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Fiesta Bowl Position Battles: Michigan DBs vs. TCU WRs

The Wolverines will look for ways to prevent big plays from Quentin Johnston, Derius Davis, and the Horned Frog receivers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Big 12 Championship - TCU vs Kansas State Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is the 6th in our series of position battle matchup previews for the Fiesta Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal, you can read all entries and other preview info HERE

Michigan Defensive Backs:

Depth Chart:

CB: Will Johnson (FR); Gemon Green (GR)
SS: Makari Page (JR); RJ Moten (JR)
FS: Rod Moore (JR); Quinten Johnson (SR)
N: Mike Sainristil (SR); Kody Jones (FR)
CB: DJ Turner (SR); German Green (GR)

The Wolverine defense is one of the top units in the nation, allowing under 200 passing yards per game and is 5th overall with just 10.31 yards per completion. The secondary allows few completions and those passes that are caught go for minimal distance. TCU likes to work quick hitters and WR screens with expectation that someone can turn it into a big play, but that’s the type of play that Michigan is best at stopping. Senior DJ Turner, a top-40 NFL prospect, is the top coverage man and the lone Wolverine DB to make an All-Big Ten team (2nd Coaches, 3rd Media), with 10 passes defensed, an interception, and a fumble return TD on the season.On the other side of the field and other end of the experience spectrum: true Freshman Will Johnson. Johnson is an elite prospect, a 5-Star out of Detroit got his first start in November and has lived up to that recruiting hype, dominating the last two games with 8 tackles vs. the monster WRs of Ohio State and two interceptions vs. Purdue to help win the Big Ten Championship, good for Freshman All-American honors from many outlets. Listed at 6’2”, 194 lbs, Johnson will look to shut down one side of the field, silencing one of TCU’s large wideouts. Safety Rod Moore is an all-around top performer, leading Michigan in interceptions and is the leading tackler from the Secondary (third on the team). Also keep an eye on the Green twins from DeSoto, TX - a pair of corners that are likely to see meaningful snaps, with Gemon coming off his best game, with 4 tackles vs. Purdue. While the Michigan pass defense has been elite all season, its last two games have been the two worst of the season, surrendering 715 pass yards, perhaps somewhat due to game script as both were runaway Blue victories.

TCU Wide Receivers:

Depth Chart:

WR-X: Quentin Johnston (JR); Blair Conwright (JR)
WR-H: Taye Barber (SR); Derius Davis (SR); Gunnar Henderson (SR)
WR-Y: Geor’Quarius Spivey (SR); D’Andre Rogers (R-FR); Chase Curtis (JR)
WR-Z: Savion Williams (JR): Blake Nowell (SO); Jordan Hudson (FR)

Quentin Johnston is one of the best receivers in all of college football and is the clear leader of the Horned Frog pass-catcher unit, with 53 catches for 903 yards and 5 TDs, including monster games against Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State. QJ is ranked by The Draft Network as the #11 overall prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft, with ideal size at the X (6’4”, 193 lbs), smooth route running, open-field moves to make defenders miss, and is a strong downfield blocker. Although he has some drops on tape, and a brutal fumble in the Big 12 Championship, Johnston will surely be one of the primary focuses of the Michigan Defense. Out wide on the other side is Savion Williams who had a breakout campaign in 2022, snagging 4 TDs and coming down with key highlight-reel catches all season as he uses his 6’5” 212 lbs frame to box out and jump over shorter CBs. The trio of Senior co-starters from the Slot present challenges to defenses with game-breaking speed, sure-handed catching, and a wealth of experience. Derius Davis has been clocked as one of the fastest players in the country and could take one to the house at any time - reaching 23.47 mph on his 80-yard TD vs. SMU, one of the fastest ball-carrier speeds recorded at any level of football. Geor’Quarius Spivey is the big body operating from the flex inside spot to set up some difficult matchups on a Nickel or LB. While Michigan has surrendered huge games to top-level WRs like Charlie Jones, Emeka Egbuka, and Marvin Harrison, Jr, the Wolverines have easily walked away with wins in those games. The Frogs will look to similarly get WRs loose in the secondary, while better controlling other aspects of the game.