Michigan Football Preview 2019

Digital Edition

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 103 of 179

102 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW LINEBACKERS BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan has seen its share of out- standing talent come through Ann Arbor in head coach Jim Har- baugh's four years on the job, much of it on the defensive side of the ball. Few in maize and blue, however, mastered their positions like middle linebacker Devin Bush Jr., a consensus All-American who might rank among the best linebackers to ever wear the winged helmet. Defensive coordinator Don Brown knows he won't find the next Bush on this year's Michigan team — not a slight against the returning linebackers, but Bush was so good at the NFL Combine this year he even performed in pass coverage drills better than most defensive backs. But Brown also knows he doesn't need another Bush to put a great linebacker corps together. There's plenty of talent returning, and replacing the All-American will be a by-committee affair. "When you're talking about the defensive front, we're rotating those guys anyway. Linebacker is different," Brown said. "If there's a discernible difference, you play the best guy. "A year ago, Josh Ross and Devin Gil shared time, and Devin Bush Jr. played [all the time]. It's not rocket science to figure that out. But if you can [rotate] it's a beautiful thing, because guys have the ability to stay fresh." Bush was arguably the fastest sideline- to-sideline linebacker in Michigan football history — and that's not hyperbole. His ability to erase potentially successful plays with his speed to the ball won't be matched, though redshirt freshman Cameron McGrone might be the fastest of the current crop at the position, and he's impressive. Brown provided a surprising revelation in assessing this year's group, though, and it's encouraging. "I can't put my finger on why, but we're playing a lot faster this time around — and we were a fast defense last year," he said. "The nuts and bolts of our defense are still intact, so our guys can just keep going and understand the playbook better now. "We have an older group of guys helping the younger guys, and that is a beautiful thing." Inside Men Brown and new linebackers coach Anthony Campanile are looking for interchangeable players at the inside positions, Mike (middle) and Will (weakside), and there is no shortage of options. Ross, a junior, will slide over from the weakside and proved he can play the Mike position in last year's Peach Bowl, when he racked up a game-high 11 tackles with one sack, though he didn't get much chance to show it this spring. The 6-2, 225-pound Ross earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and media a year ago after playing in all 13 games and notching 61 tackles with five stops behind the line of scrimmage. He earned the team's Blue Collar Award for his workmanlike attitude, but injuries sidelined him for most of March and April. "Josh Ross — that's probably been the most frustrating for me," Brown said. "He has not gone at all [in the spring]. But, if you said to me, who is your smartest linebacker, I would say it's him. He's just sitting right next to me, and he's engaged a n d u n d e r s t a n d s concepts." His brother, former Michigan linebacker James Ross, is now a graduate assistant and helped keep his brother on task while he sat out during practices. There wasn't much Fast and deep The Linebacker Corps Returns Plenty Of Talent In Its Quest To Replace All-American Devin Bush Jr. According to Pro Football Focus, senior Josh Uche racked up his team-high 7.0 sacks on just 89 pass rushes, ranking him second nationally in pass rush efficiency with a minimum of 80 pass rushes, behind only Kentucky's Josh Allen, the No. 7 over- all pick in the last NFL Draft. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN FYI Fifth-year senior Jordan Glasgow is the third and last of three brothers to have played at Michigan, though the 6-1, 223-pounder doesn't physically resem- ble his big bros. Ryan Glasgow (2014-17) is a defensive tackle with the Cincinnati Bengals, going in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, while oldest brother Graham (2012-16) is a starting offensive lineman with the Detroit Lions, going in the third round of the 2016 draft. All three Glasgow brothers started their ca- reers as walk-ons. Position coach Anthony Campanile worked with Michigan quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels at Rutgers in both 2014 and 2015. McDaniels coached wideouts in 2014, while Campanile was in his second year with the tight ends, before McDaniels was promoted to of- fensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the following year, allowing Cam- panile to move to wide receivers. Junior Josh Uche almost didn't play high school football, let alone college. The son of Nigerian immigrants grew up in Miami and didn't play his freshman year. His father then pulled him out of football during his sophomore year because he wanted him to focus on academics, but Uche was back on the team the next two seasons and helped lead Columbus High to a pair of Class 8A state championship games (Florida's largest classification) in his final two years. Redshirt junior Devin Gil was part of a prep team at Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Flanagan that included Michigan senior safety Josh Metellus and top-10 NFL Draft pick Devin Bush. He is pursing a marketing and sales track certificate from the esteemed Stephen M. Ross School of Business. LEADING RETURNING TACKLER AT LB (STATS FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR) Year Player Solo Asst. Total TFL Sacks 2019 Josh Ross 22 39 61 5.0-8 1.0-1 2018 Devin Bush Jr. 38 64 102 9.5-45 5.0-39 2017 Mike McCray 39 37 76 12.5-51 4.5-30 2016 Jabrill Peppers 34 11 45 5.5-16 0.0-0 2015 Joe Bolden 55 47 102 4.0-18 2.0-15 2014 James Ross III 46 39 85 5.5-23 1.5-17 2013 Jake Ryan 56 32 88 16.0-71 4.5-35 2012 Kenny Demens 49 45 94 5.0-20 3.0-18 2011 Kenny Demens 47 35 82 1.5-2 0.0-0 2010 Obi Ezeh 27 42 69 5.0-8 0.0-0

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