During the season, Don Brown even said that Hill might be the best cover man in the Big Ten. To be fair, Vincent Gray and Gemon Green had some better individual performances down the stretch, but an upgrade at one of the spots would only help Michigan's defense overall.
A starting secondary of Hill at one corner and either Gray, Green or Jalen Perry, or one of the youngsters Darion Green-Warren or Andre Seldon at corner, with Hawkins and Paige roaming the back end of the secondary sounds pretty solid. Hill can cover anyone on an island, Hawkins has a strong mix of run support, coverage and experience, while Paige showed that he can use his 6-3 frame to defend against both the run and the pass as well.
We can start to make more sense of what the defense will look like once we know exactly who will be running the unit and how, and also when we know who will be coaching the safeties with Bob Shoop all but gone. In regards to Hill, I don't think it matters. If he truly is your best cover guy, you put him at corner and on the other team's No. 1 or most explosive weapon. The move would shore up one of the corner spots and doesn't really affect the other three secondary spots in a negative way. If Hill remains at safety, either Hawkins or Paige is on the bench, while some combination of unproven corners hope to be much better than Green and Gray were last year.