In a matter of days, the Michigan football team’s secondary has gone from one of its deepest units to an area of concern.

In practice last week, redshirt junior safety Jordan Kovacs went down with a knee injury and didn’t play against Purdue. On Tuesday, sophomore safety Carvin Johnson announced his decision to leave the program.

Johnson has played in every game this year and recorded 14 tackles. With him gone and Kovacs questionable for Saturday’s game against Iowa, the Wolverines’ options are limited.

Freshman Blake Countess and redshirt junior J.T. Floyd have locked up the starting cornerback spots, and redshirt sophomore Thomas Gordon will play alongside fifth-year senior Troy Woolfolk at safety if Kovacs can’t compete Saturday.

But from there, the bench is nearly empty.

Sophomore safety Marvin Robinson, who would be one of the first options as a backup, has missed time this year due to injury and is also questionable for Saturday’s matchup. When asked if Robinson will play Saturday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke simply said Robinson “has to be healthy” to play.

If Robinson is out, that could mean fifth-year senior walk-on Jared Van Slyke — who has three career tackles — could see action at safety on Saturday.

Despite the thinning rotation, Hoke isn’t too worried.

He noted the emergence of Countess, who has taken over the starting role with Woolfolk moving from cornerback to safety, as one of the biggest reasons he’s not concerned about Johnson’s departure and the secondary’s depth.

Johnson was the sixth Wolverine to transfer this year — a high number for any college program.

The reason for Johnson’s transfer has yet to be released, but Hoke put it simply.

“(It) happens in football,” he said.

MATTISON MEN: Bryan Mattison won’t be cheering for his father’s team this weekend.

“As much as he’s close to Brady and he loves what’s happening here, (Bryan) said all along, ‘Dad, there’s only one game I won’t cheer for you on, and that’s the Iowa game,’ ” said Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Bryan’s father.

Bryan, now an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens (where Greg was defensive coordinator from 2008-10), played defensive line for Iowa from 2003-07.

But when Bryan was in high school, he wanted to go to Notre Dame — where Greg was defensive coordinator at the time.

Though the Fighting Irish recruited Bryan, Greg thought it would be best if his son played somewhere else.

“It’s one of those things of parenting,” Greg said. “It’s hard when I would be coaching him myself. He’s such a strong-willed guy and he’s such a competitive guy that I didn’t want to put up with the politics of that locker room when you have to go to the coaching part of it to that part of it.”

Looking back, Greg has no regrets — even if that means his son will be cheering against his team on Saturday.

“His experience (at Iowa) couldn’t have been better,” Greg said. “It was a great experience for him, and that’s a great program.”

MEANINGFUL MONTH: The leaves are on the ground, the Halloween costumes are gone and basketball season is just days away.

It’s November — but November 2011 has a different feel to it for Michigan. This season, the Wolverines have a legitimate shot at a Big Ten Championship.

“It means a lot,” said senior tight end Kevin Koger. “It gives the team a little more confidence that we could still win a Big Ten Championship, as opposed to other years when we were kind of out of the race.”

Throughout Schembechler Hall, flyers read, “This is November.” Hoke has stressed all season that November is when championships are won.

The Wolverines did what they needed to do to get to this point. Now is the time to really make it count.

“All the teams finally know who they are, they know where they are,” said fifth-year senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen. “Now it comes down to if you win all your games in November, you have a good shot at being in the Big Ten Championship Game in December. So that’s what we’re focused on.

“It’s been a point of emphasis since the coaches got here in January.”

GRITTY GIBBONS: In his short career, redshirt sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons has taken his fair share of heat — and understandably so.

The former high school All-American went 1-for-5 on field goals last season.

But this year, Gibbons is a different player. He’s 6-of-8 on the season — and when he runs onto the field to attempt a kick, fans actually keep their eyes open.

While everybody else doubted him, Hoke stood by his kicker.

“I’ve never doubted the kid,” Hoke said. “I’ve been real confident with how he’s handled the different situations we’ve put him in.

“The kid has been beat up just like our quarterback. That’s not right.”

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