After Kovacs, which Senior will be hardest to replace on D next season?

Submitted by Blue boy johnson on October 26th, 2012 at 12:11 PM

[Ed-S: Bumped to diary]

Craig Roh DE SR
William Campbell DT SR
Brandin Hawthorne LB SR
Jordan Kovacs S RS SR
Kenny Demens LB RS SR
J.T. Floyd CB RS SR

If I could pick one senior to come back for another season, it would be JT Floyd. Kovacs is great and I would love another season of Big Will, C Roh, and Kenny Demens, but M seems much better equipped depth wise to deal with the loss of those 4, when compared to the CB, and the loss of JT Floyd. Brandin Hawthorne is great on ST's but his loss is the most sustainable.

Depth and experience aren't so great at Safety either, and makes me tempted to go with Kovacs, but for the missed season and uncertainty surrounding Blake Countess at CB.


Returning CBs:

Courtney Avery CB JR
Raymon Taylor DB SO
Blake Countess DB SO
Delonte Hollowell DB SO
Terry Richardson DB FR


Returning DTs:

Willie Henry DT FR
Ondre Pipkins DT FR
Richard Ash DT RS SO
Kenny Wilkins DT RS SO
Jibreel Black DT JR
Quinton Washington DT RS JR


Returning DEs:

Matthew Godin DE FR
Mario Ojemudia DE FR
Tom Strobel DE FR
Chris Wormley DE FR
Keith Heitzman DE RS FR
Brennen Beyer DE SO
Frank Clark DE SO


Returning LBs:

Royce Jenkins-Stone LB FR
Kaleb Ringer LB FR
Joe Bolden LB FR
James Ross III LB FR
Antonio Poole LB RS FR
Desmond Morgan LB SO
Jake Ryan LB RS SO
Mike Jones LB RS JR
Cameron Gordon LB RS JR
Brandin Hawthorne LB SR


Returning Safeties:

Jeremy Clark DB FR
Jarrod Wilson S FR
Allen Gant DB FR
Josh Furman S RS SO
Marvin Robinson S JR
Thomas Gordon S RS JR




October 26th, 2012 at 5:06 PM ^

I actually think Jibreel Black might be able to fill this role; he was quick enough as a WDE and apparently strong enough to try at 3 Tech. May be an adequate fit at SDE.

But you're right, he won't be able to replicate Roh's impact at the position.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:19 PM ^

Campbell and Roh have developed into solid players along the line, but the Heininger Certainty Principle suggests we'll be able to maintain a good level of play along the line even in their absence. Demens has been an important piece of our run defense this year and is a surprisingly good downfield cover man, but the young talent at linebacker looks really good too. I agree that Floyd is harder to replace for lack of proven depth behind him, but can't the same thing be said of Kovacs? And seriously, 4 year starter, team captain, the guy who makes sure the defense gets lined up right each play, who's always in the right place at the right time, who never substitutes off the field? I think we'll miss Kovacs the most of any senior on defense, and I don't think it'll be close. Please, please, please Marvin Robinson, prove me wrong.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

I agree that JK is the obvious #1 answer, and that Roh should be #2. Demens has played well, but he has stars waiting behind him. BWC is solid, but not as good as Roh, and BWC has seasoned players at his pposition and Roh does not.

The only reason to even hesitate on the Kovacs answer is the talent behind him. Tom Gordon has played well at the other safety, and whoever wins the Wilson/MRob/Dymonte battle will be a very good player. That's not counting someone in the Clark/Furman/Gant group stepping up.

Class of 1817

October 26th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

Jumped on this b/c it said 0 comments and I was all, like, "UM...DUH. LIKE, WTF?!"

And then the 12-year old girl in my head calmed down when I saw all of the Kovacsesing.

It's all about the Kovacsamins.

Looking forward to having a secondary again.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

Good post, easy answer, Kovacs. He has been solid over the last 2-3 years and his leadership has been most valuable. His team sees this as well as he is a Captain.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^ the obvious answer, but I get the Floyd lean.  What happens if Countess isn't ready for the start of the season?  Taylor's done well in his place, but only after they found out that Avery is much better in the slot than the field/boundry.  Does anyone where Hollowell & Richardson project in the field/boundry/slot equation?


October 26th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

Kovacs x 1000.


The fact that OP is debating this question (and getting it wrong) only goes to show how well Kovacs has done in eradicating UM fans' memories of how terrible safety play had been for UM in.. oh... a decade or so.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

Although I think that as a player/leader/Super Hero, Kovacs will be the most missed ... I think as a position we will have some issues at SDE next year.

I think Robinson can step in next year for the "Strong Safety" position.   If not, then T. Gordon can move to "Strong Safety" and with Wilson is being groomed to replace Gordon's spot the safety tandem looks to be all set in 2013. 

Roh is taking 95% of the snaps at SDE, and their is no obvious replacement for next year, we will have an undersized Beyer, RS Fr. Stroebel, Heitzman, back-from-injury Wormley - as of now, no guarantee any of these guys will be able to fill Roh's void.  



October 26th, 2012 at 12:25 PM ^

Taylor has been a revelation, and a key one with Countess going down in the first game. With those two (hopefully) healthy next year I'm not worried at Corner.

Frankly, the growing depth on this team is really encouraging. Other than Kovacs, there's no guy on the D who you don't think, "yeah, we've got a guy who can move in there and play well next year." Kovacs is the hardest to replace partly because we are weak at safety, but mostly because of the kind of leader and player he is. 

Keep bringing in the talent.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

for even making me contemplate this.

but yeah,

1. Kovacs

2. Roh

3. Demens

4. Floyd

Demens has been a nice surprise, & Brian has done a good job highlighting Roh's often unsung contributions this year, but I think Kovacs by a landslide.


October 26th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

I hate you for taking my list.

Kovacs, duh.  Roh is having a nice year and seems to have the least proven talent coming in behind him.  Demens has put it together, but our LB core seems deep.  Floyd... I've always been pretty meh on Floyd... he's solid and has his moments, but I have never seen him as difficult to replace.

One Inch Woody…

October 26th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

While Kovacs is definitely a leader out there, his limitations force us to play "bad cornerback play" according to the couch observers out there. He is undoubtedbly amazing in run support and he definitely has the sideline to sideline speed that is essential to playing SS. However, he doesn't have the speed to match with the best receivers in the country, and that forces our CBs to play in such a way that we give up short passes in order to prevent deep balls. We usually play cover 1 or man, which either gives up short passes or is susceptible to the deep ball (and Mattison picks the former). 

I'm not even sure that Marvin Robinson has the ability to run with the best receivers, but by moving T. Gordon to SS and Jarrod Wilson to FS I think our safety play will actually improve next season (sure Wilson has made some mistakes this season, but he's a freshman).

As for most irreplaceable, I believe that our D-Line recruiting has made it possible to simply reload after Campbell and Roh graduate. Demens has a nice backup in Bolden right now, so there won't be too much of a drop off (just thinking of a double-flow LB duo gives me chills!). With Countess back in the lineup and Avery locking up the nickel, but Taylor being shown to make some bad decisions at CB, I would venture to say that yes, JT Floyd is the most irreplaceable piece of our defense.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

You make goof points on Kovaks, and given his popularity, I commend your courage for voicing them.  And they are fair points.

One area of disagreement, though:

"Taylor being shown to make some bad decisions at CB, I would venture to say that yes, JT Floyd is the most irreplaceable piece of our defense."

Taylor is a true freshman.  Even the best true freshman make tons of mistakes.  You even acknowledge this with respect to Wilson : "sure Wilson has made some mistakes this season, but he's a freshman."  I expect Taylor's mistakes to drop significantly next year, as is common in a second starting season. 


October 26th, 2012 at 12:59 PM ^

All other things being equal, Kovacs will be most missed.

Roh also has been great in a way not often acknowledged.

Definitely not Floyd . . . with Countess back, and Raymon doing a good job, we should be ok at CB.

I tend to say Kovacs will be the most missed, because I know the least about Robinson and Gant.

But here's the thing. We still don't really know how all the guys behind the starters in the depth chart will do next year when they become starters. For me, it is less about Kovacs, or Floyd, or Campbell, or Roh, or Demens. It is more about the guy behind them. That's why I am least worried about Floyd:  I think Countess and Taylor have already proven themselves. For the rest, it isn't that I don't trust the guys in the depth chart. It is more that I just don't know how they'll do playing all the time. That's why you play the games.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:42 PM ^

Demens and Floyd are great but we have talent behind them that can probably pick up the slack without too much drop-off. I'm not sure who's going to replace Kovacs who is essentially the Shawn Hunwick of the defense. Same with Roh, lots of unproven people behind them.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

I think that Kovaks is the no-brainer answer.  Funny that you listed Floyd, as I think that he is amongst most replaceable.  Not because he has not played great, but because of the talent coming in:

My analysis of each player:

1.  Roh

Huge loss.  He is playing great football for us.  But, look at the talent returning at DE:


Matthew Godin DE FR
Mario Ojemudia DE FR
Tom Strobel DE FR
Chris Wormley DE FR
Keith Heitzman DE RS FR
Brennen Beyer DE SO
Frank Clark DE SO


Most of these guys are fairly highly-regarded.  While Roh is probably better on technique and fundamentals than any of these, by vitrue of being a senior, we should not see a significant drop off here.


2.  Big Will:

Will has played well, but not amazing.  While many see this as a loss of a 5 star mega athlete, Will has never played at that level.  I expect that a sophmore Pipkins will not be a drop off here. 


3.  Hawthorne

Good ST player, but very replaceable.  I expect no drop off, and perhaps an upgrade here.


4.  Kovaks

How do you replace this guy.  He rarely misses a tackle, is rarely out of position, and provides a great security blanket for our team.  Also the emotional leader and captain of our D.  Losing him will hurt. 

The only silver lining is that Kovals is obviously not an athletic freak, so whomever we insert into this spot may provide a speed upgrade. 

5.  Demens

Early this season, I would have been tempted to say that he is not a real loss.  But, he has really come on, and I think that we will feel this.  That said, there are some really talented guys who pushed for playing time earlier this season.  While Demens has clearly beaten them out, that push for playing time will serve them well next year.  Look at the list of talented, fairly well-regarded LBs returning:

Royce Jenkins-Stone LB FR
Kaleb Ringer LB FR
Joe Bolden LB FR
James Ross III LB FR
Antonio Poole LB RS FR
Desmond Morgan LB SO
Jake Ryan LB RS SO
Mike Jones LB RS JR
Cameron Gordon LB RS JR
Brandin Hawthorne LB SR

Ross, Bolden, Ringer or Jenkens-Stone could slot in nicely here.  Also, can Ryan play both LB spots at the same time? 


6.  Floyd:

Like I said, this guy has played great football.  He has gotten significantly better each year, and he is a solid to good CB.  That said, Taylor is holding down his side of the field nicely for a freshman, and should make a jump next year with another year of S&C, coaching and age.  If countess comes back in old form, we are essentially replacing Floyd at with Countess, which is likely an upgrade.  Avery still remains the nickel guy, with Hollowell and Richardson pressing for time, as well.

This is a position of decent depth, so I think that Floyd's departure will not hurt much, if at all. 



October 26th, 2012 at 12:54 PM ^

1 Kovacs is irreplaceable to me, but Thomas Gordon will likely take over for him next year. 

2 Roh is RVB jr, it'll be tough to replace him too, but Clark /Beyer/the field should step up.

3 Floyd is tough, but we have depth. He's had some tough duty the last few years. Countess, Avery, Taylor, and Hollowell have already been thrown in there, they'll step up like Floyd has.

4 Demens has really come in to his own this year. Either Bolden or Ross will start next year. Morgan could play either spot, depending on which freshman wins the other job.

5 BWC has been doing good this year, had some flashes of great play. By seasons end those might be more than flashes, but next year we'll be more than okay with Q, PeeWee, Black, and Other.


October 26th, 2012 at 1:00 PM ^

That changes if Jake Ryan decides to go pro.  Even though Jake isn't a senior, he is a redshirt Sophmore which means he can declare for the draft.  PLEASE don't let that happen!!!!!


October 26th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

Craig Roh DE SR
William Campbell DT SR
Brandin Hawthorne LB SR
Jordan Kovacs S RS SR
Kenny Demens LB RS SR
J.T. Floyd CB RS SR

1. Kovacs. I think M-Rob will be ready and if he isn't Jarrod Wilson will be, however nobody will be able to replicate Kovacs's impact on opponents' running games, where he often blows up something for zero yards where typical solid safety play means filling after the standard 3-yard gain. I think we'll go back to seeing that, and seeing some plays break for long TDs again, and we'll remember well how much of a safety blanket Kovacs was. Neither new option has had much playing time yet. Also remember the two safety positions are going to become more interchangeable next year and from now on, with Gordon playing strong as often as not.

2. Roh. While I like the talent we've been stockpiling at defensive end he has been an impact player this season and somewhat of a 4-year starter. Next year his PT goes to a rotation of probably Beyer, Black, and maybe Wormley and various 3-techs. Somebody will emerge from that pile because this staff is too damn good at developing that position, however it won't be at the level Roh's giving right now because a guy who could do that much would have shown himself by now. Maybe Jibreel Black can though.

3. Kenny Demens. I love the linebackers we've been developing, and the fact that Bolden and Ross have already been pushing for PT as true freshmen shows they're going to be pretty ready next year. I like Desmond Morgan as an MLB even more than at WLB since he can get off blocks. Coverage is actually the spot where we'll miss Demens the most, though you wouldn't expect it out of a guy his size. Demens is a great Big Ten coverage linebacker, part of the reason our coverage metric has been so damn high, and part of the reason I think he looks slow to participate in the running game sometimes. You're going from longtime experience at coverage to sophomores and a junior. It will be noticed.

4. J.T. Floyd. This is less about whether Floyd's a better player than Demens or Roh since he's our best cornerback this year and was last year, and his run play has improved this year. But since Countess is de facto the guy replacing him, the net effect of his departure will be minimalized.

5. Campbell. The emergence of Quinton Washington at nose has made Campbell round out as an okay 3-tech. I think by next year we'll be loaded with guys who can play 3-tech in various combinations. They should be able to get some of Campbell's occasional explosion when single-blocked out of smaller guys, and there's dudes like Pipkins and Ash to stand in for his size.

6. Hawthorne. Hasn't emerged as a nickel without going nickel option--instead I've seen Cam Gordon come in at SLB and Jake Ryan put his hand down--He's now behind the freshman MLBs.


October 26th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

1. Roh- Mainly because of the lack of depth behind him.  Who takes his spot next year?  Jibreel Black?  Strobel?  Brink?  

2. Campbell- If Pipkins or Washington can play his spot we should be okay here.

3. Demens- I like Bolden and think with enrolling early and the good playing time he's gotten he should be able to step in.

4. Floyd- I think Taylor has played really well and will only get better, along with having Countess back and Avery too. 


EDIT: Obviously Kovacs would be #1 but this reflects the change in topic title.

Ron Utah

October 26th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

I really can't get over that the OP picked anyone not named Jordan Kovacs.  That is crazy, and it seems likely that Kovacs will find a way to tackle the OP during the Nebraska game.  No one will see it happen.  Kovacs will disappear from a single frame in a reply and gordie bell will suddenly be lying on the floor of his living room, crying.

Besides the super-ultra-mega-tetra-hyper-uber easy choice of Kovacs, I'd really have to say Roh*.  He's got so much experience and seems to have learned how to read plays like RVB.  Of coures, it's entirely possible that RVB is telepathically communicating the plays to Roh, and in that case he'll just keep doing it with next year's SDE.

After that, there is a ginormous drop off.  Floyd?  Uh, Countess + Taylor is not a step down from Taylor + Floyd.  Could very well be a step up.  BWC?  I just giggled so hard I sharted.  Bradon Hawthorne?  Ummm...dude hardly plays right now.  That leaves only Kenny Demens, who I believe is actually second to Roh.  Demens has been a monster since his cut-block-nightmare supreme burrito vs. AF, and is very consistent.  The biggest difference between he and Roh is that Roh's replacement will likely be an inexperienced player...or Jibreel Black?

Quite frankly, this whole thread makes me smile.  While I will miss Kovacs more than I miss being able to poop in my pants and have someone else clean it up while I pee on them, our defense is going to be better next year than it was this year.  Bolden will be an upgrade at MLB, Pipkins will be an upgrade at DT, Hawthorne is already behind Ross (and a healthy Ringer, IMO), Floyd will be replaced in the line-up by Countess, the new RVB-in-training will be a player who is much more physically suited to the position than Roh (though he'll be less experienced), and Kovacs will be a big loss, but will be replaced by a more athletic player.  Next year's defense will be our first look at the Hoke/Mattison defense that is subtle like a HULK SMASH! and gentle like a jackhammer.  I can't wait.

*Don't get me wrong...I don't think Roh will be irreplaceable at all.