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Devin Gil and Josh Ross splitting first-team reps at WILL

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Al Washington on the WILL battle, plus other notes from Monday’s media availability.

NCAA Football: Florida at Michigan Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sophomores Devin Gil and Josh Ross are splitting first-team reps at WILL, linebackers coach Al Washington said at Michigan’s Monday media availability.

“(Gil’s) a dude, in the words of coach Brown,” Washington said, “but they’re both giving quality reps.

“You have to squint when watching the tape sometimes since each player is giving a consistent performance.”

Gil technically started the 2017 opener against Florida, but only tallied five tackles and a blocked punt recovery the rest of the year. Ross made four tackles as a special teams player in his true freshman campaign.

Read between the tea leaves if you will, but the first-year position coach offered the most praise for Gil.

“He’s another young guy who’s constantly making strides, benefitting from the reps,” he said. “That’s really something he started in the spring. We saw him make a lot of plays. He’s very smart, understands the nuances (of the scheme) naturally.”

He hesitated to name an official leader, rather passing that responsibility to his defensive boss.

“I’m not really qualified to answer that question,” he said. “You should direct that question to Don Brown.”

Other notes from Washington and safeties/special teams coach Chris Partridge:

  • Washington mentioned earlier this month rush linebacker Josh Uche made some of the biggest physical strides on the team, packing on 15 pounds of muscle under Ben Herbert’s tutelage.

He took his praise a step further.

“He’s young, getting older but he is very bright. He’s one of the most gifted players in terms of edge rushers I’ve ever been around, and this is the 11th year coaching for me,” Washington said.

“The kid is different...explosive. He’s better when being confronted. You’ve got to remember with him, he was an edge rusher in high school, so playing in a two point stance is difficult for anybody. He’s made strides, and I’m proud of that kid. I’m excited to see him develop. He’s special.”

Uche — hailing from South Florida like Gil — looks to build on his three tackles and lone sack from a year ago.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
  • Khaleke Hudson will obviously start at Viper, but Jordan Glasgow and incoming freshman Michael Barrett are also in the mix.

Washington has come away impressed with Barrett’s intelligence.

“He’s athletic and tough, still learning the playbook. Being a (high school) quarterback, I think he has a good foundation of football, understanding the game. I think that kid is going to be a really good player when all is said and done. I just love the kid.

“That position he plays is kind of like quarterback on defense, involved from the back end to front end. I think he understands concepts; now it’s a matter of memorization and getting comfortable.”

The Valdosta, Ga. freshman arrived on campus at a stocky 6-foot, 224 pounds. This already matches Hudson’s size, which spells one of two things. First, Barrett already has the physical tools to excel at Viper. Second, he may outgrow the position and move inside.

  • As mentioned in today’s cornerback rundown, Utah transfer Casey Hughes was starting at safety to better acclimate to the defense. The goal was always to put him at nickel corner.

Chris Partridge has now confirmed this.

“We recently flipped him over to the corner room with coach Zordich,” he said. “He’s picking it up, he’s going now. That’s a challenge, right? He came in, wasn’t at spring ball. He started with me in the safety room and did a heck of a job trying to learn the defense.”

Hughes racked up 35 tackles in Salt Lake City last year, and his emergence at nickel could allow Lavert Hill and David Long to focus on the opponent’s best outside receivers.