You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

Safety position thin after Carvin Johnson becomes 6th player to leave Michigan football program this season

By Kyle Meinke


Teammates congratulate safety Carvin Johnson (13) after an interception during the Michigan football team's spring game at Michigan Stadium in April. Johnson, who left the program, played in every game this season, recording 14 tackles

Angela J. Cesere |

Sophomore reserve safety Carvin Johnson has left the Michigan football team, a school spokesman said Tuesday night.

A reason for the move was not provided.

Johnson is the sixth player to leave the program this fall, and the second defensive back in the past week. Reserve freshman cornerback Gregg Johnson made his exit last week.

But whereas the five others do not affect this year's 13th-ranked Wolverines (7-1, 3-1), who are in the midst of a Big Ten title hunt, this one does.

Johnson, who also played special teams, appeared in six games at safety this year and recorded 14 tackles. He did not play a significant number of snaps, but served a vital reserve role at a position of tenuous depth.


Carvin Johnson

Starting safety Jordan Kovacs did not play last week against Purdue, and senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk took his place at strong safety. It was Wolfolk's first start of the season at safety.

Kovacs' status for Saturday's game against Iowa (Noon, ESPN) is unknown.

Meantime, reserve safety Marvin Robinson has not played since the Notre Dame game, and did not dress for Northwestern or Michigan State due to an undisclosed injury. He did not play last week against Purdue, although he did dress.

The only constant at safety right now is sophomore Thomas Gordon, and he's in his first year as a starter. If Kovacs doesn't play against the Hawkeyes, it'll be Gordon and Woolfolk to start, then little-used freshman Josh Furman as the primary backup.

After that, it's unknown who would play. No one else is listed on the depth chart at safety. It is possible the coaching staff could execute a position change to bolster depth there.

That also accentuates the importance of Kovacs getting healthy and Woolfolk staying healthy -- which he's had trouble doing the past two years.

So, Johnson did not play a large role on Michigan's revamped defense -- which already is starting three freshmen -- but he did play a vital role.

This move hurts Michigan, and its chances of winning the Legends Division championship.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:47 p.m.

No need for all the speculation. Players leave programs all the time. New coaches often up the numbers some but it could be from any of lots of reasons not related to the team, grades, family, weather (he is from LA), behavior issues and on and on. Good luck to him. Now somebody may have to step up and that has always been part of the game.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

We don't know why he's leaving.Maybe he isn't doing well in his classes--or got caught smoking pot or family problems at home or a hundred other reasons.

Johnny Smith

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

Looks like we will be seeing the expected attrition this year after the season.... 5 players most likely to not return in 2012: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

So what's up with this rash if players leaving the program in mid season? Can do some digging? Got any reliable sources?


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

I disagree, this move has little impact on this team in a negative way as long as the team stays moderately healthy. I dont know the reason why he would leave at this point in the season except a couple of reasons. 1) He is in trouble like Kellen Jones was 2) His grades are bad and he is about to be suspended like Forcier 3) He is weak and can not handle competing against other DB's 4) Hoke is the anti christ and has something out for him and did even when he was at SDSU! ok probably not this one. 5) It does not make sense to leave at this point because Mich will be a possible BCS bowl bid if they win out and he has already lost this year of eligibility. So he is not leaving because he just does not like the lack of playing time because he was getting some. Even if Hoke said that he would not extend a scholarship to him next year why would you leave right now? The bottom line is that this allows better recruits to be signed and really is not going to create a gap in the defense. In other words Mattison is not standing in front of a mirror pulling his hair out saying oh my god what are we going to do without Carvin! Go Blue!!!


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 6:10 p.m.

I like points 2 and 3 as the most likely. Seems strange Carvin quits when Troy Woolfolk was switched to safety. Leaving in early Nov is very puzzling.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

David Vande Bunte: perfect post. Thank you.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

It would be nice if there was some indication of a reason, even if it's just stated as &quot;academic reasons,&quot; &quot;career change,&quot; etc. If a player is kicked off for some kind of serious violation, then I do think the public is owed an explanation, and it also sends a message to future recruits, that violations will not be tolerated, etc. Incomplete reporting.

David Vande Bunte

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

As with all of the other players that left, I am reserving judgment until more details come out as to the circumstances of his leaving. Did he leave because he was simply on an ego trip, thinking he deserved to start? Did he leave because he was suffering academically, and would have been forced off the program anyway? I don't know. Some reasons to leave a college football program are completely understandable, sometimes even admirable. Other reasons deserve scorn. I am not going attack Carvin Johnson's decision, or assume that it somehow demonstrates issues with coach Hoke or Mattison as developing malcontents or anything until I find out more.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Indeed. Good post. I think we might also have to consider the homesickness is a factor? He's from Louisiana. Who knows? GN&amp;GL


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

players come and they go - nothing new - especially with a new coach its just magnified at Michigan, especially since they have d-back issues while I am not sure how much work it would take, to get perspective you need to have a graph that shows how many platers leave the team each year, by position then we would have perspective if this is normal or just magnified news by


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

He left because he was snubbed. He isn't the first player to have done so. As back up safety he was sure he would be given the chance to start when the starter was injured. Instead the staff preferred to move a corner to safety, over him. If that's all the reason he'll probably end up regretting it in the not too distant future. Unfortunate to lose experience, but first things first, you have to have players who want to be in the program.

Captain Dave

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

It seems that when he didn't get the nod to start last weekend, he gave up on the team. A quitter we don't need at this time. He may also be having troubles with classwork and eligibility. The silver lining is that we have a few 5 star recruits that have Michigan high on their list and this opens up another opportunity to give another 5-star a chance to play for a near future national championship team.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

I don't think you can call this guy a third-stringer who was never going to crack the lineup. As thin as U-M is, he probably would have been no worse than a #1 reserve his junior and senior year, if not cracking the starting lineup. I doubt he was intimidated by incoming underclassmen. Something else is going on here, perhaps a personality clash with the new staff. Still, it's odd that he'd leave at midyear, since he'll still have to sit out year at his new school.

David Paris

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

What I don't get is, why would a kid leave the team IN NOVEMBER? He'll walk onto a team next year, but what is he doing right now, today? I'd rather be the waterboy for the Wolverines, than sitting at home on a November Saturday! Any thoughts?

Rob Pollard

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

Perhaps whatever school he is transferring to wants to know if he's coming or not. If he waited, the school may fill all their slots with incoming freshman and Carvin would be left without a school. I have no idea or not if this is the case, but it would be a logical reason.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

ego- pride. I'm not starting so I'm leaving. Give me what i want or i quite. Little kid stuff.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:18 a.m.

It's funny how the public overreacts when kids leave a program. It's a coaching transition. The same thing happened when Rich was coach. It happens to every program during a sweeping transition. Carvin was soft? Please. The only kid that ever left Michigan because he was soft was Justin Boren. That's it.

Terrin Bell

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.

LOL. That is why Boren went on to play on Ohio State championship teams that kicked Michigan butt, and is currently playing for the Baltimore Ravens. If he is soft, sign me up.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 8:22 a.m.

I don't understand these kids, if your not good enough to be a starter in college, your not going to make it in the NFL. I was mariade with 2 kids, worked full time, and busted my butt for 2 years to get a degree from a c.c. I would have given my left nut to ride the wood in a Michigan uniform every Saturday to get a free ride for a Michigan degree. Go Blue! TiM!

Terrin Bell

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

Who says the kid isn't good enough to be a starter? Just because he doesn't mesh with Michigan, doesn't mean he isn't' good enough to be a starter on another great team. Moreover, maybe Michigan's style of coaching doesn't suit him, but another place might. I used this example earlier. Ryan Mallet wasn't going to start under Rich Rod's spread offensive. Under your logic, you would be asking why would he leave Michigan. Yet, Mallet goes to University of Arkansas where he is a starter. Now he is playing for the Patriots. If he stayed at Michigan, he likely wouldn't be playing Pro right now because Michigan's system under RIch Rod wasn't going to show case his talent.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 8:16 a.m.

They've still got 22 starters, right? Those 22 starters have played well enough to win seven games - in Hoke's first season, right? It took the previous coach 3 years to get 7 wins in ONE season, right? Losing a reserve CB isn't &quot;good&quot; and does leave that position thin: but that's only a potential problem, not one actually in existence this week. I have utmost faith in Brady Hoke &amp; Co. I don't particularly believe he can win the B1G this season but I do believe he has an excellent chance of his team winning two more games. Hoke has repeatedly said two contradictory things (which isn't unusual for any football coach): first that this team isn't playing up to Michigan's standards, second that he intends to win the conference title. (He does dodge by adding.... &quot;every year.&quot;) This is just coach speak for: maybe next year - I don't really think we're playing at championship level - yet.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 4:35 a.m.

Kovacs got hurt and Woolfolk took his spot instead of Johnson. My guess is that probably played into why he left, becuase he clearly wasn't able to crack the two deep, even after injury at the safety position.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 4:26 a.m.

Id say UM DBs have surpassed most people's expectations so far. Im content. Also, seeing Countess become the teams best CB is promising for the future.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.

I don't blame Carvin. If anybody's soft its Woolfolk. Everytime he got burned at corner, he would be hurt within a couple of plays later. Woolfolk plays because he is a senior, period. The guy has been burned more times then a fireman. UM's Db's are pretty weak. Its not a good thing to have them leaving the program and making the team even weaker.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 3:52 a.m.

How can the loss of a reserve effect Michigan's chances of winning the division? He's leaving because there are 4 guys ahead of him and he's unhappy. When Kovaks was hurt and they moved Woolfolk from CB to safety he saw the future wasn't bright , so he bolted. So they lose a special team player? No one else can play on special teams? Please. You would think a major starter, not just a starter quite. And he's a backup. Duh! One more scholarship opens for a top recruit. He was a 3 star and 3rd on the depth chart. We'll probably get a 4 star in his place.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

Does this open up another scholarship for the 2012 recruiting cycle?


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

Makes no sense that the kid has to sit out a year, but the school can immediately offer his spot to someone else. Seems ripe for abuse - I'm sure some programs squeeze kids out to open up more spots. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but its seems like a sauce-for-the-goose situation.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 3:54 a.m.



Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

There's ALWAYS going to be attrition when a new coaching staff takes over. I'm actually impressed these guys lasted this long into the season, that's a testament to the coaching staff if you ask me. Usually when a new staff takes over, players leave right away. RR lost 6 players before he even made it to Ann Arbor. At least Brady Hoke was able to talk to these kids, get them to stay a while, see if they like the new system and try it out for a while. I guess they didn't like it, but at least they gave the new coaching staff and new system a shot and didn't bolt right away. Nothing wrong with trying something out before you decide you don't like it, better to do that then run away before you give it a shot. But like I said, that's all coach Hoke and his ability to talk to these kids and get them to at least try. In the end, yes they are important, but they have all been 2nd and 3rd stringers, not 1st stringers like Ryan Mallet. In closing, Hoke got them to stay and try it out, they couldn't make it in the new system as a starter, so they leave. Good luck to you, those who stay will be champions. GO BLUE!!

Terrin Bell

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

I doubt you were in the meeting with Coach Carr, and understand the situation at the time. Rich Rod made it clear before he even came to Michigan he was going with the spread offense on day one regardless of the fact Michigan did not have the talent for a spread offense. Throughout Michigan's history, it has played a pro style offense. Lloyd Carr brought players to Michigan to play under him, and his style of offense. Now if a player like Ryan Mallet, a pocket style quarterback, who came to Michigan to play in a pro style offense, asks Coach Carr should I stay at Michigan considering I do not fit the new coaches announced offensive scheme and I came to be coached by Michigan's then top notch quarterback coaching staff? Should Lloyd Carr lie to him and tell him he should waste his time on a team where his talents don't' mesh with the direction of the team? Absolutely not. Players like Ryan Mallet saw saw the writing on the wall and asked their coach what his advice was. Coach Carr told them the truth. You will notice when Hoke came, he talked to Michigan's stars like Denard and asked them to stay assuring him he'd utilize their talents. Hoke wants a pro style offense, but he hasn't made any big changes to Rich Rods basic scheme. Rich Rod came in like a shot gun telling people he was rebuilding from the ground up.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 10:46 a.m.

You do realize that Lloyd Carr encouraged transfers and even told Justin Boren that Ohio State would be a great fit for him, correct?


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.

More players getting driven off, another loss to MSU....does our coach &quot;get it&quot;?!?! I mean, he didn't even play or attend UM and was BORN in OHIO?!?!?!


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

Rufus, that comment makes no sense at all. What do you think this does to future recruiting? Opposing coaches would say, &quot;if they don't like you they will cut you&quot;. Kids leaving the program voluntarily is never a good thing. He wasn't recruited by Hoke so that could be his reason for his dissatisfaction. It takes several years to develop talent on a team. When soph's leave, you lost someone that the program has put time and effort into. It's too bad, but maybe it will work out for Carvin. Most of the guys that left the program have done quite well.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

They want to drive off the players who can't take it. It frees up scholarships. this guy was third string- thats why he left.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.

How many chances did he get before he won a Rose Bowl? I look forward to your call with Jeff DeFran discussing this.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

I seem to recall another coach who held the same qualifications -- born in Ohio, didn't play or attend U-M, came in and players left in droves. What was his name again? Oh yeah ... Bo Schembechler.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

Too many people in trouble on the team over the years. Maybe another one here. Seemed like a nice guy. Good luck.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 11:21 a.m.

What are you talking about? Flamebait right here.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

Since the first game of the season, I've been expecting this one. I'm sure, after last season, Carvin came in thinking &quot;I've got a shot at significant playing time&quot;. Once that didn't pan out, and as things continued playing out, it probably became apparent that he was not a key player going forward. He'll probably be able to get a lot more PT and be closer to home playing at one of the LA directional schools. I wish him the best of luck. That being said, these departures, particularly mid season are more than a little troubling. Bleeding talent during the season is really tough to overcome, as Kyle points out in this case. Losing a kid, even a non starter, hurts the teams ability to prepare going forward and can impact the teams ability to overcome injuries. The coaches don't have the time deal with missing pieces on the fly. It's also bothersome that a team would be losing players while they are in the midst of a possible Big 10 title run, unexpected though it may be. You'd think that this would be the type of atmosphere that would make kids on the team have even more esprit d'corps and would make them willing to suck it up even if they are not getting all the PT they were expecting. I'll give Coach Hoke a pass for this year, but if we continue to see this going forward, I'm going to have to start looking at the Coaches. Both Furman and Robinson were well thought of recruits. Furman plays a lot on special teams and always seems to be around the ball, so maybe that bodes well for him when he gets time on defense. And maybe this is finally Robinson's time to shine.

Charley Sullivan

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

Anytime you raise the bar on a program, some people will not make the jump with you, and sometimes it takes getting into the semester, midterms, etc., for everything to become apparent.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

This is something you get with kids these days during coaching transitions. Theya are not committed to the University, their great education,, more to the coach and their dream of making it into the NFL. This is just a sign that the Michigan coaches play the best players, not necessarily he guy whose been their the longest. This is all godd as we are losing second tier guys and gaining scholarships. Kovaks is coming back , Countess replaced Woolfolk who moves to safety. This is all good.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 10:58 a.m.

&quot;...these departures, particularly mid season are more than a little troubling...I'll give Coach Hoke a pass for this year, but if we continue to see this going forward, I'm going to have to start looking at the Coaches.&quot; I couldn't have said it better. I like this coaching staff a lot, but this doesn't smell right. Losing players in a transition is understandable. But this is getting to the point where there appears to be a major communication problem re expectations between players and coaches.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:45 a.m.

He may have left before he was Kicked off. Fortunately Iowa isn't that strong, but after that EEE'Gadds. The DEE'LINE and linebackers are going to have too really step it up. I guess grad'Geating wit degree from Univeristy of Michigan isn't HIGH on the list. As for Hokey not talking about it. Would you. You aint a real Michigan man and not worth mentioning. This makes recruiting even more important.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:11 a.m.

Six players leave, Hoke doesn't say anything, and the media + faction of Michigan 'supporters' aren't blasting our coach. Maybe they learned their lesson from how they treated RR?


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

It's amazing how desperate some people are to absolve him of any responsibility for the past three years. He was paid 2.5 mil to win games, and he and all his backers blame everyone BUT him for not doing what he was paid for. If he wasn't at all responsible, then he didn't belong in the position to begin with.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 9:48 a.m.

It's amazing at how desperate people are for the past 3 years to be Rich Rod's fault.....


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 4:32 a.m.

Why is there some RR apologist commenting on every article. He was the WORST COACH IN UM HISTORY. The record and probation dont lie. He got as much respect as he earned.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 4:17 a.m.

I can think of 22 reasons right now to be frustrated with RR's performance, but only one when it comes to Hoke.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

@amzack: Honestly, it makes me feel uneasy to see these players leave, especially during the season in such numbers. It happens, and we don't know the reasons, but let's face it--Hoke first embraced Michigan and has been embraced right back in a way not even possible by the former coach. Just the way the whole situation has been handled by Hoke is way different. Are the media any softer on him? I doubt it (don't recall media going hard after former coach until year 2 from the Freep and year 3 from everybody else). Does the rest of the community like him more? Absolutely. This isn't a Michigan situation so much just a really really bad fit for the former coach who just never got it. At least publicly as John Bacon would say.

Brian Nylaan

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

Hey HeartbreakM, maybe the real reason these kids are leaving is that they are soft and can't handle the challenges of the new coaching staff. If Johnson's departure costs us a game, so be it, as it is time to get true Michigan Men on the roster. The new recruits coming in are strong and hungry and losing 6 players gives us more scholarship room for players who will cherish their time at Michigan.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:37 a.m.

Brian, I don't think it's because he's soft, I think it's more the fact that he's a Soph and he sees Freshmen getting more time than him. Either way, good luck to him and this will open up an opportunity for another player who wants to be here.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 12:42 a.m.

You know, if I was a bit more cynical, I'd say Hoke is orchestrating these players leaving so he has a built in excuse for not winning the last four games. ;-) (Hate seeing any players leave, but thanks for playing for us and busting your butts, even if it didn't work out).


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 1:07 a.m.

Well, I don't know about cynical,but that's pretty illogical. I'm pretty sure that no one would buy a backup safety leaving as a legitimate reason for losing the last 4 games, even if any of it happened.

Terry Star21

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

Agree with a2roots.....wish him luck wherever he goes - story complete, let's move on.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 12:32 a.m.

Those that stay will be champions.........


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

Those who stayed are 7-1 right now with a shot to be champions this year. Not bad a year removed from WCIMFH.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

Those who get out now can still win something somewhere else.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:20 a.m.

Mick -- us Michigan fans need to put the smack talk away. WCiMFH or not, we lost quite handily to State THIS YEAR.


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 7:40 a.m.

Alabama 49 MSU 7, great representatives as a B1G Champion you were. If you try to claim our score in the Gator Bowl was no better then you need to remember we had the WCIMFH, who's now gone, so what's your excuse. You were suppose to be so good last year. Any U-M team that went 11-1 would never be intimidated in a bowl game like that, that's the kinda thing you need to worry about, why are you so obsessed by U-M, huh?


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 7:32 a.m.

Ask Martin and Van Bergen, those that stay (at Michigan) just lose eligibility.