The Michigan Wolverines lost a ton of leadership from the middle of their defense when Devin Bush decided to go pro. Now the defense is without a true leader at the position and everyone is wondering who is going to step up.
Here are my predictions for how the linebacker position group will look in 2019.
The Starters: Khaleke Hudson, Devin Gil, Josh Ross
This group is going to have more experience than any other defensive position.
Hudson is expected to take a huge jump forward this season. He was great in 2017 when he had 83 tackles, 8 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. But he took a huge step back as a junior in 2018, recording half as many tackles, only 2 sacks and just 3.5 tackles for loss. Replicating a season like 2017 certainly isn’t easy, but he put up nowhere near the same numbers he had the year prior.
Hudson struggled to control himself at the start of the 2018 season as he was ejected for targeting in back-to-back weeks, losing nearly two full games of play in the process.
If he can stay within himself and produce even close to the numbers he did in 2017, the Michigan defense will much more dangerous.
Gil is another guy who brings veteran leadership to the table. The senior has appeared in 26 straight games for the Wolverines. One area he desperately needed to improve was in his pass coverage. He was picked on by countless offenses as they forced him to cover the slot receivers and running backs. Ohio State specifically made that a focus in The Game. He will have to improve in coverage for this Michigan D to be elite.
Ross is going to be filling in where Bush left off. The junior finished last year with 61 tackles and a sack. If he can stay healthy, Ross should produce big numbers this fall.
Don Brown is very confident in turning over the middle linebacker position to Ross, as he said earlier this offseason, “He’s the brightest linebacker I’ve been around in a long time. Even when he was injured in the spring, this guy knows his stuff. You know what I’m saying? You don’t have to worry about what kind of a day’s work you’re gonna get out of Josh Ross.”
2nd-String/Depth: Cameron McGrone, Jordan Glasgow, Jordan Anthony
Glasgow has appeared in 39 straight games for Michigan. He is a workhorse just like the rest of his brothers, and he will get several chances in the different packages in Brown’s defense this season.
Anthony, another upperclassman, has yet to live up to the 4-star potential he was given in the class of 2017. Now he will have the opportunity to show what he’s got on the football field, as he will be a rotational player in 2019. He played in seven games last season, earning a sack and 3 tackles in his limited minutes.
McGrone is touted as the starting linebacker of the future. As a redshirt freshman, he will have his opportunities to see the field. He will surely see more playing time than one game he played in last year. He will need to show some flashes to ensure the trust of Brown and start to prove his worth a stating role in 2020.
The Future: Joey Velazquez, Charles Thomas, Anthony Solomon, Michael Barrett
Velazquez was a 3-star recruit and was brought in as a safety out of high school. However, he fits the perfect mold for the Viper position. This kid could have starting potential in a couple of years.
Another 3-star recruit, Thomas hopes to make his name heard in the deepest parts of the depth chart. He is a hard-nosed, blitzing linebacker and could be a solid depth piece.
Michigan flipped Solomon away from Miami (FL) late in the recruiting process. He is a play-maker in every sense of the word.
Barrett is also listed as a linebacker as of right now. He came out of high school as a quarterback and was in consideration for running back and wide receiver depth last year. He is a natural athlete but has struggled to find a positional home, but it appears he will stay at SAM/Viper for now.