Michigan Football will kickoff the 2017 season on September 2 at AT&T Stadium against the Florida Gators. Between now and then we will preview each position group and project the starters. The third edition of this series will focus on the incumbent and first-year starting linebackers that will see significant playing time.
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Compared to the mass exodus that took place across the rest of the Michigan football team, the linebacker position is in decent standing, and (should all go according to plan) will not be forced to start a true freshman. Mike McCray was a starter last year at weakside linebacker, where he accounted for 73 tackles, 13.5 of those for a loss. At 6’4″, 240 pounds, he should clean up plays behind Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich with his long frame and ability to stuff even the heftiest of running backs.
With McCray being the only true returning starter at weakside linebacker, sophomore blitzing fiend Devin Bush saw his position solidified at middle linebacker during the spring game. During that outing he accounted for two sacks and three tackles, and appeared to shoot through the line and into the backfield with astonishing frequency. Whether that was showcasing the incompetency of the offensive line or Bush’s athletic ability still remains to be seen, but expect Don Brown to deploy his hyperaggresive heat-seeking missile that is Bush very often.
Filling the shoes of Heisman candidate and All-American Jabrill Peppers at the VIPER linebacker position is no small task, but Khaleke Hudson seems about as ready to do it as anyone. Hudson will not replicate Peppers production because he is not a once in a generation athlete. He will not simply shut down any and all screen plays thrown to his side like Peppers did. He cannot and will not maneuver around wide receiver and tight end blocks like Peppers did.
However, he was born to play this position.
In high school he played safety and linebacker, where he rushed for over 40 touchdowns and recorded over 60 tackles. Sound like Peppers to you? He is 6’0″, 205 pounds and runs at 4.61 40 yard dash. Now a trend starts to appear. Hudson is a slightly downgraded version of everything Peppers was, except in coverage where he holds a distinct advantage. If there is one knock against Peppers game it was his pass coverage, with only one interception throughout his storied tenure as a Wolverine. Hudson has spent a year learning how to play safety well, and the coverage skillset he has acquired will be called upon constantly in his role as Michigan’s multi-tool VIPER.
In a perfect world the Michigan faithful will not get to know the players in this section very well. Unfortunately, football is an extremely violent sport. Few position groups get through an entire season completely unscathed.
The Glasgow’s are becoming something of a Michigan pedigree. All three have started as walk-ons, and the older two, Graham and Ryan, are now in the NFL. Their younger brother Jordan should factor into the two deep at the VIPER position this year behind Hudson. If only because of his family background and walk-on status, everyone will want to see him succeed. Many will get their wish, as he has the talent to get valuable playing time this fall. The advice his brothers have passed down to him embodies the work ethic and drive that the Glasgow family possesses, “Make it so they can’t ignore you.”
If Bush is a heat seeking missile, then Noah Furbush is the heavy artillery. At 6’4″, 230 pounds, Furbush should be rotated through the MLB position against bigger pro-style teams, when a little more weight is needed behind Mo Hurst. Backing up McCray is a similarly sized product of Florida, Josh Uche. Both will probably see the field in the event of injuries or lackluster play from the starters.
Mike Wroblewski is another walk-on who has dedicated himself to knowing Don Browns scheme inside and out. He should also get some valuable playing time behind Bush and McCray, perhaps ahead of highly touted incoming freshman Drew Singleton and Jordan Anthony.
Michigan has talented players in Hudson and Bush, but they have yet to prove themselves in any significant game setting outside of the spring game. They both did play some garbage minutes last year, but this year they will shoulder significantly more responsibility as facilitators in Don Browns aggressive defense. Behind those two and McCray, they do have depth, albeit not depth that has been battle tested. This unit will perform well behind one of the best defensive lines in the country, and after a slightly rock start, Don Brown will finish with another top ten defense.
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