|Kenny Demens (#25) wraps up the ballcarrier with help from safeties Ray Vinopal and Jordan Kovacs (#32).|
Image via MichiganDaily.com
Kenny Demens, MLB: 64%
Cam Gordon, SLB: 15%
Jordan Kovacs, S: 7%
Jake Ryan, SLB: 6%
Marell Evans, LB: 2%
Carvin Johnson, S: 1%
Well, Demens wins the poll in a landslide victory. As the middle linebacker and the most likely starter to retain his position, he's probably a good choice. Demens was the third-leading tackler in 2010, accounting for 82 total stops in just 7 starts. That's 11.7 tackles per start, which admittedly isn't a perfect measurement, since he did play a backup role to Obi Ezeh before usurping the MLB job. Demens was my hoice.
I'm a little surprised that Cam Gordon finished #2 in the voting. He was the fourth-leading tackler in 2010, with 77 total tackles. He's heavier than the 207 lbs. at which he played last season, but it might be a bit of a stretch to expect him to be a force at SAM for the upcoming year. He's going to face a stiff challenge from the larger redshirt freshman Jake Ryan, who earned rave reviews in the spring and had a solid spring game. They might split the snaps there.
Safety Jordan Kovacs is the leading returning tackler (he finished just one tackle behind departed senior linebacker Jonas Mouton, 117 to 116). Kovacs started 13 games last season, which gave him 8.9 tackles per start. He has touted sophomore safety Marvin Robinson pushing him for playing time, but I would expect the two-year starter to retain his job, at least for the beginning of the season. His overall number of tackles will almost certainly drop, though, due to a [hopefully] improved defense that will get off the field a little quicker.
Strongside 'backer Jake Ryan finishes #4. He had zero tackles last year, mostly because he watched from the sidelines. I think he'll be a force in stopping the run, but expecting a first-year starter and redshirt freshman to lead the team in tackles is a bit of a stretch for me, especially if he and Gordon are neck-and-neck for the job.
Fifth year senior Marell Evans picked up only a few votes, which was slightly surprising to me. Evans started at MLB this spring when Demens had shoulder surgery, and he's my bet to be the starting weakside linebacker on September 3, provided Demens is back at full strength. Evans only has 4 tackles and half a sack in his college career, which consists of one start back in 2008 and a bunch of special teams action. He transferred to Hampton after the 2008 season and didn't see the field for the past two years, but he looked solid during spring practices.
Carvin Johnson, the other projected safety, got a few votes, too. Johnson was the 16th-leading tackler in 2010 while starting only three games due to injury. He had an impressive spring, though, looking comfortable in the new defense and picking off a couple passes in the spring game.
I would be interested to hear which player(s) were the reason for "Other" votes, since defensive linemen and cornerbacks rarely lead teams in tackles. The only other possibilities seem to be safety Marvin Robinson or weakside linebacker Mike Jones, both of whom I project as backups.