When you think of the successful defenses the Michigan Wolverines have had in the Jim Harbaugh era, you think of the explosive athletes who have played at the second level or in a hybrid role. That is what makes this particular ranking extremely difficult because the Wolverines have had a lot of success at the linebacker position in the Jim Harbaugh era.
The definition of a linebacker has shifted immensely in recent days, so you are going to see a lot of names that had very different roles among the defense on this list. Without further adieu, here are the top five linebackers since Harbaugh has taken over:
No. 5: Josh Ross
Ross had quite the stretch in Ann Arbor. In his sophomore season, he played alongside Khaleke Hudson, Josh Uche and Devin Bush in what was the best linebacker corp of Harbaugh’s tenure so far. He was an All-Big Ten honorable mention for what was statistically one of the best defenses in college football.
If he hadn’t sustained that ankle injury, I think his legacy would be much different. Even with strong play as a senior, I don’t know if he ever got back to the level he was on his sophomore season. Still, he was an adequate run stuffer and a leader both on and off the field, justifying his ranking.
No. 4: Josh Uche
Uche’s two-year stretch from 2018-19 was something to behold. Don Brown loved to line him up on the edge and at the WILL, and he thrived across the board. He always seemed to be at the right place at the right time. Who can forget his walk-off sack against Northwestern:
〽️ #Wolverines WIN. Josh Uche comes up HUGE in 4thQ. Harbaugh has a 17pt comeback as coach on his record now.— FnA Wolverines (@FnA_Wolverines) September 30, 2018
Winovich being interviewed is completely out of breath. We know he plays all out EVERY play. Need more of this.
Heeeeeere’s Josshhy: pic.twitter.com/yQoCIFSEVi
Even in situational downs, Uche was a menace and a guy who always needed to be accounted for.
No. 3: Devin Bush
Guys, this list is really hard to make. Bush is one of the best middle linebackers to ever don the winged helmet. The two-time All-American was probably the best player on a team that was LOADED with NFL talent. His lateral quickness has been unmatched to this point in Harbaugh’s career at the linebacker spot.
Plus, he provided one of the most legendary moments of the Harbaugh era before a butt-whooping of Michigan State:
Michigan and Michigan State will face off on the gridiron for the first time since the Devin Bush field kick incident pic.twitter.com/WBts2UAIwN— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 16, 2019
Bush could do it all. He was a run stuffer, edge sealer and was damn good in coverage as well. Michigan faithful will be remembering him fondly for a very long time.
No. 2: David Ojabo
Look, I know Ojabo only balled out for the Wolverines on the field for one season, but what a season it was. He finished 2021 with 12 sacks, which would have tied the Michigan record for the most in a single season had Aidan Hutchinson not broken the record himself with 14.
The year he and Hutch had carried the Wolverines to finally eclipsing the Ohio State hurdle, winning the Big Ten Championship and making an appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Of all the freaks that have come from Ann Arbor off the edge, Ojabo may be the freakiest. He was also a MASTER of the strip-sack, as he forced five fumbles in 2021, a Michigan record. He could have had two school records in one season; just utter dominance.
The scary thing is this guy has only been playing football since 2017 and he was already THIS good. Imagine what he is going to be at the next level once he gets healthy.
No. 1: Jabrill Peppers
There are few people on this planet as gifted as Jabrill Peppers. This guy did EVERYTHING. That viper role suited him so well and allowed Michigan to have its best player on the field playing nearly every position.
Want him at slot? No problem. How about deep as a free safety? He could do that too. Maybe even at the WILL or MIKE? Peppers had the team covered.
Then you have to add on the whole offensive and special teams side to his game. The Wolverines used him as a wildcat quarterback, running back, wide receiver and kick/punt returner. He did it all for Michigan and it is why he was one of the elusive defensive players to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
We were fortunate to get to watch this guy play every Saturday:
Honorable Mention: Khaleke Hudson, Mike McCray, Ben Gedeon