Perhaps the most pleasant surprise from Michigan's spring practice was the emergence of freshman safety Vladimir Emilien. It's no secret that Michigan secondary was possibly the most under-performing part of the team last year and must improve in 2009, Emilien could be the key to improving.
Emilien burst onto the scene picking up offers from Ohio State, Minnesota, and Illinois in the first month following signing day. He then made a trip to Columbus for the Buckeyes spring game and afterwards named them his leader.
Michigan eventually Michigan followed through with an offer in May and it immediately became a Michigan-Ohio State battle with the Buckeyes holding a slight edge throughout the summer.
Emilien eventually narrowed his list to six schools but excluded Michigan. But in August Emilien suffered a major injury, a torn ACL. Some schools ended their relationship but many continued including OSU, Michigan, Wake Forest, Stanford, and Wisconsin.
Ohio State eventually fell off his list as they had already received commitments from a handful of defensive-backs and in November when Emilien decided it was between Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford.
Speed- This was one thing Vlad thought he could bring to the Big Ten that teams weren't used to seeing. Emilien hails from the talent-rich state of Florida, also known for producing the fastest prospects in the nation.
Knowledge- Emilien is a very smart person both on and off the field, evident by his 3.8 gpa. On the field Emilien is a very smart player, never playing too close to the line to where receivers can blow past him.
Health- The biggest thing coaches will be watching this summer during workouts and this fall during practices is if that torn ACL has hurt Emilien's play at all. He supposedly is only 85 percent so far and getting better everyday but he did have surgery on it so it is something to watch.
Emilien appears to be the front-runner for one of the two safety spots. He surprised everyone this spring by putting on some of the better performances by DBs. Unless Justin Turner can come in for practices this fall and just dominate it appears that Emilien should be starting when the season rolls around.