There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it will do so in empty stadiums with a conference-only schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Cameron McGrone, redshirt SO
247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (OLB 7, Overall 118)
2019 Stats: 65 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 2.5 sack, 1 PD, 1 FF
There were a few breakouts on defense last season, but Cameron McGrone was arguably the player who shot up the most over the course of the season. The redshirt freshman came to Ann Arbor with plenty of recruiting hype, but after an uneventful first year and modest expectations entering 2019, it was quite a surprise to see his blossoming on the field.
At this point, McGrone is the best looking of any Wolverine linebacker (across the plethora of roles they play) and will carry plenty of responsibility as the middle linebacker. He forced his way into the starting lineup last season but still has a lot of room for growth. All arrows are pointing up as he enters this fall as one of the more important pieces of the defense.
Can McGrone continue to progress and become an elite player at linebacker?
It can be funny to think about now, but McGrone entered 2019 as just a rotational option at linebacker. It really was not until October when he began to make a name for himself, recording six total tackles for loss over a three-game stretch and kicking off a run of more playing time. By the time it was said and done, the redshirt freshman finished the year in the top five on the team in both tackles and tackles for loss.
McGrone was listed as an outside linebacker by recruiting services but Michigan likely saw him as a middle linebacker all the way. He is not the biggest player but has put on some muscle and certainly does not seem to be limited by his size. Though it took some time for him to get on the field, he is built like a playmaker with a very high ceiling. His aggressiveness and explosiveness are apparent on tape and it was only a matter of time before he would start putting it all together.
The Mike position is crucial in the 3-3-5 defense, as there are responsibilities all across the board. Pass coverage is a huge task, as is blitzing, and McGrone will have to react quickly and get to the edge against the run as well. 2019 proved he is capable of bearing these jobs and he definitely has the skill set to do so. A smart player with tons of athleticism, he is nearly the perfect fit for this spot in the Michigan defense.
Naturally, there will be tons of comparisons to Devin Bush, a player with similar size and skills at the same position. However, it is completely unrealistic to expect that level of play out of McGrone this season, as good as he is. There were some growing pains last year, including dropping into coverage, so this year will be about continued development. From everything he has shown, however, he should be ready to handle this increased role and effectively lead the linebacking corps this fall.