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Posted on Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

Safety position remains in focus for Michigan football team's defense

By Dave Birkett

Michigan got lackluster play from is safeties last year. But the Wolverines return two starters in Jordan Kovacs and Mike Williams, and are searching for a third for their new 3-3-5 defense.

Kovacs, who started eight games as a freshman walk-on last year, returns at the strong safety position, while Williams is moving closer to the line of scrimmage to play the hybrid linebacker spot similar to what Stevie Brown played last year.

That position is more suited to Williams’ skills.

“He can play physical,” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. “We just needed to put somebody that had played a little bit there. Jordan had played on the other side. Part of it, I think he’ll be fine playing it because Mike’s a physical guy. We’ll see how the rest of it all comes out.”

Floyd Simmons and Thomas Gordon, underclassmen who’ve played in a total of eight games, also could push for time at the hybrid spot.

“I think that we’re making progress there, but when you’re talking about young players that haven’t played a lot in ballgames you really don’t know how are they going to handle an environment,” Robinson said. “When the new things happen, are they adaptable?

“Mike Williams, he obviously has more experience, so that’s something that time will tell. But that’s the thing you never know. It’s the unknown with guys that have very little experience.”

At free safety, Vlad Emilien suffered a sprained knee in the first week of practice, but converted receiver Cam Gordon continues to draw praise at the position.

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez singled out Gordon as one of the most impressive players early in camp, and Robinson said the position change was “a good move.”

“I think it favors him,” Robinson said. “I think he’s raw, but he’s the kind of guy you like working with and there’s some natural feel for the game for him back there that’s good to see.

“Knock on wood, you just want him to continue to improve, but he instinctively shows that he has good feel and that’s important at a safety position He also has a defensive temperament, which we knew from the scout team last year that this was a tough guy. He’s already shown that. We’ve been glad that we made that move, that Cam came over to the defensive side of the ball.”

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Tue, Apr 6, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.

7th in BIG TEN, no QB, def- sucks. It isnt that tough.

Terry Star21

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

Theo my friend you are the Hero and Leader, no one can challenge you... my attempt at two rhymes in the Spring Game article below was a tribute to you, our mentor and no imitation of you - it can't and won't be done. Let's keep Williams's injury free this year... and just watch. I like to hear players like Gordon creating some excitement at spring practice, yea I know it's still earlier, but - it encourages the younger kids to step up and let's the veteran's know they have to keep on their toes... not that they need reminding! Theo212 - Hero, Leader and my Mentor.... 112,000 steaks - must be spring game is near


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 9:34 p.m.

Great enthusiasm... so was the has bash festival downtown today... I too believe Michigan could be in the elite 4, but I see this at best - Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan Wisconsin... at best! Michigan is Michigan and can (I really hope) do well, shown some good runs and efforts last season - but seemed to fall asleep for a second, and it was all over. That Rountree miss at the goal against Illinois, and then 4 downs at the one hard line, game changer/season changer...

Terry Star21

Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 6:16 p.m.

Who are the 4 elite teams in the Big Ten this year, come on give me a break - it's Michigan followed by Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State... new year, new elite 4 - priceless.


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 3:58 p.m.

"Lackluster play" would be an understatement. Kovac was pretty good for a raw, walk-on, but not nearly good enough for what that position requires. And Williams doesn't seem to have any speed. But, both players need to improve a lot because at least they have experience. The other players have almost none. It's likely to be another season of developing players and having to deal with inconsistent play - unfortunately.


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.

4 elite? i can think of one OSU. then you got about three good teams that michigan should have a chance of beating WIS, IOWA, PSU. then the rest of the games michigan should be favored or at worst a pick em game.


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 2:25 p.m.

who are the 4 elite teams in the big ten this year?


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 2:17 p.m.

Coaches are working their butt off especially RR as he knows is toast if things don't change for a lot better soon. Only problem is Big Ten has 4 elite teams and Michigan is far from being one of them.


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 1:55 p.m.

This football team needs all the help it can get. Rich's "Point A Minute Defense" continues to keep opponents in the game even when Michigan's offense scores 30 points or more. You could put the '84 San Francisco Forty Niners on the field and they couldn't score enough points to make a winning team with this sorry defense. 3-3-5 defense? Maybe they should try a 6-6-10?


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 1:31 p.m.

We shall see, It's way to early for little ol me to be arrogant enough to presume I can predict squat about this coming season. I can predict one thing though, RR and Robinson and the rest of the coaches are working their butts off. Right now it's kind of a juggling act so we shall see. Go git em RR.