2017 Season Countdown: #5b Mike McCray II

2017 Season Countdown: #5b Mike McCray II

August 28, 2017

Mike McCray II (image via Medium)

Name: Mike McCray II
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 248 lbs.
High school: Trotwood (OH) Trotwood-Madison
Position: Linebacker
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #9
Last year: I ranked McCray #19 and said McCray would be the starting WILL linebacker with 60 tackles. He made 75 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 4 pass breakups, and 6 quarterback hurries.
TTB Rating: 74

McCray spent a lot of time a) playing special teams and b) being injured prior to 2016, and there was even a question about whether he would be able to continue his football career. A lingering shoulder injury has caused him problems, and he wears a harness over that shoulder to protect him from further injury. So when he solidified himself as Michigan’s starting weakside linebacker last season, there was some trepidation about whether that role would last.

He hit the ground running, though. At 6’4″ and 248 lbs., he’s a very large weakside linebacker, but he was impressive in coverage and on the blitz. Pro Football Focus names him the #3 returning linebacker in the Big Ten, #1 in pass rushing, and #2 in pass coverage (LINK). He struggled occasionally with finishing tackles in space, a problem that I think was overblown at times. Yes, the 6’4″, 248-pounder had trouble corralling scatbacks in open space, which shouldn’t be surprising. That’s like complaining that a 5’7″ cornerback struggles to cover a 6’6″ tight end. It’s his job to do that, but you know ahead of time that’s not his strength and throw him out there, anyway, because he’s good at other stuff.

Recently, McCray was named a captain for the 2017 unit, along with offensive tackle Mason Cole. As the only returning starter from 2016, McCray is looked at as a leader and highly competent player. He could very well be an All-Big Ten performer this year, especially if Wisconsin linebackers keep dropping like flies. Sometimes all-conference accolades are given out as lifetime achievement awards, and if McCray can produce like he did last year – or maybe just a bit better – I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him earn those honors.

Prediction: Starting weakside linebacker; Second Team All-Big Ten


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 528
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Aug 28, 2017 at 12:55 PM

    I can only think of maybe Speight or Cole who is more important for their respective position in my mind. I see a guy who is a heck of a linebacker. Looks like a quicker/faster Sam Sword which is a compliment. Good write up.

  2. Lanknows
    Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 28, 2017 at 2:31 PM

    But I mean – a LB is supposed to tackle RBs in space — that’s one of if not THE primary thing he is supposed to do. A CB is not supposed to cover TEs all that often – safeties and LBs are supposed to do that. If McCray is too big/slow to tackle RBs in space, they should find someone who is fast enough to do it. (Given the size of most of the RB recruits it looks like maybe they are doing that.)

    Though the positional differences are often negligible, I think the fact that we have a 5’9 starting MLB while a 6’4/250 guy plays WLB probably says something about some of McCray’s limitations.

    I think McCray is a very very valuable player due to lack of depth. Being chosen as a captain means his leadership is a big deal too. I think he’s a good player overall but his on-field impact is probably inflated by the Don Brown defense and having an elite DL. He’s a ‘downfield’ LB who won’t be mistaken for a viper anytime soon.

    I haven’t seen all-conference level playmaking or all-conference level consistency or all-conference level coverage, but McCray is veteran in a system that rewards LBs with TFLs and sacks and he should get plenty of impressive stats this year.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 528
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      Aug 28, 2017 at 3:02 PM

      McCray does a good job in space but as Thunder points out he isn’t going to cover Warrick Dunn in his dreams or should I say Barkley of PSU. This limitation is mitigated by his strengths. He fights off blocks and can handle blocks so I see him as one of the better players on the team. I would take McCray at linebacker every year based on the average type linebacker UM normally has annually. Is he David Harris? No. Is he Desmond Morgan or Joe Bolden? No. I’ll take a clone of McCray who plays in the Big Ten every day of the week.

      Your points are very good. Maybe McCray does offset the size of Bush. In fact, I think Brown has these guys switched up because he wants Bush on the side of Gary because of potential double teams so Bush will be able to blitz which he does well. Bush is protected by some tough run stoppers. Having Bush and Gary on the same side makes it a nightmare for teams trying to contain Dr. Blitz. Balance. Just a thought.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 33
      Aug 28, 2017 at 11:49 PM

      Wait a sec—McCray had a sack in the Horseshoe and a pick-six in the Orange Bowl. Sacks and TOs are one-off events, sure, but it’s unfair to knock his playmaking when he made plays against the two most talented teams U-M faced all year.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3849
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 29, 2017 at 7:35 AM

      An inside linebacker is generally supposed to tackle running backs in enclosed spaces. Where McCray got into trouble is when teams got him out near the sideline, where he’s busting his tail to cut off a big play, and then there’s a cutback or a shimmy or a shake. Yes, that’s his job, but it’s a difficult and gets more difficult the further he gets away from the box.

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