Just in:How Michigan’s secondary became deep and talented via transfer portal…Read more.

In the day and age where the transfer portal can drastically alter rosters each and every year, the portal can be quite beneficial for a program like Michigan coming off a national championship.

One area of needed depth on Michigan’s roster came at secondary after losing players due to injury, the portal, and the NFL Draft.

Mike Sainristil and Josh Wallace left for the NFL. Rod Moore tore his ACL during spring practices. Keon Sabb transferred to Alabama, D.J. Waller to Kentucky, and Cam Calhoun to Utah.

Depth via the transfer portal was necessary despite Michigan having good talent in the secondary. Will Johnson is one of the best corners in the nation, Michigan’s bringing back safeties with experience in Makari Paige and Quinten Johnson, and they also have players in the secondary with promise such as Ja’Den McBurrows, Jyaire Hill, and Zeke Berry, among others.

Michigan got on a hot streak last week and landed four transfer portal targets — Albany corner Aamir Hall, Tennessee safety Wesley Walker, Michigan State safety Jaden Mangham, and UNLV corner Ricky Johnson.

2024 Stats

  • Hall: 57 tackles, five interceptions, fifteen pass breakups
  • Walker: 53 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two pass breakups
  • Mangham: 53 tackles, four interceptions
  • Johnson: 36 tackles, seven pass breakup.
  • The hope is these four players won’t just be depth, they’ll be key contributors. Joining a team coming off a championship and in a position to make another run to the College Football Playoff, a team that just had 13 players drafted, were factors Hall, Walker, Mangham, and Johnson couldn’t pass up.

“The opportunity to come in and compete,” Ricky Johnson said about why he committed to Michigan. “And be an impact player for this team.”

Aamir Hall noticed how much success Josh Wallace had at Michigan last season after transferring from UMass (ranked No. 19 out of 226 corners in PFF’s coverage grade).

“He was able to really make a name for himself and probably put himself in a position to play in the NFL by coming to Michigan,” Hall said. “That’s something I could see myself doing.”

Michigan bolstered their secondary by adding depth that has experience. All four of the portal transfers were starters for their respective teams. While the degree of success these players have will vary for the Wolverines, the chances of one or two of these players being a difference maker in 2024 seem high.

Notable metrics

  • Per PFF, Walker allowed zero touchdowns on 349 coverage snaps in 2023.
  • Against Mangham, quarterbacks completed 10 of 16 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions
  • Against Hall, quarterbacks completed 62 of 100 passes for 641 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions with an NFL passer rating of 73.
  • Johnson struggled in coverage last season and had better PFF grades as a pass-rusher and run-stopper with grades of 69.8 and 70.9.
  • Michigan had the No. 1 overall defense and No. 2 passing defense last season, and while they may have a new defensive coordinator in Wink Martindale, the expectation of having an elite defense remains the same. The secondary is no longer a concern and has talent from top to bottom. The same can be said at every other position on Michigan’s defense, a unit that should be fun to watch in 2024.

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