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Why Cam McGrone’s ranked among best linebackers in college football

A balance of speed and ferociousness.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Michigan at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan inside linebacker Cam McGrone has a diverse skill-set that includes speed and force.

“The thing with Cam is athletically, I would have to say he’d be in the top ten percent in the country at linebacker,” Brown said in December. “This guy has tremendous ability and he’s a very smart guy.”

In 2019, the now redshirt-sophomore impressed on the field with 65 tackles (9 for loss), 2.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. And now heading into the 2020 season McGrone has made the Butkus Award watch list, which goes to the best linebacker in college football.

“I’ll tell you, the guy can run,” defensive coordinator Don Brown said last year. “God has given him that ability. He has the ability to get out in the flanks and cover running backs out of the back field, which is a huge deal.”

There was a time in McGrone’s Michigan career where he had the speed but his physicality was a work in progress. “There was a real inflection point right in the middle of camp where he just was more challenged to be a more physical player and responded like that,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said last September. “In the ensuing days, he just became a real physical player. We were seeing that in practice, and then to see it in games, too, puts the exclamation point on it.”

McGrone will now be one of the major leaders on the defense after the unit lost LB Josh Uche, safety Brad Metellus, linebacker Jordan Glasgow, and VIPER Khaleke Hudson to the NFL. Despite the defense losing some leadership and production, McGrone believes the D will be just fine this season. “I see it getting better,” McGrone said in January. “We had a bunch of dogs on the field this year, a bunch of seniors leaving, but we have a bunch of people coming back. And this freshman class coming in, they’re (going) to get on the field, so I’m excited to see what they can do.”

Some have compared McGrone’s skill-set to that of former Michigan star linebacker Devin Bush, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. “He has the ability to get out in the flanks and cover running backs out of the back field, which is a huge deal, Brown said. “I would like to take him and Devin and run them in a 40. I think that would be an interesting race. Devin would probably win, but not by much.”

Even if McGrone turns out to be even remotely close to Devin Bush-like production and skill, Michigan would definitely have one of the best linebackers in all of college football.