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Posted on Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Jordan Kovacs, Will Campbell among new Michigan football leaders this spring

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan senior strong safety Jordan Kovacs had 75 tackles, four sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles last season for the Wolverines.

A year ago, the answer was simple.

When spring camp opened, the Michigan football team had two clear leaders on defense in senior linemen Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen.

This spring, Martin and Van Bergen are busy preparing for the NFL Draft, leaving the door open for new voices to emerge inside the defensive huddle.

Of those voices, one isn't a surprise. The other is, though.

"Defensively, (senior safety Jordan) Kovacs is a guy who shows a great deal of leadership," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "And I think Will (Campbell) is trying to step up as a leader."

Kovacs' ascension to a more concrete leader on defense almost seems natural.

Arguably the team's most productive defensive back when healthy, the former walk-on was a vocal presence for the Wolverines last season. His 75 tackles, four sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles didn't hurt either.

The anchor of a secondary that returns intact this season, Kovacs said his new role as elder statesmen just seems second nature at this point.

"After being four years in the defense and on this team, I think it's something that's starting to come naturally," Kovacs said. "We've got a lot of seniors stepping into that role, and our senior leadership is going to be huge."

Of those seniors, Hoke mentioned other natural voices, such as inside linebacker Kenny Demens and defensive end Craig Roh.


Michigan defensive lineman Will Campbell has impressed coach Brady Hoke with his attitude this spring and has shown accountability for his actions on the field.

Melanie Maxwell |

But Campbell, a player who has struggled with consistency during his career, unexpectedly has emerged as a leader.

Kovacs said Campbell routinely leads meetings off the field for the defensive linemen and also has been integral in gathering teammates for extra film sessions.

More than that, though, Hoke says the 335-pound defensive lineman has led by example, showing an accountability for his actions on the field.

"There's so much more that we can get from him," Hoke said. "But what I like about him is his attitude.

"We do some winners and losers (drills) every day during practice. It pays to be a winner, and if you lose, there's consequences. And defensively, we've had a couple consequences, and he's done a great job of (accepting them)."

Michigan won't officially name captains for the 2012 team until the fall, but defensively this spring, there seems to be more than enough self-supervision to go around.

"I'm going to have the same defense for two years in a row; I don't think I've had that in my four years here," Kovacs said. "We bring a lot of defensive players back and a lot of seniors back.

"And that's good for us. It's nice to be comfortable with the guys and be comfortable with the plays. I look forward to this season (because of) that."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

At 335 pounds that can be a good sign or a very bad one. I believe Campbell will be pushed by the new freshmen. But personally, I truly want Will to become a star player this season. And Kovacs has big potential. Don't be surprised if a lot of new players get an opportunity to start in the lineup. It's now or never, so those Seniors better learn fast on how to compete.

Terry Star21

Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Well Nick, I can't help but tell you how good that is to read About Will Campbell - we've all been pulling for this guy and hoping. I think he is showing great leadership with all the extras/motivation things he is doing - and I hope this will be the beginning of a NFL bound type season we all knew (hoped) could happen. Kovacs will be the great leader, but I look for Roe to be the great speaker of the team. No matter what, we all have a lot to be grateful for and look forward to in team 133. MgoBlueForTiM..... grateful, respectful and meaningful.....


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

Can't remember a single great play let alone great series or great game from big Will. But hoke (er hope) springs eternal. It's either now or never.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

Interesting comments. Can a guy who is 6'5 335 lbs, a gifted athlete, and a hero in high school - then sought after by every major college in the country- not feel good about himself ? I'm no expert on this. Maybe. I'm glad I don't have to motive him. I do know life is short and only gives one so many opportunities. Whatever is holding him back, this season will have a lot to say about how he feels about himself for the rest of his life. He can learn from failure but for faith in ourselves success is essential.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

You are so right terry. Maybe he should have gone on the Opra show so he could discuss his feelings with her. The dude is 6-5 and 335 lbs. for god's sake. Who cares about his feelings of inadequacy?

Terry Star21

Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Scott - maybe it was all about Will feeling good about himself. The new leadership role may be the key to waking Big Will up...


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

Players vote on captains and not Coach Hoke.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

That's a really key point Kovaks made about being in the same system for 2 years now. I can only imagine how much better the D will be as far as being lined up right and not out of position. Big Will being more of a leader is nice to see, hopefully that will translate to the field and he can end his career on the upswing and give himself a chance to be a high draft pick if he plays up to his potential, we really need him this year, get it done Mr. Campbell. I expect big things from this squad this year, I have a feeling Bellomy is gonna be a good one, don't be surprised to see him be a factor if Denard gets banged up. That kid was very impressive in the highest ranked division in the Dallas/FW area. It don't get much better than that in HS Football Nationally.

Terry Star21

Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

Mick - you hit on two of my big things; I think Bellomy is a good one - word from camp is he s very accurate and has a good range. I love DRob, but it's 'team first', so if RB can do the job better, I'm for him. And, I've been rooting for three years for Will to turn on that switch, maybe this leadership role will get him going.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

I didn't get the portion about Will Campbell emerging as a leader from Hoke's press conference at all and I watched the whole thing. Anyway, I do hope big Will has turned the corner, but I won't believe it until I see it - that guy is just straight up lazy sometimes.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

If one says it enough it might just come true.

Terry Star21

Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

1Block - some of that talk about Will came from Kovacs and Hoke in talking with Nick &

Robert Granville

Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

I agree. I didn't get that either. Hoke specifically stated that he's been accepting his consequences for being a "loser" in practice. Sounds like a leader to me. Great article Nick /s