Jordan Kovacs surprised he was named Michigan's most valuable player
ANN ARBOR -- Left tackle Taylor Lewan was a first-team All-American. Linebacker Jake Ryan led Michigan in tackles, sacks, forced fumbles and had twice as many tackles for loss as anyone else. Quarterback Denard Robinson is the face of the team.
Any one of them could have been named Michigan's' most valuable player.
The honor instead went to senior safety Jordan Kovacs, named last week by a vote of his teammates. He's a fourth-year starter who is one of the best safeties in the Big Ten, but it was something of a surprise he beat out Lewan, Robinson and Ryan.
Even to him.
"A little bit, yeah," he said. "I didn’t vote for myself."
Kovacs had the worst statistical season in his four years as a starter, recording a career-low 65 tackles. His five tackles for loss and two sacks were the fewest since he was a freshman.
But that decline was a testament to Michigan's improving defense rather than an indictment of his play. Fewer plays reached the safeties due to the production from the defensive line and linebackers.
Michigan's three-leading tacklers were linebackers.
Perhaps the best statistical barometer for Kovacs' steady play is big plays allowed. The Wolverines yielded just 28 plays of 20 yards this year, the fewest in the country.
They were in the top 10 for 30-, 40- and 50-yard plays allowed, and were one of only six teams that didn't yield a 60-yard play all season.
Michigan finished second overall this year in pass defense, allowing just 155.2 yards per game.
Kovacs doesn't wow with his speed or athleticism, but he does with his consistency and nose for the ball. He rarely makes mistakes, and his wealth of experience allowed him to be the anchor of the 11th-best defense in the country.
And that was enough to make him Michigan's MVP over stars such as Lewan and Robinson.
"It’s an honor," Kovacs said. "It’s like being named captain: If your team recognizes you as a leader or as an MVP, it is an honor. I’m not big on individual awards, but if I’m getting credit from my teammates, it's just an honor."