Senior linebacker Mike McCray, the only returning starter on Michigan’s defense, had made the Butkus Award Watch List. The award which is named after Chicago Bears hall of famer Dick Butkus, goes to the best linebacker in the country at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels.
McCray is one of nine Big Ten linebackers who made the list. In 2016, McCray recorded 73 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles.
2016 was McCray’s first year as a starter, and he fared quite well considering he was not on the field much at all previously in his career. McCray still needs to improve moving laterally sideline to sideline, in pass coverage, and taking better angles to snuff out the run. However, McCray could very well wind up being one of the finalists for this award, as he has a high ceiling, a high football I.Q., and a high motor. And another year of being coached by legendary defensive coordinator Don Brown won’t hurt either.