Michigan Wolverines: 2011 midseason team reports

Midseason report: Michigan

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
9:50
AM ET
Michigan Wolverines

Record: 6-0 (2-0 Big Ten)

The Brady Hoke era is off to a sparkling start, as Michigan reaches the halfway point with a perfect record and a team that can improve in several areas. Michigan has capitalized on a favorable early season schedule, sweeping its first five games at home before rallying for a win Saturday night at Northwestern. Although the competition level will increase in the second half, beginning Saturday at No. 23 Michigan State, Michigan is in good shape to challenge for the Legends division title. The biggest reason for optimism is a defense that has made strides after reaching historic lows the past three seasons. Michigan has allowed 10 points or fewer in four of its six wins, and it blanked Minnesota 58-0 to open Big Ten play. The defense is far from a finished product, but the influence of Hoke and coordinator Greg Mattison seems to be showing as the unit displays toughness and takeaway ability and adjusts well during the course of games. Michigan has reduced the major breakdowns that surfaced far too often in recent years. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has done a good job of blending his vision with the talent he inherited, namely star quarterback Denard Robinson. Although Robinson's passing has been shaky and likely will hurt Michigan in future games, his upside as a runner and a playmaker makes up for his miscues. Robinson's brilliant fourth quarter against Notre Dame helped secure a wild win, and he rebounded from three first-half interceptions in the Northwestern game with a huge second half.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Denard Robinson. Who else? The 2010 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year hasn't been quite as dominant as he was in the first half of last season, although he's not far off. Robinson leads the Big Ten in rushing (120 ypg) and total offense (308.3 ypg), ranking fourth and eighth nationally, respectively, in those categories. The junior has eclipsed 100 rush yards in four of six games and has recorded three or more touchdowns in each of the past five games. Robinson has to trim his interceptions (9), but he hasn't let the picks get him down.

Defensive MVP: Safety Jordan Kovacs. There isn't an obvious choice, and Mattison's coaching has been the most valuable addition for Michigan, but Kovacs has played a big role in the defense's first-half renaissance. The former walk-on has been effective on blitzes, recording a team-leading three sacks. He has four tackles for loss, an interception, a forced fumble and 36 total tackles. Linebackers Brandin Hawthorne and Jake Ryan, and defensive tackle Mike Martin merit mentions as well.

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