2019 Season Countdown: #8 Josh Ross

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23Aug 2019
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2019 Season Countdown: #8 Josh Ross

Josh Ross (image via MLive)

Name: Josh Ross
Height:
6’2″
Weight:
232 lbs.
High school:
Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Junior
Jersey number:
#12
Last year:
I ranked Ross #41 and said he would be a backup WILL linebacker (LINK). He made 61 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 2 pass breakups.
TTB Rating:
79

Ross had one of the more baffling situations in 2018, which seems to have become the norm at inside linebacker. He started exactly one game, but he ended up #4 on the team in tackles with 61. Meanwhile, the guy who started the other twelve games at WILL (Devin Gil) finished #9 in tackles with 33. Ross also outpaced him in tackles for loss (5.0 to 3.5) and pass breakups (2 to 0). This was reminiscent of Joe Bolden starting over Ben Gedeon.

During the upcoming 2019 season, we should see no such imbalance between Gil and Ross, because both will probably start. Gil will stay at WILL, while Ross moves over to MIKE to fill the shoes of Devin Bush, Jr. There appears to be no question that Ross is the starter, even with former highly touted recruits Jordan Anthony and Cameron McGrone waiting in the wings. Ross isn’t as fast as Bush, but both can bring the lumber and Ross is one of the more technically sound linebackers you’ll find. I would not be surprised to see him in the running for First Team All-Big Ten by season’s end.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker; 80 tackles, 3.5 sacks

22Aug 2019
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2019 Season Countdown: #9 Donovan Peoples-Jones

Donovan Peoples-Jones (image via Wolverines Wire)

Name: Donovan Peoples-Jones
Height:
6’2″
Weight:
208 lbs.
High school:
Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position:
Wide receiver
Class:
Junior
Jersey number:
#9
Last year:
I ranked Peoples-Jones #6 and said he would have 40 catches for 600 yards and 6 touchdowns (LINK). He caught 47 passes for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns; and returned 25 punts for 250 yards and 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating:
92

Peoples-Jones is the ninth-highest rated recruit in Michigan history (in the recruiting era), and last year he started to show some of that promise. There were flashes in 2017, but not the production. Michigan started handing out a team Offensive Skill Player of the Year award in 2018, and Peoples-Jones was the recipient. He led the team with 47 receptions and 8 touchdowns, and his punt returning was solid, too. Highlights of his 2018 season included a 79-yard touchdown against SMU, a 3-touchdown performance against MSU, a 60-yard punt return TD against Nebraska, and a career-high 7 receptions against Ohio State.

Enter the Josh Gattis era. Peoples-Jones has been battling some groin issues, so as long as those problems don’t persist, he should take another step forward. He has the speed to take the top off the defense, the strength to fight off tackles, and the hands to make difficult catches. One area I think Peoples-Jones could improve is in his route running, but Gattis has a reputation as one of the top wide receiver coaches in the country. Alabama threw the ball a ton in 2018, but the top five receivers all had 40+ catches, 6+ touchdowns, and an average of 16+ yards per reception. Will that happen for Michigan in 2019? I doubt it, because the same pieces aren’t available for the Wolverines. Shea Patterson isn’t regarded as highly as Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama’s offensive line was superior, and Alabama had multiple 5-star running backs to threaten on the ground. But we should see an uptick in Peoples-Jones’s production.

Prediction: Starting wide receiver and punt returner; 50 catches for 800 yards and 9 touchdowns

21Aug 2019
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2019 Season Countdown: #10 Joshua Uche

Josh Uche (image via MGoBlue)

Name: Joshua Uche
Height:
6’2″
Weight:
250 lbs.
High school:
Miami (FL) Columbus
Position:
Linebacker
Class:
Redshirt junior
Jersey number:
#6
Last year:
I ranked Uche #40 and said he would be a backup linebacker and special teamer (LINK). He made 15 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks.
TTB Rating:
82

I doubt anyone other than Uche’s family was as excited to see him blow up in 2018 as I was. When Uche came out of high school, I was excited about his ability to bend around the corner and rush the passer. Edge rushers are hard to come by, and someone with that natural ability should be valued. Uche was a bit player last year, but he still managed to lead the team in sacks – he made more (7.0) than 1st round pick Rashan Gary (3.5) and new Patriots standout Chase Winovich (5.0).

Perhaps best of all was the fact that he didn’t beat up on the patsies on the schedule. All 7 of his sacks came against solid teams like Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, and Northwestern. One sack against Northwestern was a huge play in a game that ended up tighter than it should have been.

It’s hard to say how much Uche will be utilized in 2019. He played less than a third of Michigan’s defensive snaps and was essentially a pass rush specialist, yet he still picked up 7 sacks in one season, which is the fifth best total in the last decade. Talk out of the spring and camp has been that Uche will be used in a variety of ways, but I don’t know that there’s too much mystery: Michigan is going to rush him off the edge as a defensive end, and they’ll blitz him from the second level. He should have a future as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL at some point, which doesn’t exactly mesh with how Michigan plays defense, but it’s nice to have at least one of those explosive edge rushers available.

Prediction: Backup SAM linebacker; 25 tackles, 6 sacks

20Aug 2019
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2019 Season Countdown: #11 Ambry Thomas

Ambry Thomas (image via MLive)

Name: Ambry Thomas
Height:
6’0″
Weight:
182 lbs.
High school:
Detroit (MI) King
Position:
Cornerback
Class:
Junior
Jersey number:
#1
Last year:
I ranked Thomas #29 and said he would be a nickel corner and special teamer (LINK). He made 9 tackles, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass breakup; he caught 2 passes for 5 yards; and he returned 19 kickoffs for 412 yards (21.7 yards/return) and 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating:
90

Thomas was a highly touted cornerback prospect who has not taken the path to excellence that many expected. Blocked by two very good corners in David Long and Lavert Hill, Thomas has spent much of the past couple seasons working on special teams or dabbling on offense. During the 2018 season, Brandon Watson had a lot of success as the third corner, too. Thomas showed flashes – such as a 99-yard kickoff return against Notre Dame in the opener – but they were somewhat rare. In the final three games of the season (Indiana, Ohio State, Florida), the only appearance on the stat sheet for Thomas came on 6 kickoff returns against Ohio State. (On a side note…that game included way too many kickoff returns.)

This was expected to be a breakout year with Long off to the NFL and Watson having graduated. Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way so far. Jim Harbaugh said Ambry Thomas was not on the 110-man roster to start August camp, and he is not practicing after dealing with colitis. He will likely be back, but when? And will he be physically capable of excelling when he does return?

Michigan has had good cornerback play since Jim Harbaugh and Mike Zordich arrived in Ann Arbor. This list was made prior to the announcement of Thomas’s afflicition, so the Wolverines will be down the #11 player right off the bat. Now the job will likely fall to Vincent Gray, a late 3-star offer from the class of 2018. Jaylen Kelly-Powell has moved from safety to corner to mitigate the loss of Thomas, but that takes the second cornerback spot from a somewhat unknown in Thomas to basically complete unknowns. Kelly-Powell and the other options (Gray, D.J. Turner II, Jalen Perry, and Gemon Green) have barely been on the field, if at all. Cornerback is probably the biggest question mark on the team.

Prediction: Starting cornerback by end of season; 15 tackles, 1 interception

20Aug 2019
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Nightly Roundup: August 20, 2019

Brandon Peters (image via WCIA)

Former Wolverine Brandon Peters has been named the starter at Illinois (LINK).

If you’re into the revolving door that is Michigan football coverage, Brandon Brown is out at The Wolverine (gone to something called “Wolverine Digest”) and E.J. Holland is in at The Wolverine. I think Brandon Brown started at MGoBlog before migrating to Rivals, but I might have missed a step in there.

If you want some Mike Leach stories, here you go (LINK).