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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Depth chart analysis: Strong safety

By Michael Rothstein

Jordan Kovacs and Jibreel Black
Michigan will miss the leadership and on-field play of Jordan Kovacs (32).
Over the next few weeks, WolverineNation will look at every position on the Michigan roster and give a depth chart analysis of each position on the roster heading into the offseason.

Jordan Kovacs is gone from Michigan and with him leaves one of the most productive walk-ons in school history. The Wolverines lose a lot there, from a reliable player who was good against the run to one of the better leaders the school has had in recent seasons.

Replacing him, though, could be someone who has both experience and a high level of talent.

The starter: Redshirt senior Thomas Gordon. This is perhaps a more natural fit for the fifth-year senior, who was never going to pass Kovacs, a team leader, on the depth chart but was always talented enough to play. Gordon has always been a strong tackler, especially in space, and has the speed to be a really intriguing option for Greg Mattison as a strong safety. He also has experience playing closer to the line from his time as a sometimes-nickel back.

The depth: Senior Marvin Robinson, redshirt freshman Allen Gant, freshman Dymonte Thomas. Robinson is an intriguing option because he -- much like Josh Furman at free safety -- has always had the athleticism to play the spot but unlike Furman, actually saw time in the defensive backfield last season. While it would be unlikely he could unseat Gordon, if Michigan chooses to keep Gordon at free safety he would be the obvious contender for the starting position. Not much is known about Gant, who redshirted last season.

The question mark: How good will Gordon be against the run? All evidence thus far has pointed to his ability to play down in the box like Kovacs did a season ago. He has shown a knack for finding the ball throughout his career and is probably better supporting the run than he is against the pass although he has proven to be a decent pass defender in his career. Taking a leadership role will also be incorporated in this, especially if Michigan ends up using Joe Bolden at middle linebacker.

The bottom line: Gordon has the potential to be the second-best player on Michigan’s defense next season behind linebacker Jake Ryan and for the Wolverines to be successful, he’ll almost have to be. Even though he doesn’t have the best size, at 5-foot-11, for a safety, he has always been remarkably productive with back-to-back 60-plus tackle seasons and a combined three interceptions, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in his career.