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Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Ambry Thomas. Thomas had just 1 catch for 5 yards and had only a couple snaps on offense, but it would be nice if Michigan could put together some packages for him. He’s the #4 corner on defense right now and Michigan lacks playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, so they might as well use him on offense. Get your best athletes on the field.
Name: Joshua Ross Height: 6’2″ Weight: 229 lbs. High school: Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s Position: Linebacker Class: Sophomore Jersey number: #12 Last year: I ranked Ross #59 and said he would be a backup linebacker (LINK). He played in all thirteen games and made 4 tackles. TTB Rating: 79
Ross’s 2017 season went about as expected. Michigan doesn’t rotate linebackers a lot, so Ross didn’t play a ton of defense. The defense is complicated, so Ross didn’t play a ton of defense. The team had Devin Bush, Jr. and Mike McCray II at inside linebacker, so Ross didn’t play a ton of defense. He did play as a backup on occasion and he spent quite a bit of time on special teams, which is where he made his impact.
The coaching staff did find him worthy of burning his redshirt, and I think that’s noteworthy going into the 2018 season. Jordan Anthony and Drew Singleton kept their redshirts, but they got Ross’s feet wet. Now he appears to be in a battle for the WILL linebacker position vacated by McCray, with the other candidates being Josh Uche and Devin Gil. I think Gil has the inside track with Uche beind a wild card, since Uche has bounced around a bit. But out of those three, the guy with the highest upside at inside linebacker is Ross. I view him as someone who could start to steal more and more snaps as his career progresses and push some other guys to the side.
Bryan Mone and Chase Winovich (image via iSportsWeb)
I addressed potential offensive attrition last week (LINK), and here’s the defensive edition. As I mentioned in that previous post, this is about the depth chart and opportunity for playing time; these posts are not about rumors or talent judgments.
DEFENSIVE LINE: First of all, it’s important to note that there are few places in the country where defensive linemen get better coaching than Michigan. If you want to be good and have the ability, Michigan gives you as good of a chance as anyone. It’s not like Alabama or Clemson, where elite recruits simply continue to be elite. It’s a place where walk-ons (Ryan Glasgow) and lowly 3-stars (Frank Clark, Maurice Hurst) can be turned into high draft picks. But if you’re not on their level, you won’t get on the field. In that regard, there are a few guys who are buried on the depth chart. One is defensive end Reuben Jones (RS Jr.), who has been passed by younger guys, and another is Ron Johnson (RS So.), who has bounced between defensive end and defensive tackle. Both are finding it difficult to find the field. Meanwhile, interior players Lawrence Marshall (RS Sr.) and Bryan Mone (RS Sr.) have both been passed by younger guys, most notably Aubrey Solomon, a 2017 signee. Michigan rotates defensive linemen quite a bit, so there’s playing time available for both, but becoming a starter would be a tall order. Most importantly of all, there’s a chance that Chase Winovich (RS Sr.) might enter the NFL Draft.
Hit the jump for a discussion of the linebackers and defensive backs.
Joshua Ross (#5) with teammate and WMU signee Dwayne Chapman (image via Scout)
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Name: Joshua Ross Height: 6’1″ Weight: 221 lbs. High school: Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s Position: Linebacker Class: Freshman Jersey number: N/A Last year:Ross was a senior in high school. TTB Rating:79
Ross, whose older brother James also played at Michigan, seemed like a lock to also be a Wolverine. And yet. He dragged his feet a little bit, flirting with the likes of Notre Dame and Oklahoma. It seemed late in the game when he finally committed to Michigan in late March of 2016, although in truth, that was still over 10 months away from National Signing Day. He earned some decent offers without reeling in many big-timers, and he ended up as the #9 inside linebacker and #214 overall in the 247 Composite.
Ross has a good chance to play this season, even if he is a bit undersized for a MIKE linebacker. Michigan plans to use him in the middle, and he’s not as athletic as Devin Bush, Jr., who played as a true freshman last season, mostly at WILL. The Wolverines had three guys in the spring that they seemed to trust in Bush, Mike McCray II, and Mike Wroblewski, but I think Wroblewski will get passed by someone, whether it’s Ross or another freshman. Both McCray and Wroblewski will graduate after this season, so Michigan needs to groom two or three guys who can start or be heavily rotated in 2018. I think Ross will play some, but there are other guys who should be able to fill in if needed, too.
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I posted the 2017 offensive recruiting grades last week (LINK), so here are my thoughts on the defensive side of the ball. Click on the player names below for their commitment posts.
DEFENSIVE END: B+ Commits (4): Deron Irving-Bey, Donovan Jeter, Corey Malone-Hatcher, Kwity Paye, Luiji Vilain Decommits (0): N/A Why? Michigan went after some elite rush ends (Jaelan Phillips, K’Lavon Chaisson, etc.) in this cycle, but none showed much interest. Instead, Michigan got home-stater Malone-Hatcher, Boston College decommit Paye, and Canada native Vilain as weakside end types. I thought Vilain improved significantly over the last couple years since moving from Ontario to Virginia. On the strong side, Michigan got Irving-Bey and Jeter, both of whom could end up as a 3-technique tackles. I don’t see dominant players here, but it is a solid group and they’ll get high-quality coaching.