The Wolverine

March 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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34 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2018 "I thought he improved a lot as a senior. He was just so explosive and incredibly fast for his size. I was so impressed with him — he's just an all-around great linebacker and will be a great fit at Michigan." A BORN BLITZER Defensive coordinator Don Brown was a big reason why's No. 16 outside linebacker prospect nationally chose the Wolverines over Tennessee, Notre Dame and others. Michigan finished tied for first na- tionally in tackles for loss (8.8 per game) and seventh in sacks (3.23), let- ting their defenders aggressively blitz and chase quarterbacks last year. The starting linebackers accounted for 44 TFLs and 18 sacks, a fact not lost on McGrone. "That was one of the main reasons I came to Michigan," McGrone ac- knowledged. "Coach Brown's phi- losophy is to just let guys play. That's what I love about him. He's going to let me play, blitz, make plays. That's awesome." The plan, for now, is to play him inside at the Mike linebacker spot va- cated by graduating fifth-year senior Mike McCray. Several young line- backers will vie for the right to start next year alongside to junior-to-be Devin Bush, and McGrone is excited to compete. "Coach Brown wants me to help replace Mike McCray," he said. "I feel like Devin Bush and I kind of have the same attributes. We're both fast, explosive, have a knack for the ball. Mike is a great linebacker, but not as fast. I'm bringing my speed to that position, and I feel we could be domi- nant." So do many who saw him at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in Jan- uary. McGrone was limited in how much he could contribute due in large part to the rules — no blitzing, for one — in place to protect the elite quar- terbacks. Still, he didn't go unnoticed. He earned mention for's "Lunch Pail Award" during the game, which honors a prospect who does all of the dirty work that doesn't get into the box score or noticed by many. "If you don't watch closely you might miss them, and it's a shame, because they're fun to watch," Rivals. com recruiting analyst Adam Gorney wrote of the candidates for the honor. "McGrone had a strong week that shouldn't be overlooked." West coach Scott Sanders of Cor- vallis (Ore.) Crescent Valley played him at both the weakside and middle linebacker spots because of his great speed, even though he deemed Mc- Grone more of a middle linebacker at the prep level. At the same time, he believes Mc- Grone could well end up on the weak side, where he'd be able to use his speed. McGrone picked up the schemes quickly during practices, especially when he received a crash course on how to read offensive guards. He was able to fill the backside 'A' gap be- tween center and guard and pick up cutbacks, run free a bit more and use his speed. The one potential knock on him — pass coverage — was something he also handled well in San Antonio. "I feel like I did my part," he said. "I got a pass deflection over there. I'm progressing in pass coverage and showing all these people I can cover the pass. "I definitely loved playing with the best. My high school conference is one of the toughest in the nation, but being there with all the great four and five stars, fantastic players, was awe- some." A WOLVERINE AT HEART Michigan lost its bowl game, 26-19, to South Carolina on the same day that McGrone's West team beat the East, 17-16, in a hard-fought game. Though disappointed with the U-M result, McGrone — having already put pen to paper in signing on Dec. 20 in the early period — had no regrets about his decision. "It feels great," he said. "I actually felt like a true Wolverine back on July 31 when I committed. My family told me once I commit I have to be locked in, have to be sure I want to go to that school for four or five years." He'd narrowed his list to six, but had a top three of U-M, Notre Dame and in-state Indiana before calling to let those college coaches know of his decision to leave the state. People left him alone after that, he said, and the McGrone racked up 29 tackles for loss and 154 total stops during the final two years of his prep career at Indianapolis Lawrence Central. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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