Last year, the Michigan Wolverines defense was bad. Really bad. Ranking near the bottom for pretty much all the major categories among the big boys of college football.
It’s no surprise that Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson and Head Coach Rich Rodriguez had to go. It’s difficult to say how much better the unit is this year under the new management. For one, it’s only been two weeks, and two, the first game was only three quarters long (lightning danger postponed it).
We can say this however, they look a little better thus far. Especially when it comes to forcing key turnovers, and getting crucial stops by getting the ball back.
“I think that’s something Coach Mattison stresses that if you get hats to the ball, good things will happen,” Wolverines safety J0rdan Kovacs said after the big “Under the Lights” 35-31 come-from-behind win over Notre Dame.
“If you fly around, you might not be in the right spot at the right time, but if you get after the football, you’re going to cause some turnovers, and that’s one of the things he stresses and one of the things we try to do,” the former walk-on told the media.
Turnovers have played a big part in both Michigan wins this season. Notre Dame rolled up over 500 yards of total offense but lost three fumbles and quarterback Tommy Rees was picked off twice. U-M’s Denard Robinson threw three interceptions of his own, but ND’s turnovers in the red zone ended up being more costly.
“Huge,” UM Coach Brady Hoke said of winning the turnover battle.
“That probably is a bright spot. I think we were plus two today and had a chance, probably, to be plus four if we do some things a little better offensively. Obviously, they moved the ball; they made some plays, ran the ball well. I think Michael Floyd is a pretty special athlete in his own right. But for us, and maybe how we see it, they hung in there, hung in there.
“I think Kovacs had an interception, didn’t he? That was a tremendous play, and it was a tremendous play because it started on the line of scrimmage being a good play. And it started with a call defensively, because we gave them a blitz look and everybody then bailed out. I think it confused them a little bit.”
Indeed the redshirt junior who overcame knee surgery did have a really big interception, complementing his standout play from week one.
Kovacs was named Lott IMPACT Player of the Week on Tuesday (Sept. 6). Kovacs notched his eighth career double-digit tackle performance last Saturday with a team-leading 10 tackles in Michigan’s 34-10 victory over Western Michigan. Kovacs also totaled two sacks, one forced fumble and one pass breakup. His sack-fumble in the third quarter led to senior linebacker Brandon Herron’s 29-yard touchdown return and a 27-10 lead.
Kovacs surpassed 200 career tackles in the 2011 season opener. A former walk-on who had 116 tackles in 2010, Kovacs was named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy preseason watch list. The Lott Trophy was won by J.J. Watt, the Wisconsin Badgers defensive end and Michigan’s Big 10 brethren.
Kovacs’ performance complements Herron’s performance which earned him Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the week honors.
So far, the Wolverines defensive unit has certainly been “bend-but-don’t-break,” but also “bend-but-get-the-key-turnover-to-bail-you-out.”
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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