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Josh Ross’ road to Michigan, outlook for 2021

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He’ll be a leader on the defensive side of the ball.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former NFL linebackers coach Mike Macdonald has taken over as defensive coordinator for the Michigan Wolverines. That should bode well for the unit that remains in Ann Arbor, specifically a veteran in the locker room, Josh Ross.

Ross is entering his fifth year with the program and is going to be counted on for the Wolverines this season. Let’s take a look at his time at Michigan so far and what the expectations are for him this season.

The Story So Far

Ross was coveted out of St. Mary’s Prep in West Bloomington, Michigan in the class of 2017. As the No. 211 recruit in the nation and the No. 3 recruit in the state, Ross had a laundry list of offers that included Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan State, Tennessee, Penn State, LSU and others.

Ross stayed close to home and committed to play for Michigan in March 2016. Coaches at St. Mary’s were saying that Ross would one day be a captain in Ann Arbor.

He made an impact from the jump, as he appeared in all 13 games of his freshman season. Ross was a stalwart on the special teams unit and contributed at linebacker throughout the season. He gathered four tackles during the season and was projected to leap in year two.

Ross started to come into his own a bit in his second season in Ann Arbor. He won the team’s Blue Collar Award after appearing in every game and had significant numbers. Ross accrued 66 tackles (five for loss), a sack and two passes defended as a reserve linebacker. He was awarded an All-Big Ten honorable mention for his work in 2018.

Expectations for Ross were at an all-time high entering his junior campaign, but after just four games he suffered an injury and was out the remainder of the season. He was given a medical redshirt.

The 2020 season was shortened due to COVID-19 and the Wolverines struggled on the defensive end in Don Brown’s final season. Ross was one of the captains of the defense and was one of the few standouts on the defense. In six games, he had 53 tackles and only 7% of his tackle attempts were missed according to Sports Info Solutions. That ranks among the Big Ten’s best. He came on strong late in the season with two games where he finished with double-digit tackles. While he struggled in coverage, his run-stuffing ability was noticeable in his fourth season with the program.

Ross had the opportunity to get a look at going pro but decided to stay with Michigan for another season adding much-needed veteran depth to the linebacker core.

Outlook for 2021

With Cam McGrone moving on to the next level, Ross will be looked at as the top linebacker on the team and one of the only veterans on the roster. He will plug some holes and make some play up the middle, but he will have to be more consistent on the field.

Still, Jim Harbaugh’s hopes for Ross stay significantly high: “We’ve got good players on defense. Josh Ross is also that kind of class. I would put him in there with Aidan Hutchinson.”

I’m not sure if Ross is in the same pedigree as Hutchinson, the projected first-round pick and one of the premier edge defenders in the Big Ten, but the optimism for Ross is clearly high in the new defensive scheme under Macdonald.