2018 Season Countdown: #10 Devin Bush, Jr.

Tag: 2018 season countdown

18Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #10 Devin Bush, Jr.

Devin Bush, Jr. (image via Toledo Blade)

Name: Devin Bush, Jr.
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 233 lbs.
High school: Pembroke Pines (FL) Flanagan
Position: Linebacker
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #10
Last year: I ranked Bush #9A and said he would be the starting middle linebacker with 90 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks (LINK). He made 102 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and 1 interception.
TTB Rating: 85

A lot was expected of Bush in 2017 after he had been the one main backup linebacker to sub in for Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray in 2016. Bush did not disappoint. Through the first four games of 2017, Bush made 33 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks. During that time Michigan rolled out a lot of 3-3 stack packages that flummoxed offenses who had not seen Michigan run that as a base defense, and Bush thrived running from sideline to sideline, especially when making 12 tackles against Air Force. After that opening third of the season, however, Bush’s production dropped off as Michigan went to more four-man fronts and opponents started game planning to neutralize Bush. Big Ten coaches named him First Team All-Big Ten and he won the Roger Zatkoff Award for the top linebacker on the team, even though senior Mike McCray II was on the team and the flashy Khaleke Hudson racked up a ton of tackles for loss playing Viper.

Michigan comes back with a very experienced defense in 2018, but nose tackle Maurice Hurst, Jr. has left for the NFL. Hurst helped keep offensive linemen off Bush, and it remains to be seen if his replacements can do that same. Even so, Bush has the speed, tenacity, and power to be a tackling machine. While the backup middle linebacker spot is undecided as of now, there are several highly rated recruits vying for time, including Drew Singleton, Josh Ross, and Cameron McGrone. It would be a big blow to the team if Bush were to miss time, but I’m confident that defensive coordinator Don Brown could come up with a scheme or “dude” to still make the defense elite without its stout middle linebacker. But if Bush stays healthy, he should be an all-conference guy once again who has to make a decision between life in Ann Arbor vs. life in the NFL.

Prediction: Starting middle linebacker; 95 tackles, 12 tackles for loss

17Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #11 Lavert Hill

Lavert Hill (image via MGoBlue)

Name: Lavert Hill
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 181 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) King
Position: Cornerback
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #24
Last year: I ranked Hill #17 and said he would be a starting cornerback with 25 tackles and 2 interceptions (LINK). He made 25 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions (for 24 yards and 1 TD), and 7 pass breakups.
TTB Rating: 84

Hill received a bunch of negative attention in the spring and fall of 2017 stemming from comments made by cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich. Zordich essentially questioned Hill’s desire and toughness because he didn’t play through bumps and bruises. But when it came time for the season to roll around, Hill was ready to roll, and he played at a high level. Just like counterpart David Long, Jr., Hill was repeatedly noted by Pro Football Focus as one of the top few cornerbacks in the country. He made an interception against Cincinnati, returning it across the field for a 24-yard touchdown. Overall, it was an excellent season for his first year as a starter, and he was named Second Team All-Big Ten.

Zordich was at it once again this spring when Hill missed some time with a minor injury. Good things must be coming this year if Zordich is down on Hill, so I’m okay with it. Hill should be an all-conference player if he continues to ascend, and Michigan could have the best cornerback duo in the nation. I rank Hill a couple spots above Long because I think Hill is a little more skilled as a cover guy. But neither one cracks the top ten, because Brandon Watson and Ambry Thomas exist. Michigan has four solid corners, making the top two guys slightly less important. With another season like last year, Hill is another guy to watch who could be an early entrant into the 2019 NFL Draft.

Prediction: Starting cornerback; 30 tackles, 2 interceptions

16Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #12 Quinn Nordin

Quinn Nordin (image via Detroit Free Press)

Name: Quinn Nordin
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 206 lbs.
High school: Rockford (MI) Rockford
Position: Kicker
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #3
Last year: I ranked Nordin #10 and said he would be the starting placekicker (LINK). He was 19/24 (79.2%) on field goals and 35/38 on extra points.
TTB Rating: 89

Nordin was expected to contribute in 2016, but an injury held him back. Last year he started off with a bang when he hit two 50+ yard field goals against Florida in the 2017 opener. He went 4/6 in that game and then hit 10 in a row. After that he hit a snag, missing 3 in a row, before hitting 5 in a row to end the season, including a 4-for-4 performance in the Outback Bowl. Nordin has a very strong leg, but he’s inconsistent at this point in his career.

I strongly considered ranking Nordin higher on this list. I had a very hard time ordering the players in the top 15 or so. I could probably make a case for Nordin to be as high as #3 on the list, and probably not lower than #15. I settled on him here because he’s not an every-down player, but he should still have a heavy impact on how the 2018 season goes. Michigan has some tough games on the docket this season, and not many of them should be blowouts either way. Having an effective field goal kicker could be the difference in several games. Nordin has the potential to be one of the top few guys at his position in the country, but he shouldn’t be missing 3 extra points and going several games between made field goals.

Prediction: Starting placekicker

15Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #13 David Long

David Long (image via Twitter)

Name: David Long
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 198 lbs.
High school: Los Angeles (CA) Loyola
Position: Cornerback
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #22
Last year: I ranked Long #22 and said he would be a backup cornerback (LINK). He made 21 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 0.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions (returned for 105 yards).
TTB Rating: 92

Long seemed to be in a battle for the starting cornerback job going into his sophomore season last year, and I had Keith Washington pegged to be the starter over him. Washington ended up transferring (he’s now at WVU), which was a pretty good indicator he didn’t win the gig. The winner in that battle was Long, obviously, who started all thirteen games. With this cornerback crew, the starters have got to be studs, and Long was a lockdown guy. No matter what metric Pro Football Focus uses (completion percentage, passer rating against, etc.), Long pops up as one of the top few corners in the nation.

This year Long appears to be a shoo-in for the cornerback spot, where he can build upon his sophomore season. He was listed at 187 lbs. going into 2017, and now he’s listed at 198 lbs. after the arrival of new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert. He was all-conference honorable mention, and a lot of times that portends a slide up the charts as long as he maintains – or improves – his performance. Of course, Michigan has an excellent defensive line and blitzes a lot, so that helps Long and the other defensive backs. It should be another excellent season for Long, and I expect him to get some more all-conference honors in 2018.

Prediction: Starting cornerback; 25 tackles, 2 interceptions

14Aug 2018
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2018 Season Countdown: #14 Zach Gentry

Zach Gentry (image via 247 Sports)

Name: Zach Gentry
Height: 6’8″
Weight: 262 lbs.
High school: Albuquerque (NM) Eldorado
Position: Tight end
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #83
Last year: I ranked Gentry #50 and said he would be a backup tight end (LINK). He caught 17 passes for 303 yards (17.8 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns.
TTB Rating: 84

Based on the 2016 season, it looked like Ian Bunting would be the starting tight end after Jake Butt graduated. Somehow Bunting worked his way down the depth chart while Gentry and Sean McKeon moved up. Gentry had flashed in the spring game, and he picked up where he left off by averaging 17.8 yards per catch. Four of his 17 catches went for 30+ yards. He’s 6’8″ and can run very well for someone his size. He’s a complete mismatch for defenses, and in my opinion, he could be another Mackey Award winner in the making.

One thing standing in the way of his earning the Mackey Award is McKeon. McKeon had almost twice as many receptions, even though he was less productive with those catches. And although McKeon is thought to be the more well rounded of the two, Gentry is a playmaking threat that teams have to account for on every play. It’s not often you can find a tight end who can get you 18 yards per catch. Gentry can be a big-play guy and a red zone threat, and he also improved his blocking. I also believe he can be effective on RPOs if Michigan decides to go that direction with quarterback Shea Patterson. I think this could be a breakout year for Gentry, and maybe it will be good enough for him to leave early for the NFL.

Prediction: Part-time starting tight end; 25 catches for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns