FSU football knows Jabrill Peppers is the Michigan defender that garners headlines – but, all Michigan cornerbacks will present a tough challenge.
The achievements of Don Brown’s Michigan defense have been well-documented in the weeks leading up to the Orange Bowl. The Wolverines boast future NFL players at every level of the defense and are the number one defense in the country according to S&P+.
The name you hear the most is jack of all trades Jabrill Peppers. However, lock-down cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling could present the toughest challenge for the FSU football offense in Friday’s Orange Bowl.
Jourdan Lewis is the more prominent of the two outstanding Michigan cornerbacks. The senior cornerback has plenty of experience to fall back on as he has appeared in 47 games while accumulating 29 starts in his Michigan career. Lewis is an excellent cover corner that possesses all of the skills needed to lock down an entire side of the field.
Lewis was a finalist for the 2016 Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the player considered to be the best defensive back in the country. On top of being a finalist for the Thorpe award, a stellar 2016 season has seen Lewis land numerous All-American honors, including a spot on the Associated Press All-American First Team. Lewis has hauled in two interceptions in 2016, including an amazing highlight reel pick against Wisconsin
Not only is Lewis a great college corner, he also projects well at the next level. Lewis checked in as the number 28 overall pick in ESPN’s Todd McShay’s first mock draft for 2017.
Like Lewis, senior Channing Stribling has plenty of experience at cornerback where he has appeared in 46 games and accumulated 17 starts in his Michigan career.
While Stribling hasn’t quite received the same level of accolades as his counter-part Lewis, he is still recognized as a great cornerback. Stribling was named to the All-Big Ten Second team by the coaches and the media.
Naturally, as offenses attempted to avoid Lewis more opportunities arose for Stribling. Stribling took advantage of said opportunities by racking up four interceptions in 2016, including one that was returned for a pick six in Michigan’s opener against Hawaii. Stribling isn’t quite receiving the type of NFL draft recognition that Lewis is at the moment but I would expect his stock to rise throughout the pre-draft process.
Many expect Michigan to load the box against FSU football in an attempt to contain superstar Dalvin Cook. This means that the FSU offense could find themselves in advantageous passing situations early in the game.
I would expect Jimbo Fisher to attempt to set up the running game by passing on early downs, attempting to stretch the defense and force them to take some focus off of stopping Cook. If Deondre Francois and the FSU receivers can find early success, it will force Michigan to loosen up which will create room for Dalvin Cook to do what FSU fans have become accustomed to seeing him do, spring explosive plays.
While Jourdan Lewis is an outstanding cover corner, he doesn’t possess elite size for the position. With Lewis checking in at 5’10 176 lbs, I would expect FSU to try and get him matched up on their big target, 6’5 225 lb Auden Tate.
Tate and fellow sophomore receiver Nyqwan Murray emerged as weapons for the FSU offense down the stretch of the 2016 season. Along with junior Travis Rudolph, the three make up a formidable receiving corps for FSU football.
The Michigan cornerbacks present a tough challenge to the FSU offense, it will be interesting to see if the FSU passing game can rise to the occasion and open things up for their star running back in the Orange Bowl.