|Jordan Kovacs has crazy eyes|
Name: Jordan Kovacs
Weight: 197 lbs.
High school: Clay High School in Curtice, OH
Position: Strong safety
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #32
Last year: I ranked Kovacs #21 and said he would start at bandit and make 70 tackles. He had 116 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass breakup.
Some might look at Kovacs’ 116 tackles in 2010 and think “Wow, he’s really good.” Others might say, “Wow, the defensive front seven must have sucked for a safety to make that many tackles.” The truthfulness of those statements is “sort of” and “yep.” Michigan’s defense was atrocious last season, and it all started with the front seven. Between linemen who couldn’t get any penetration, poor linebacker play, youthfulness, and a shoddy defensive philosophy, Kovacs found himself cleaning up the mess more often than anyone wanted (except opposing offensive coordinators). He had 10+ tackles in six games last season, including a 17-tackle effort in the 37-7 loss (since wiped from OSU history) to the Buckeyes. Unlike what we’re used to seeing at Michigan from guys like Charles Woodson, Brandon Graham, Shawn Crable, and others, Kovacs’ most amazing plays don’t stem from superior athleticism. Rather than a burst of speed or a crushingly hard hit, there’s Kovacs instantly reading a play action pass and sticking to his TE coverage. There’s Kovacs reading a deep pass from an Indiana quarterback and jumping in the way to knock it down. There’s Kovacs watching the quarterback’s eyes and jumping in front of a pass from the Ohio State quarterback before the end of the half.
We all love Kovacs for those plays and his 116 tackles, despite not being very big or very fast. And yet . . . we yearn for more. I couldn’t help but lament his lack of speed when he intercepted OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor at the end of the half and returned it only 41 yards when it looked as if most defensive backs with decent speed could have taken it to the house. If that happened, the nameless and speedy defensive back could have made it a 24-14 game going into the half, with Michigan down only 10 and momentum on their side. Unfortunately, the return fizzled out and the Wolverines suffered the embarrassing, 30-point defeat.
And that’s the difference between Jordan Kovacs and the Ideal Strong Safety. It’s not that a good strong safety can typically win a game all by himself. It’s not that Kovacs is a bad player. After all, he was a Freshman All-American in 2009 and an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2010. It’s just that he lacks that extra burst or change of direction that would make us say, “Holy s***” instead of “Can we amputate his head and put it on Justin Turner’s body?”
Going into the 2011 season, Kovacs might face a battle from young safeties Marvin Robinson and Josh Furman for the chance to start in the defensive backfield. Kovacs has experience and intelligence on his side, but Robinson has the hitting ability (and a little bit of speed) and Furman has the speed to be difference makers back there. It’s hard to imagine a redshirt junior with two years of starting (and 191 tackles) under his belt getting benched in favor of a sophomore or redshirt freshman who has, comparatively, accomplished approximately nothing. But at some point, Michigan has to get back to creating oohs and aahs out of its defensive players, and not just what-ifs.
Prediction: Starting safety; 75 tackles
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