clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

3 under-the-radar players for Michigan in 2019

These players will leave their mark in the fall.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Western Michigan at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who is standing out in practice? In summer workouts? That is on every fan’s mind in the offseason. Indulging in the speculative and translating coach provided hyperbole to gain insight on future stars is half the fun of being a fan.

But what about the players the coaches don’t mention, but should? The players that coaches offer a sound bite here and there, but never elaborate as deep as we want.

Whether an oversight or intentionally playing their cards close to the chest, these are my three under-the-radar players to keep an eye on in the fall.

Josh Uche Senior, LB/DE

Wait, how can a returning player with seven tackles-for-loss and eight sacks in nine games be “under the radar?” How can someone the Detroit Free Press claimed to be a “sack star” in November not be getting his just due in the media?

Well, Josh Uche is, and I will not stand for this nonsense anymore! However, this is nothing new to the Miami, Florida, product.

The former 707th ranked recruit in the country was a hidden gem for the privy elitist receiving offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn and Florida, despite his disrespectfully low ranking.

Uche only played in five games his first two seasons, but exploded last season while Rashan Gary was injured. And if you adjust Uche’s 2018 sack average for nine games, he would have ranked 17th in the country (directly behind new Wolverine Mike Danna, for what it’s worth).

Why is no one talking about him?

Some are talking about him. Yet, most remain fixated on the presumed starters Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson, some with the aforementioned Danna, and others are still gushing about Luiji Vilain’s potential. Long live Vilain truthers, but it’s time to ruin 2019’s surprise.

Uche is the best kept secret in Ann Arbor and a pass rushing X-factor for Don Brown. He is not going to dominate games like half alien Devin Bush with 10 tackles, but his positional versatility allows him to fit into any scheme along the defensive line or as a linebacker, and rush the passer.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03: Penn State at Michigan Photo by Lon Horwedel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Uche compares favorably to 2015 Taco Charlton (8.5 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks), but Charlton’s numbers were also across 11 games. The following year Charlton recorded double digit tackles-for-loss and sacks.

Can Uche reach double digit numbers in more games despite potentially not starting? Coming off the bench last year did not stop him from out performing Gary in the same amount of games (6.5 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks).

I may have spoiled the surprise, but Uche’s sack party deserves an invitation.

Ambry Thomas Junior, CB/ KR

The Ambry Thomas hype reached 1.21 gigawatts in 99 beautiful yards in South Bend before slowing to a microwave pulse the rest of the season. The Detroit native averaged 21.68 yards-per-return (good enough for sixth in the Big Ten) in 2018, but after Notre Dame, Thomas was perceived as somewhat of a let down.

Thomas has shown flashes during his first two seasons in Ann Arbor as a returner and has contributed solid minutes as a reserve corner. David Long and Brandon Watson are off to the NFL and valuable playing time is up for grabs across from Sharpie’d-in starter Lavert Hill.

Yet the starting corner conversation eludes Thomas and there are rumors of him even being usurped as kick returner by one of the speedy freshmen.

Let’s pump the brakes really hard, people.

Why is no one talking about him?

Ambry Thomas is an electric X-factor. Honestly, let’s enjoy this again for no other reason than it’s a weekday:

While Vincent Gray is garnering praise in the spring, my money is still on Thomas to start. This is his third year in Don Brown’s system and he is too freakishly athletic to be kept at bay.

Thomas is the fastest player on the team and one who will fill a myriad of roles in 2019. While not completely absent from all conversations, the coaching staff seems to stay mum on certain role expectations concerning versatile players this off-season (SEE: Uche).

Furthermore, if Thomas does not return kicks, it will only be because he is starting across from Hill.

Speed has been his M.O. while at Michigan, but skill and technique appear to be the only things catching up to Thomas in 2019.

Cam McGrone Redshirt Freshman, LB

Cam McGrone is not a starter and probably won’t be until 2020, but he will make an impact in 2019 because of speed, “hot nasty bad ass speed.”

While he will split reserve time with Jordan Anthony, McGrone’s speed is a factor demanded more than ever at the linebacker position. The former 4-star prospect spent a year learning from another fast linebacker, the best middle linebacker in Michigan history, Devin Bush.

Why is no one talking about him?

He will not be a starter or even see 50 percent of the snaps. Period. Unlike the other two players mentioned above, McGrone is no secret weapon about to be unleashed upon the Big Ten across multiple positions. But he will make his presence known to defenses when presented with the opportunity.

Lastly, call me old fashioned, but I love seeing young guys take pride in the scout team.

Now, his learning reps are far from over, but speed kills and McGrone will be McGROWN before we know it.

I’ll see myself out.

Do you agree with my list? Of course you don’t, so who are some under-the-radar players you are looking forward to watching in 2019? Have your voice heard in the comments below.