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Saturday, March 10, 2012
Spring position preview: Safeties

By Michael Rothstein

Starting safeties Jordan Kovacs (32) and Thomas Gordon both return for Michigan.
He missed the team at first. Then he made it, eventually started and now, the story of former walk-on turned leader Jordan Kovacs is very well known.

But now, Kovacs has only one year left at Michigan and he'll be looked at as a stabilizing force on a defense that returns a lot of starters and contributors, but few of its leaders.

This is where Kovacs, who could finish his college career among the best tacklers in Michigan history, now stands. He is likely going to be the leader on the Wolverines defense next season.

What Michigan has back: The Wolverines start with Kovacs, who has a knack for big plays and is very good in run support. He also provides calm and stability out there as he, along with middle linebacker Kenny Demens, will be the most veteran defensive players out there. Next to Kovacs could end up being one of the most contested battles of the spring. Thomas Gordon is the incumbent and likely going to be given every chance to hold on to his job, especially with his knack for making big plays at critical times. But he'll be pushed by Marvin Robinson, Josh Furman and early enrollee Jarrod Wilson -- all of whom can play. The good news there is Michigan has a lot of depth at the position, much like at cornerback.

What Michigan needs to accomplish this spring: Wilson has the potential to be a great player for Michigan in the future, so one of the things the Wolverines can do is work with Wilson to catch him up as an early enrollee. Beyond that, Michigan's biggest task might be starting to add more complex schemes to the entire defensive backfield to disguise coverages more and also potentially allow shifts for certain corners to be lined up on certain wide receivers. A lot of that has to do with comfort at safety/cornerback tandems as well.

Be pleased if: Reports of Wilson's progress are good. This is a position where each of the candidates offers varying attributes: Gordon's playmaking ability vs. Kovacs' stability vs. Robinson's size vs. Furman's speed vs. Wilson's potential.

Be concerned if: Kovacs gets injured. That might sound like a no-brainer, but a Michigan defense without Kovacs this season would be the biggest loss the Wolverines could have save for a Denard Robinson injury. Otherwise, much like cornerback, this is a position in which Michigan should have confidence.

Position grade: Leader? Check. Talent? Check. Speed? Check. Depth? Check. Much like cornerback, safety has turned into a position of strength for Michigan. The secondary has a chance to be the Wolverines' best unit. Grade: A