Safety position remains in focus for Michigan football team's defense
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 AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.