Michigan Wolverines: Marvin Robinson

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- While Michigan’s offense has a bunch of questions surrounding who will play where and how much time freshmen might see, the Wolverines’ defense has other issues.

These, though, aren’t so bad.

Michigan has significant depth -- albeit some inexperience -- at every spot on its defense. This allows the Wolverines to come closer to reaching defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s goal of being able to rotate players at both defensive line and linebacker to keep them fresh for later in games and later on in the season.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The past two seasons have seen much of the same mantra when it came to the Michigan secondary. There would be Jordan Kovacs, the walk-on turned pro prospect who was the obvious leader of the secondary and almost the entire Wolverines defense.

Then there would be everyone else.

Not that they weren’t good players or didn’t make plays, but Kovacs had been such an unlikely story and such an obvious leader, everyone else was somewhat overshadowed.

[+] EnlargeThomas Gordon
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesThomas Gordon says he's comfortable sliding over to strong safety.
Thomas Gordon understood that to an extent. While Kovacs took many of the headlines, Gordon made nearly as many plays as an attacking safety with a penchant for forcing turnovers the past two seasons. Now, his role is shifting.

With Kovacs’ graduation and an ACL injury to linebacker Jake Ryan, Gordon is going to be the leader of Michigan’s defense, almost by default.

“I feel like guys tend to come to me for advice and stuff,” Gordon said. “I’m real natural at it.”

Natural or not, he wasn’t needed in that role in prior years. There was Kovacs, linebacker Kenny Demens and defensive end Craig Roh to handle those responsibilities. Gordon could be a voice, but he didn’t have to be the voice.

He could cede control of those things and just play. That is no longer an option, either in the secondary or on the defense as a whole. Michigan is replacing Kovacs and cornerback J.T. Floyd in the secondary, leaving Gordon as the most experienced defensive back on the roster by far.

“A lot of the time last year, they went back and forth, but Kovacs was definitely more of a vocal leader and made a lot of calls for us,” linebacker Desmond Morgan said. “Tom has really stepped up and he knows what’s going on for sure.

“He’s making calls first, before other guys are.”

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Michigan begins spring practice on Saturday with both some question marks and some major returning talent. Brady Hoke says of his team: "We're very young. But these guys have a lot of fight to them." There will also be a lot of fighting for starting jobs, beginning in a few days. I recently caught up with the third-year Wolverines coach for his thoughts on the approach of spring ball:

What are the main things you're looking for this spring?

Brady Hoke: Well, you know, we've got a lot of open spaces. Some guys graduated, some guys aren't with the program anymore and we've got a lot of young guys. I think we only have 11 starters back on both sides of the ball, so there's going to be a lot of great competition, which is exciting. I think the leadership of our seniors, they've done a nice job of holding everybody accountable. But when you get out there with the pads on, it's a little different than just running around in shorts.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsWith only 11 returning starters, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he's excited about the competition this spring.
Some of that competition will be on the offensive line, where you've got three open jobs on the interior. How do you see those battles right now?

BH: Well, I think the interior of both lines, there's going to be a lot of competition. We've got to find a center, and that's between [Jack] Miller and [Graham] Glasgow, and Joey Burzynski will try to figure that out a little bit, too. At the guard positions, Ben Braden is going to move down inside and start out at the left guard, but he'll have a lot of competition because Burzynski is back and so is Blake Bars. Kyle Kalis will move into the right side, and it will be interesting again with [Kyle] Bosch and some of the guys who have been here a little bit. I think it will be a really good competition at all three of those inside positions.

Having Taylor [Lewan] back is huge. I think it's great for him and great for Michigan. Mike Schofield has had a really good winter. He had some real bright spots during the course of last season, and I think his development is going to be something special.

You mentioned the defensive line, where you also lost a couple of veterans. How does that shape up?

BH: I think inside, we get Jibreel Black for another year and Quinton Washington. But once you get through that, there are a lot of young guys ... Willie Henry, Ondre Pipkins, Ryan Glasgow, Richard Ash and Chris Wormley are all guys who can either play the inside tackle or the strongside end. We'll find out the guys who are competitive. Tommy Strobel is another guy we think had a real good winter, and Keith Heitzman. So it's going to be fun to see them compete.

Does having so many young guys in key spots on the line make you nervous? Or do you have a lot of confidence in them because you recruited most of them?

BH: I think it makes you nervous if you think you may have recruited the wrong guys. But we like the work ethic. We like how they've come in to learn and with a lot of enthusiasm. I think there's some competitiveness that we need to keep pushing as a program. You know, we lost five games on the road. We've played pretty well at home but we've got to do better on the road and that's a mindset, a mentality that you have to compete through everything, on every down.

Devin Gardner goes into spring practice as your starting quarterback. How has he developed as a leader?

BH: I have been really excited about the progress he's made. I'm seeing that maturity that it takes and the leadership it takes and the competitiveness it takes to be the quarterback at Michigan. I think that's a real big part of how he's grown, and I think he's done a nice job with it. I'm liking the direction he's going, and hopefully he can just keep going and keep growing.

What about your running back position this spring, with Fitz Toussaint hurt and Derrick Green not there yet?

BH: You know, Fitz has come along pretty well. I don't think he'll do a lot of contact or anything like that, but I think he'll be cleared for a lot more drill work. That's gone real well. We've moved [Dennis] Norfleet back to running back and we're going to give him an opportunity. Dennis, he's a smaller guy, but he's a very competitive, very tough young man. Drake Johnson is a guy we redshirted a year ago, and we really liked the way he competed in scout situations. In the bowl practices, we did some scrimmages and gave him a lot of carries, and we're very excited about what he has to offer.

Thomas Rawls is coming back, and I think he learned a lot last year about the vision he needs to play with, and I like how he's competed through the [winter]. And Justice Hayes is a guy who gives you a little bit different look because of how he can get on the perimeter. He did some things in a couple of games last year, but now I think he'll have a big stage to prove himself more this spring. And he's a bigger guy now, he's 190-something pounds, so he's a little bigger.

[+] EnlargeDrew Dileo
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsMichigan coach Brady Hoke said that he's pleased by more than just the on-field success of WRs Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon.
You have Jeremy Gallon back at receiver, but you lost Roy Roundtree. You sounded excited about some of the younger guys there during bowl prep. Is spring their time to step up now?

BH: Yeah, I think so. First of all, I think the leadership with Gallon and Drew Dileo, they've done a really nice job being leaders at that position. They're not big guys, but they have a real spirit for the game and really do a nice job of working and leading. We have Amara Darboh, who played a little last year, and Jehu Chesson, who we redshirted a year ago. And I think Jeremy Jackson has had a very good winter; we're very excited about some of the progress he's made. Joe Reynolds is a guy who walked on here, and he's done a very nice job. And Bo Dever, his dad played here and he walked on. I think that during the course of the spring, we'll be in pretty good shape there. I think as we keep going, we'll keep improving at that position.

Linebacker was a strength for you last year and looks to be so again. Do you see some good competition there this spring, particularly at the weakside spot?

BH: Yeah, I think with Desmond Morgan and James Ross, there's going to be great competition. Joe Bolden and Royce Jenkins-Stone and Mike Jones are all guys who are very competitive, and I think the three young guys coming in are going to be guys who will give us a lot of good competition and a lot of good depth. Kaleb Ringer is coming back from injury, so we'll see what he can give us. At the sam linebacker, Jake [Ryan] is coming back, and we really like what Cam Gordon has done during the winter. So I think we feel a little stronger at that position.

How do you replace what Jordan Kovacs gave you in the secondary?

BH: I don't know if you ever replace that kind of leadership, but I really think Thomas Gordon, he's played a lot of football here, and it's time for him to demonstrate the leadership. And he's doing that. Because of the number of snaps and everything he's done, he's really fallen into his own a little bit. Courtney Avery has played a lot of football, and whether he's a corner a nickel or wherever, he's got to give us great leadership and great reps. Blake Countess is getting healthier; he'll do some things during the spring. Josh Furman, I think, has come on.

We've got to see where Terry Richardson is and where Marvin Robinson is. Both those guys have played a number of snaps. We've got Raymon Taylor back, who I think started every game for us last year, we're excited about his development. Dymonte Thomas is a guy who's going to compete, and he'll pressure some guys. Jarrod Wilson is another guy who played some last year for us. Ross Douglas is here early. Jeremy Clark is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound safety we redshirted a year ago, and it's going to be a big spring for him to make some moves.

So I think we may have more personnel back there. And even more in the fall when Channing Stribling gets in, and Reon Dawson gets in and Jourdan Lewis. I think it's going to add something to our secondary.

Finally, what has your message been to the team this offseason after last year's 8-5 season?

BH: Well, our message has been, we haven't met the expectations at Michigan. That's something that as a football community… that we really feel that we have to do a much better job in all areas, from the coaching aspect of it, from learning and playing with the competitiveness we want to have, from every player at every position playing with the intensity we want to play with. It's about having a mindset and a mentality of how we want to play the game. We make no excuses, but at the same time, we know we have a lot we can do to play better football.

Depth chart analysis: Strong safety 

January, 23, 2013
Jordan Kovacs and Jibreel BlackLeon Halip/Getty ImagesMichigan 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.

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WolverineNation Mailbag 

December, 26, 2012
Joe BoldenLon Horwedel/Icon SMIJake Ryan (47) and Joe Bolden (35) are part of an LB unit that will be among the B1G's best in 2013.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s football season will have concluded a week from today, the first full day of Michigan A.D.

And yes, life After Denard [Robinson] will look markedly different for the Wolverines, one of the topics hit on in this week’s WolverineNation Mailbag.

Have questions for the Mailbag? Send them to @chanteljennings on Twitter or jenningsespn@gmail.com. Now, on to what you want to know:

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. --- During the bye week, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said junior wide receiver Devin Gardner was fine after sliding into a structure during a play at Notre Dame Stadium two weeks ago. But on Saturday night following the Wolverines' 44-13 victory at Purdue, Gardner addressed the issue himself.

"I hit the ground and my shoulder felt really weird," Gardner said. "I didn't really feel good about it. And then I was advised to probably stay down. I'm fine."

Against Purdue, Gardner caught two passes, accounting for 31 yards and one touchdown -- the only passing touchdown of the game.

"It's OK; I'm fine," Gardner said. "I played today and I felt like I played, blocked and did everything that receivers should do."

Other injuries: Senior safety Jordan Kovacs wore a brace on his right knee throughout the Purdue game, though he said he was fine. … Brandon Moore (MCL), Stephen Hopkins (hamstring) and Richard Ash (undisclosed) didn't make the trip to Purdue. … Brennen Beyer (knee) and Marvin Robinson (undisclosed), who were recently held out of games, both made the trip and played.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan might be 2-2 entering the Big Ten and have looked somewhat shaky doing so against elite competition, but second-year Wolverines coach Brady Hoke made one thing clear Tuesday.

His team’s goals have not changed. It is still to win the Big Ten.

“I think that nothing has changed,” Hoke said. “I like our team.”

He also happens to be correct. While Michigan learned a lot about itself during the non-conference season -- most critically how far the Wolverines are from elite -- there are also areas Michigan now knows are strengths and areas to focus on this week with no game Saturday.

Due to that, Michigan will practice Thursday, Friday morning and then Sunday, giving his team Wednesday and Saturday off. In those practices, he expects to do “a lot of competition stuff,” which will include 1-on-1 drills and the ability to try and keep game speed intact.

All of it is still geared toward a singular goal.

“Definitely, time to get some reps and we have get our heads on straight,” Michigan safety Thomas Gordon said. “We can still smell roses at the end of the season. That’s our focus and what we’re trying to get to.”

Michigan begins that push next Saturday at Purdue.

Not a fan of injury reports

Considering the way Hoke handles questions about injuries, it is no surprise the second-year coach would not be in favor of a mandated injury report either throughout the Big Ten or college football.

“What are you, trying to help the gamblers,” Hoke said. “That’s what basically, it’s nobody’s business but ours.”

Michigan’s previous coach, Rich Rodriguez, has been an advocate of injury reports to limit questions about injuries during press conferences. The issue has become especially big in the Pac-12, where there have been questions about going to an NFL-style report.

Of Michigan’s current injuries, Hoke said receiver Devin Gardner should not miss any time following a late-game injury Saturday. Safety Marvin Robinson, who didn’t travel Saturday, was actually hurt against UMass, practiced part of last week but determined Wednesday he was unable to play.

When asked what Robinson had hurt, Hoke just said “body.”

Hopkins, Beyer don't make trip

September, 22, 2012
Michigan’s dress list is out and there are some interesting inactives for the Notre Dame game.

Fullback Stephen Hopkins and defensive end Brennen Beyer both were among those who did not make the trip, according to the dress list.

The others who did not travel, according to the list:
  • WR Bo Dever
  • S Marvin Robinson
  • QB Brian Cleary
  • DB Allen Gant
  • QB Alex Swieca
  • CB Blake Countess
  • S Charlie Zeller
  • WR Jonathan Keizer
  • RB Drake Johnson
  • S Andrew Offerdahl
  • DB Jeremy Clark
  • DB AJ Pearson
  • CB Al Backey
  • TE Nate Allspach
  • LB Antonio Poole
  • DT Kenny Wilkins
  • TE Dylan Esterline
  • DE Chris Wormley
  • K Seth Broekhuizen
  • LB Kaleb Ringer
  • DE Tom Strobel
  • OL Chris Bryant
  • DE Tom Strobel
  • LB Mark Lawson
  • OL Blake Bars
  • OL Ben Pliska
  • OL Kyle Kalis
  • DT Willie Henry
  • OL Erik Magnuson
  • OL Dan Gibbs
  • WR Jehu Chesson
  • TE Brandon Moore
  • K/P Kenneth Allen
  • TE David Mitropoulous-Rundus
  • TE Chris Eddins
  • TE Jordan Paskorz
  • K Anthony Capatina
  • TE Michael Jocz
  • DL Ryan Glasgow
  • DE Matthew Godin
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Everything, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges explained, was linked. To understand why junior Devin Gardner could spend some time at receiver, he had to see redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy develop enough as a quarterback just in case.

The just-in-case turned into a viable option for Michigan, so it allowed Borges to use some of his creativity to free up one of the better athletes on his team to go play a new position.

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WolverineNation Mailbag 

August, 8, 2012
Football season has officially started as Michigan began camp for this season Monday in preparation for its season-opening matchup with defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 1.

So who stands out in the secondary? Among the freshmen? These questions and more inhabit this week’s WolverineNation Mailbag. Remember, the Mailbag is only as strong as the questions you ask, so send ones for next week to jenningsespn@gmail.com or @chanteljennings on Twitter.

On to your questions:

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Safety Josh Furman suspended 

April, 9, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Safety Josh Furman has been suspended from the Michigan football team for undisclosed reasons, a Michigan spokesman confirmed Monday.

Furman, a redshirt sophomore from Annapolis, Md., played mostly on special teams last season and was one of Michigan’s primary gunners on punt coverage. He was expected to compete for a spot in the two-deep at safety this spring along with returning starters Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon, reserve Marvin Robinson and early enrollee freshman Jarrod Wilson.

Furman made 10 tackles last season, including a career-high three stops against Minnesota.

Michigan declined to release any details about the suspension. When asked about Furman on Thursday, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison referred the question to head coach Brady Hoke, who speaks Tuesday on a teleconference.

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MichiganAP Photo/Gerald HerbertStarting 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.

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Michigan coach Brady Hoke addressed the media one final time before he heads to Ohio for the holidays -- he's from there -- and before his team heads to New Orleans to play Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

There were no huge bombshells out of the 16-minute chat -- he declined to discuss sanctions at Ohio State, for instance -- but still a lot of interesting things to say before his team goes down south.

As always in convenient bullet form, the highlights:

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Michigan-Illinois Dress List Notes 

November, 12, 2011
Just received the dress list for Michigan-Illinois. Some notes from the travel roster:

  • G Ricky Barnum is on the list. He missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury.
  • Among those not on the list: S Marvin Robinson, QB Jack Kennedy, K Seth Broekhuizen, WR Jerald Robinson.

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Dress list notes for Michigan-Iowa 

November, 5, 2011
Michigan released its dress list for Michigan-Iowa and here's some interesting notes:

  • Safety Jordan Kovacs made the trip, is dressed and is warming up. He's got a big blue brace or wrap on his left knee.
  • Guard Ricky Barnum didn't make the trip. Neither did safety Marvin Robinson.
  • Who did make the trip? Freshman cornerback Delonte Hollowell, offensive lineman Jack Miller and linebacker Brandon Herron -- the Week 1 national defensive player of the week who hasn't been heard from since.

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Michigan C Cites Concussions In Decision To Quit
Joe Schad discusses how concussions and a concern over long-term health have helped Michigan center Jack Miller decide not to play football his senior year.