"I hope nobody ever refers to Kovacs as a "walkon" ever again. Dude is a great football player!"
I hope nobody ever refers to Kovacs as a "walkon" ever again. Dude is a great football player!
"He's a guy that can get things lined up for you, and he's a tough guy, and he will go attack the football," Hoke said of the former walk-on. "He has a great deal of pride in his performance on a daily basis. He's one of those guys who has an urgency about getting to the football. I'm pleased with what he's done to this point. I would guess that he won't take a step backward."
Brandon Herron (on the fumble-TD):
"First of all, I want to thank Kovacs, but it was a call where we saw -- I can’t put it out there – but we made a check, and I ended up coming off the edge, and Kovacs got free. I don’t think the ball rolled my way. I think I went to go get the ball, and then just ran it into the endzone."
Made a check, huh? Okay, let's go to 16:15 and see who was doing the pointing…
… or don't and guess.
Kovacs entered the Michigan canon two years ago this week, when Michael Williams cramped up versus Notre Dame's two towers of evil, Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. His former coach:
"Here it is in crunch time, the second half of the game, they've got some of their four- and five-stars -- and they're really good players," said Rodriguez in his postgame press conference. "And then we got Jordan Kovacs, who was a school-start walk-on, second time. First time he didn't make it because he was injured, and he went and got his knee fixed. We told him to come back again to try out with the general student body, and not only does he try out and make the team, now he's in there playing at safety, in the middle of crunch time, national TV, against Notre Dame. To me, that's pretty special. I'm awfully proud of him."
Kovacs had his number called for three reasons. One, the position was under-recruited for several years prior, leaving only the starters, Steve Brown and Williams, as the only upperclassman safeties. Second, despite not having even played football since high school, his ball skills and tackling were such that he was clearly a better option than the freshman DBs. The third reason they called his number is GERG didn't know his name.
Since Kovacs took the job from Williams for good after the incident with the trolls in East Lansing, only 18 guys on BCS teams recorded more tackles. He's tied for 19th* according to NCAA stats (counting assists as 0.5) with the guy in this photo…
… whom Michigan fans, Notre Dame fans, and anyone who will listen to Notre Dame fans will tell you made this tackle.
|1||LUKE KUECHLY||Boston College||269||25||2.5|
|4||GREG JONES||Michigan St.||188||24||10|
|19||MANTI TE'O||Notre Dame||145.5||16||2|
How Kovacs and Te'o got to 145.5 tackles and fairly equivalent backfield stats are two very different stories. Te'o was a 5-star LB in the 2009 class. When Patrick Omameh isn't plowing him into safeties 15 yards downfield … (Compliance:
… he has been one of the best linebackers in the nation, using his uncanny combination of football sense, size, speed, athleticism, and power to shed blocks, pick through traffic, and run down plays. Kovacs meanwhile has used his stunning combination of just the first one to blow up screens and swings, and otherwise prevent 9 yard gains from turning into 40. Notre Dame's defense is designed to funnel every play into Moria, where the Balrog can clean up. Michigan's in '09-'10 was about a bunch of dwarves waiting around outside while the hobbit goes and burgles something.
This was true when they were freshmen in '09 and it's true now: the physical factors that made Te'o a star are the same that give Kovacs a ceiling not far from where he seems to be right now. He is still slower than an Indiana running back on a dead run (so it's a good thing his angles have markedly improved since freshman year). He's still too small to beat a block from a fullback or guard (so it's a good thing he can diagnose a play and get there before they do). And he's just not athletic enough to close off holes in the zone, so despite his reflexes there will always be a hole in a Cover 2 which accurate QBs can exploit. What you should appreciate about Kovacs is that almost nobody makes it as close to their ceiling as he has.
Kovac had a hell of a game against Western. Early on he ran down a few plays that might have gone for TDs on drives that ended in the Herron interception and the missed field goal. He was excellent in run support, made several key PBUs, brought pressure when called upon to blitz, and had that fumble/TD-causing hit heard even in the deep nether regions of the press box where Michigan banishes authors of unflattering books, and disturbed asshats.
Herron gets to do the talk show circuit this week as the blankety-blank defensive player of the blank and I don't want to take away from that, while Kovacs gets named to the watch list for this year's Scrappy White Guy Trophy they created for Harrison Smith. Here his adventure has come full circle, facing Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium, two years removed from having to remember his number is 32 not 22 because his coach can't remember his name is Kovacs not Cavanaugh. In a race to the open receiver or the hole where this year's feel-good walk-on stories have been crushed out of, Marvin Robinson might be better than Kovacs. But in the time before the snap, which may count more than we ever realized, I'd rather have Kovacs than Te'o.
Even Herron says the real defensive MVP of the Western game and maybe this season is the guy who's telling everyone where to be, the guy calling audibles that result in 14-point swings: the walk-on, making the most out of the skills and talents that only he possesses.
"I hope nobody ever refers to Kovacs as a "walkon" ever again. Dude is a great football player!"
Methinks if he decides to stick with football after graduation, we have the makings of a legendary alumni coordinator/coach here.
A BEAST! I remember not too long ago when Kovacs was the bastard step child of this board, now he has the full respect of the entire UM base. He was clearly the most physical player on the field last Sat. The kid wrecked fools!
BERGKAMP BERGKAMP BERGKAMP BERGKAMP BERGKAMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
two of the most unassuming guys in the world thrust into the spotlight by their hard work, dedication to the team and their heroic efforts on the gridiron. How can you not love those guys?
Any guesses as to what WMU showed that caused the play to check?
From what Herron said, I guessed it had something to do with being in a set with a lot of WR and fewer linemen.
If you look WMU has five wide which means Michigan can bring more than they can block.
"But in the time before the snap, which may count more than we ever realized, I'd rather have Kovacs than Te'o."
Great line from a fantastic piece. It's about time MDEN starts pushing the number 32 jersey. This kid is (and has been) legit. Not to be cliche, but he is what's right with college football.
linked in this piece from a 2009 presser, I openly worried about Mike Williams future for getting passed by Kovacs. Now I see that I should have been excited for Kovacs.
You're right, let's not even talk about football until after the season. Great idea, asshole.
During this game, we decided calling him The Walk-on was nowhere good enough for him, and decided that something simple yet classy was needed, hence, Jordan MF'in Kovacs was born, or JMFK if you're into the whole brevity thing (I'm sure the UM education will help you figure out what that stands for)
Also, while you're spot on that Kovacs diagnosed the play and called the audible, all I think Herorn was trying to say is that Kovacs AND Herron both were the ones who deviated from the called defense on that play, and not that Herron himself saw whatever Kovacs' eagle eyes did.
is alright...but I call him JoKo because just like SoCo he might not be the most highly regarded but he is still pretty damn good.
is alright...but I call him JoKo because just like SoCo he might not be the most highly regarded but he is still pretty damn good.
...but that nickname is spoken for!
Watch the hell outta that hobbit cartoon, it was badass.
Also, love that kovacs has no nickname, he's just kovacs. Perhaps we could try to pronounce it like Kov-axe just to make it feel tougher. Anyway, guy will grow up to be CEO of a national pizza chain before being AD somewhere, I predict.
I love the photo Kovacs Murders when he is tackling Carder. If you look close Carder is actually substantially larger. Just look at their arms! What a great guy, what a great story. Whomever replaces him will have big shoes to fill.
Don't get me wrong...he's probably my favorite player on the team, but it's not necessarily a good thing when a safety leads your team in tackles. I think the reason he's my favorite player is after watching 3 guys whiff in the first 5 yards last year, Kovacs comes in and stops the bleeding at a 15 yard gain.
I'll let Mattison take it from there:
Kovacs said he expected to have fewer tackles in this new scheme. But he led the team in tackles on Saturday. At what point is that going to change? “I hope soon. You hit it right on the head. When your safety is making a lot of tackles, that’s not a good thing. It’s a good thing we have Jordan Kovacs, but that’s not a good thing [for him to be making all the tackles]. That happened a number of times -- if a linebacker were where he was supposed to be, he would have made that tackle. The great news though is Jordan was where he was supposed to be, and I think at times when I’ve watched, he’s been up in there too far, because he’s been trying to make [the tackle], and all of a sudden if he misses the tackle, [the other player] is gone.”
Bo would be proud of a kid like that, gives his all, is SMART about games. Hits hard, hits often, does the best he can with what he's got.
Watch out you little leprechauns for Mr. Shellacks Kovacs!
Never found a way to work this in unfortunately:
I apologize for being the lone voice in the wilderness, but this column is indistinguishable from something Fire Joe Morgan would have immolated if your byline was "Bill Plaschke", as you recast Kovacs as the Darin Erstad of our story (did you know he was a college football player, too?).
I want to clarify things:
1. Kovacs is not "at his ceiling". This has been written about him, on this site, for 3 years now. Yet, somehow, he keeps improving.
2. This perception that Kovacs is less talented because two years ago an Indiana RB outran him. He seems talented enough to be the most productive defensive player of the RR era, short of Brandon Graham.
3. In short - Kovacs is good because, despite his HS recruitment status, he is good at football. Not some magical white-kid effort juice. We can assume that he's untalented because of his recruitment status 4 years ago, or we can look at his production. His production says he's the best player on our defense (tallest midget qualifiers not-withstanding).
People breathlessly talk about Craig Roh and his impending all-conference accolades. In a comparable number of starts, the "maxed out" Kovacs has more TFLs, sacks, and Forced Fumbles than the eye-browed one.
I don't doubt that Kovacs tries and works extremely hard.
But I'm sure Elliot Mealer works his ass off - it hasn't gotten him on the field.
I'm sure Mike Williams, Josh Furman, Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, Charles Stewart, or any other number of scholarship safties than have been unable to put Kovacs on the bench worked hard as well.
You make good points - people conflate "athleticism" with "talent" all the time, when athleticism is just a subset of overall talent. As you pointed out, Kovacs is good at football, which is more than running a 4.3 40 yard dash or benching 225 lbs 30 times (though those things can help).
Kovacs isn't particularly fast or strong, so he can get outrun by RBs (e.g., Indiana) or plowed over by TEs. That prevents him from being great (or even very good). However, he is a GREAT form tackler, seems to know the play book, and is increasingly getting better at timing/angles. Those are all talents that are hugely important and make him a quality player in the Big 10, a great result for player who walked-on. We're lucky to have him on the defense.
You are just being you.
I happen to agree with your post. It would seem many wish to disparage Jordan because of his recruiting entry point, speed, race or size - even when complimenting him. I agree, the fact of the matter is he is just a very good football player, and intermixed with the rest of our defensive players, his skills add a lot to the team.
1. "What you should appreciate about Kovacs is that almost nobody makes it as close to their ceiling as he has."
I absolutely should have clarified how I meant this. By "ceiling" I'm referring to how well a guy could play if with experience and coaching and whatnot the light is all the way on. His decision-making is pretty damn quick right now -- the huge leaps a player makes after high school in diagnosing plays and tackling technique and whatnot have been made.
2. Talented how? Speed is one aspect. Size is another. Another is brains/diagnostics/ball skills/whate have you. Kovacs is ten Te'o's talented in the latter, but somewhat less than pedestrian for the Big Ten in the others. Hey man Ty Cobb could never generate the bat speed that Babe Ruth usually swung with, but he managed to provide nearly the same value because he maxed out human capacity for the mental aspects of hitting.
3. ...and that above is really the point we are both trying to make: Kovacs's "nose for the ball" or "awareness" or "instinctual" whatever is a talent. That's what I meant by ending the article with:
"Even Herron says the real defensive MVP of the Western game and maybe this season is the guy who's telling everyone where to be, the guy calling audibles that result in 14-point swings: the walk-on, making the most out of the skills and talents that only he possesses."
He's not so tiny that he's entirely ineffective (I thought Vinopal was). He's 6'0 and somewhere around 200. That's smallish for a guy playing essentially an Ernest Shazor role (ie plays up in the box more often than in deep cover). He's also not so slow that any tight end can out -run him -- his acceleration and top speed are about on par with an eh Big Ten possession receiver.
I'm sure he works really hard. But the reason none of those guys can displace Kovacs is because none of those guys can read an offense like Kovacs can.
My brother was a Kovacs-type player in high school, on offensive line. He wasn't tiny but he was still a Jewish kid playing offensive line against dudes like Gabe Watson and whoever that 380-pound terror in Pontiac was who never made it anywhere. My brother would get owned against the better half of defensive linemen in their division. But every time they took him out and put in the bigger kid, the offense would stall. In the three games my brother didn't rotate his junior year, their tailback set still-unbroken (playoff) school rushing records.
This was because my brother was the guy who was telling all the other linemen where to go after they called the play. He was also the guy calling out blitzes and changing assignments. And if the play did start making it downfield, my brother was always in the convoy, because he could see how the play was developing faster than anybody else.
That brain was a type of talent, but it's the type that doesn't show up very well in a Rivals.com database.
I apologize for dropping the Plaschke-bomb - nobody deserves such ruthless treatment.
My issue with your post is best summarized as this:
Your premise is "We shouldn't be calling him a walk-on anymore, he's good", and then you proceed to type "He's awfully good for a walk-on!" over and over. We all know that walk-ons are unlikely to become good players, that recruiting rankings have validitiy, etc., etc., but at some point we need to stop seeing Kovacs through the prism of a 5 year old scouting report (when he was a senior), and open our eyes to his last 25 games of football.
Your elucidation of your point further down in your reply sort of cements my feeling here: People like guys like Kovacs because, as a non-hulking walk-on, he sort of looks like you or me, or, as you say, your brother. He's idenitifiable either as ourselves or guys we knew. That could be me (or your brother) if we had just buckled down.
But, like, your brother ISN'T Kovacs, you know? Not to be ruthless, but he's not. Kovacs may remind you of him, but that's not really a statement of who Kovacs is, it's a statement of how you perceive him. The difference, obviously, is physical ability.
I think the umbrage I took is because your post echoes some of my least favorite of Brian's writing, this talk of "ceilings" and "limits", ie - "THE BEILEIN CEILING", where we said that because he didn't recruit awesome at WVU, he wouldn't do so here.
You can't take these macro data points - "walk-ons are generally less talented" - hone them down to a specific data point, and then rigidly hold on for dear life when the data point refused to fall in line with your larger set.
For example - look at Tyler Sash. Can someone elucidate how, athletically, Jordan Kovacs is different from Tyler Sash (a universal 3-star recruit)?
I was worried when I quoted the guy saying "let's stop calling him a walk-on" that folks might take that for the premise of the article.
The premise of the article was to establish that Kovacs is a great player, and explain why.
But I'm with Brian that everyone has limits for their various attributes. The point about my brother was that his team was much better when he was playing, except his lowness in certain attributes could be massively exploited by guys expected to play D-I ball.
The data points agree that Kovacs is missing certain key attributes for a box safety. To break him down to a video game sprite (always a mistake) he's a dude with 75 speed/agility and 65 size/acceleration, and these are the data points that show up on a recruiting board, while "ball skillz" are nebulous things that coaches say to get us going "eeeeee" but since they say that about all of their D-I recruits the awareness factor only slightly shows on recruiting radars. He also has 98 awareness and 80-something tackling, and those are usually things that college players attain through progression. What I was saying is that 98 awareness is, for Kovacs, a talent which he uses to maximize his effectiveness.
Tyler Sash had those physical elements in spades. I don't count him as a "universal 3-star recruit;" he was a 3-star who probably would have been a 4-star if he was black and lived in Georgia instead of being a white dude from Oskaloosa. He was, if I remember, the best high school player in his state. He's also well within the size margin of a safety. If we're making a sprite of him last year, he's 85 speed/agility/acc, 70 size, 90 awareness, 80-something tackling. That's not freak athlete anything, but it's serviceable Big Ten athleticism turned into a lethal defensive weapon by an outstanding head. He's a bigger, better, more athletic version of Kovacs. He's what Kovacs would be if Kovacs had two levels of better athleticism: a Thorpe semifinalist.
Take a standard Cover 2 versus mesh route play with Kovacs as the overhang versus Sash. Kovacs recognizes the routes a millisecond faster and thus takes away the deep route as he should. Sash is that tiny millisecond slower but he makes up for that with better speed, so that he too is in position on the inside fly route. Now the ball's gonna go to the out-route receiver and the CB is a little behind. They both realize this at the same time because they've already recognized the route. It's now a footrace to bracket the momentarily open WR on the out. Sash covers the ground 2 milliseconds faster and bats down the pass; Kovacs is slower to arrive because he's just physically slower and therefore ends up with a shot at the receiver's back, 50/50 to jar the pass loose.
If you want a universal 3-star, use Thomas Gordon. Here's a guy with Sash-level athleticism, but was a QB in high school and therefore his awareness is not at all there. On our play above, Gordon is slower to recognize the route and is thus still backpedaling when Sash and Kovacs have already changed direction with the pass and are headed toward the WR. Gordon is thus late to the play and the trailing CB makes the tackle. Maybe (probably) over time Gordon's metaphorical light will continue getting brighter, but we would counting our blessings if his recognition and cognition ever got near where Kovacs was as an underclassman.
When I was talking about Kovacs's athletic problems I was linking to his extensive Michigan plays to show that he indeed does lack some of these physical characteristics. Like my brother (analogously, but many, many levels of performance down) Kovacs uses his brain skills to take him as far as brain skills can take a guy.
If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that the mental aspects on defense are hugely important and rare attributes. You can teach a Gordon to be a more sound player. A guy with a 98 anything attribute is a special, once in a decade player. If he had his athleticism and an 82-whatever awareness, he'd be "pretty good for a walk-on." Considering his ball skills are off the charts, that chucks his total player rating to just plain "pretty good."
No way is his athleticism anywhere near what a guy off the street's would be. If people like Kovacs because they like the idea that a guy who looks like them can play for the Wolverines, ie a stereotype, well it's my goal here to break down his game and how his attributes apply to it, and present a clearer picture, independent of stereotypes. If the conclusions match sometimes, that shouldn't be held against me:
|Guy 1||Guy 2|
|Knowledge||His name is Rosen||His name is Rosen|
|Knowledge||-||I have seen him and his family at shul|
|Knowledge||-||He mentioned to me that he does securities at Smith Barney|
|Conclusion:||He's a Jewish banker||He's a Jewish financial advisor|
As for reaching the apex of what he can be, speed is something that a player can work on, but big jumps tend to come with growth spurts early in a guy's career (Troy Woolfolk is your e.g.) He'll get a little bigger but not that much bigger than he is now, and never big enough to shuck blocks like Shazor could.
I'm not arguing that every player is physically the same.
I'm arguing that using Kovacs' non-existent Rivals scouting report as proof and parcel that he is, in fact, and inferior talent is...wrong.
And, FWIW, Kovacs and Sash are nearly identically sized.
Okay well I'm saying being a student body walk-on is one data point about his athleticism and years of watching his play have provided many more data points which all add up to a guy who's not a freak physical athlete but is a freak mental athlete and has made quite an effective game from emphasizing that attribute.
Sash tackling Royster:
Kovacs tackling same:
This is a way unscientific way of doing it, but Sash seems to have a 2 inches and 20 lbs. on Kovacs.
..."magical white-kid effort juice"?
Sounds kinda dirty.
... and not German. Regardless, it's awesome, and does put US football announcers to shame. Not that the NBC guys are ever going to sound too excited calling a big play against Notre Dame.
"Not that the NBC guys are ever going to sound too excited calling a big play against Notre Dame."
When you go back and listen to that NBC call of Denard's "shoelaces flopping in the wind" (JB's call) play, it comes across like 'I know I need to sound excited and balanced on this unbelievable play that is developing before my eyes, so I'll raise my voice and make it sound as good as I can" BUT you can clearly tell the announcer is not too happy about that touchdown. Listening to JB you get a completely different feel. At least this year it will be on ESPN with Brent and Herbie. Despite being a Buckeye, I like Kirk. He is very good at what he does, and considering he comes from the enemies camp, I think he does a very good job of not displaying disdain for Michigan.
"Notre Dame's defense is designed to funnel every play into Moria, where the Balrog can clean up. Michigan's in '09-'10 was about a bunch of dwarves waiting around outside while the hobbit goes and burgles something."
I am still laughing about this line 5 minutes after reading it. Well played.
getting some love from the board. Finally.
I also have to agree with Chitown about the "at his ceiling" crap. Jordan's one of our best football players, period. He has gotten better every year. There are great players whose physical measurables simply do not do justice to their impact on the football field.
I remember hearing that Troy Vincent was 'too small' and Ty Law was 'too slow' to effectively play corner in the NFL. What was Chris Spielman's shuttle time back in the day? Fran Tarkenton, Steve Largent, Walter Payton, Joe Montana - none of them were over-blessed with the physical attributes typical of great players at their respective positions.
Kovacs has a ton of heart, a head for the game, and enough physical ability for him to consistently impact games in a huge way. Instead of wasting time worrying that a bigger, faster safety hasn't replaced him, just accept the fact that he's a damn good football player.
A thousand times, yes
Great stuff. Always liked Kovacs, especially after watching him sniff out screen passes better than anyone else in the backfield for the past couple of years. As much as people ragged on him, he's been recognized on various all B1G teams for some time now, and this year could easily be a 2nd-teamer. That's incredibly impressive for a guy regardless of how he made it on the field.
Kudo's for giving some well-deserved attention to Kovacs. I know it took me, like many others I'm sure, a long time to realize that his contribution is hugely greater than what one could expect from his high school recruiting rankings.
Novak plays basketball. Aren't we lucky that they both play for Michigan?
I wonder what are the chances that we will see a "Kovacs" jersey?
Kovacs is by far my favourite Michigan player. And the whole "walk-on" thing is one of the reasons that I love college football and prefer it to the pro game. In this day and age of recruiting watchers and assigning stars to players, seeing a young man like Kovacs come to Michigan, pay his way, and then work his tail off to make the team and earn a scholarship embodies the essence of collegiate athletics. I love being reminded that he is a "walk-on." I hope he gets a shot at the next level for his football intelligence, being some team's defensive QB.
Baring that, i would hope he enters the ranks of coaches. I think it would be a first rate feel good story to see him come back home to UM as a top flight defensive co-ordinator or head coach some day.