Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jordan Kovacs, #11 . . . and #32

This will be one of the lasting images of Jordan Kovacs (who used to wear #32)
Despite being the son of a former Wolverine, Jordan Kovacs was not recruited out of high school. His father, Lou, was a 5'10", 195 lb. safety for Bo Schembechler in 1982.  Jordan played at Curtice (OH) Clay and was an all-district defensive back as a junior, then an all-district wide receiver as a senior; he was an All-Toledo defensive back both seasons.  He enrolled at Michigan as a student in 2008.

Kovacs tried out for the team as a true freshman, but a knee injury from high school forced Michigan's coaches and doctors to tell him to come back in a year after he got his knee fixed.  He came back to tryouts in 2009 and earned his way onto the team.  Injuries at the safety position helped him get on the field against Notre Dame, and he earned his first start two games later against Notre Dame.  He finished the season with 75 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles.  His starting job was solidified by 2010, when he earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention on a horrible defense - he finished that year with 116 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass breakup.  He earned the same honor again in 2011 with 75 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass breakup.  As a team captain in 2012, he had 68 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups.

334 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 5 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 4 pass breakups

Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten in 2009; All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2010; All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2011; Captain, Bo Schembechler MVP, Robert P. Ufer Bequest Award, All-Big Ten Second Team in 2012

I remember watching the Notre Dame game in 2009 and seeing #32 on the field, thinking, "Uh-oh. This team is in dire straits at the safety position."  And while that was technically true - of not only safety, but most defensive positions during the Rich Rodriguez era - Kovacs slowly started to earn my trust.  His 116 tackles in 2010 was not only a ridiculous accomplishment, but it was indicative of poor defensive play in front of him.  However, lots of safeties wouldn't have been the sure tackler that Kovacs was, and he prevented that monumentally porous defense from being even worse.  He was almost always in the right place.  Despite a lack of elite athleticism, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's arrival in 2011 helped to use Kovacs in an optimal way - blitzing him off the edge and using him almost like a fourth linebacker.  His 334 tackles place him fifth on Michigan's all-time list, but perhaps the more impressive ranking is his place at #13 in tackles for loss at Michigan.  That places him above such players as Mike Martin, Sam Sword, Rob Renes, and Carl Diggs.

. . . his sure tackling.  While his coaches and game film might tell a different story, I wouldn't even need a full hand to count the number of missed tackles I saw Kovacs make in his four years as a starter.  There were plays he could have chased down if he were a bit faster, but if you were one-on-one with Kovacs in open space, you were going to lose 98.39% of the time.

I don't foresee Kovacs getting drafted because of a lack of measurables (he's not very big, and he's not extremely fast), but I think he'll get quite a bit of interest as an undrafted free agent.  I've seen former Wisconsin safety Jim Leonhard whittle out an 8-year NFL career without much size or speed, so as long as Kovacs get a chance with the right team(s), I see no reason why he can't go play some special teams and be a backup safety somewhere.


  1. Quick comment on Leonhard: Isn't he, at 5'8" or whatever, an otherworldly athlete (adjusting for size, etc.)? Link:


  2. Besides Leonhard, I think another good NFL comparable for Kovacs is Bill Bates of the Dallas Cowboys. Started for Univ. of Tennessee for 4 years as a safety, signed w/the Cowboys as a UDFA (too slow, not athletic enough - same story as Kovacs), and went on to have a fine 15-year NFL career as a special teams ace and backup safety (also played some nickel safety/LB hybrid); picked up 3 Super Bowl rings and his performance even forced the Pro Bowl to create a special teams slot for guys like him.