The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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24 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2021 running better. He looks faster. I don't have any times to say that, but the eye time sure looks faster. "Just his instincts and the way he's able to diagnose a play, be there a step and a half to two steps in the right direction, time after time. It's a combination of his experience, his instincts, the coaching he's getting, how important it is, how much he's studying, all those factors. "His anticipation of diagnosing a play is high-level." The numbers don't lie, when it comes to production at a potential All-Big Ten level. After seven games, Ross led the Wolverines in tackles, with 44. He was third on the team in tackles for loss, at 4.5. He'd recorded six quarterback hur- ries, along with a half-sack and two pass breakups. Faster isn't better when you're headed the wrong way. That's not an issue with the veteran linebacker, according to new Michigan 'backers coach George Helow. "The biggest thing is, when you know what plays are coming, based off the alignment of the tight ends or the back- field sets, you can anticipate things hap- pening," Helow said. "I don't know if he's faster physically right now than he was last year. "But the way he reacts to stuff, the way that he's seeing the game, the way he's playing, sure looks faster to me." Ross insists it's not just him who dou- bled down on getting better after 2020. An undefeated tear through the first two months of the season underscores the fact that achievement, both personal and team-wise, took hold during Michigan's winter of discontent. "It's not only what I have done in the offseason, getting my body right, but how we operated as a team, and as a defense," Ross pointed out. "Learning the scheme, developing, growing. We put ourselves in a great position. "From the offseason, it's just preach- ing, we have to be better. We HAVE to be better. It's us living by it, behind closed doors, and it coming to light, as we get to these weeks. "The job is not even close to finished. It's just begun." Ross intends for Michigan's defense to continue as a crucial part of the Wolver- ines' success. "It's a great feeling when you're able to be undefeated this first half, but also go- ing into hostile environments, handling it really well, bowing our necks," he said. "Most of the big, close wins came down to us at the end of the game. "It's beautiful to see it. I'm blessed to be a part of it." LEADERS OF THE BEST He's been a big part of it, all of those around him attest. As a captain, Ross takes enormous responsibility for the defense and making sure everyone per- forms in unison. Many have spoken about the leader- ship on defense, including both Ross and junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. "Josh has been a tremendous leader this year," Helow observed. "He's the heart of the defense. He ties all of the fronts and the coverages together. He's done a tremendous job. "He's infectious to the people around him … they follow his leadership. The group is coming together nicely. We're chasing perfection every day. That's something we talk about all the time, and Josh definitely sets the tone for the group." Harbaugh echoes those words when it comes to Ross' leadership. "Huge," the head coach said. "Him and Aidan are right at the top. Those two leaders, along with [senior safety] Brad Hawkins … those three guys have done a tremendous job of leading the team on defense, since winter condi- tioning, spring ball, summer. We're not very far along without them leading the way. "He's as good a leader as you can have. And he's playing as good as any inside linebacker since I've been here. That's saying a lot." Head coach Jim Harbaugh said of Ross, a two-time captain: "He's as good a leader as you can have. And he's playing as good as any inside linebacker since I've been here. That's saying a lot." PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Former U-M linebacker James Ross on his little brother, Josh "Everything he's done, he's looked at me like the benchmark, and he's tried to overshoot it. He's surpassed it greatly in every opportunity he's able to."

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