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Posts Tagged ‘Mike McCray’

Predicting Michigan: The linebackers

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013


(Daniel Brenner, AnnArbor.com)

Today we continue our position preview and predictions series with the linebackers. For previous positions, see quarterbacksrunning backswide receiversoffensive linetight ends, and defensive line.

Wounded Warrior: Jake Ryan

Brady Hoke and his staff have had an extremely successful offseason. They brought in a second straight top-10 recruiting class, convinced star left tackle Taylor Lewan to return for his senior season and even found a way to force students to show up to games earlier. However productive the team has been since the Outback Bowl, the news that Jake Ryan had torn his ACL and would miss some of the 2013 season has lingered like a dark cloud over the optimism in Ann Arbor. Ryan, who is possibly the best player on the entire team, let alone the defense, is recovering quickly but doesn’t figure to play for at least the first several games of the year.

When he is on the field, the redshirt junior has a knack for finding the ball. Ryan was a savior for the Michigan defense many times during the 2012 season, making open-field tackles to limit big gains. He is a versatile defender who can get pressure on the quarterback or stay back and cover his zone. Ryan was a nightmare for offenses in the backfield, recording 16 tackles for loss last year alone. While his ability to stuff the running back is impressive, what separates Ryan is his added ability to make the big play. He added 4 forced fumbles to his 4.5 sacks last year, and fans got used to seeing their long-haired leader celebrate flashy plays on a weekly basis.

It’s unfair to expect Jake Ryan to be the type of player he was in 2012 immediately after his return from injury, but something about the fire and intensity he plays with gives Ann Arbor hope that he will. Ryan is the reliable defensive leader that Michigan couldn’t afford to lose, and until he returns it will be a challenge for Greg Mattison to fill that hole.

Career Stats – Ryan
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2011 20 17 37 3.0 11.0 1 2 0
2012 56 32 88 4.5 16.0 4 1 0
Totals 76 49 125 7.5 27.0 5 3 0

Picking Up The Slack

Fortunately for the Wolverines, a couple of veteran linebackers are returning to the defense this season to help dull the pain of losing Ryan. The temporary leader of this unit will likely be redshirt senior Cam Gordon, who has played all over the field in his career. Gordon’s time at safety makes him a very useful linebacker to have on the field against the pass. He converted to outside linebacker in the spring of 2011 after an incredible first season in which he recorded 77 tackles and picked off three passes. Since that great year, Gordon’s career has hit a bit of a lull. A back injury in 2011 put his season on hold and he didn’t appear in a game until week seven in East Lansing. Gordon could never really catch up after getting such a late start to the season, and played mostly on special teams finishing the season with just four tackles.

Cam Gordon looks to step up in Jake Ryan's absence (Scott Kennedy, Scout.com)

Last season similarly failed to live up to the standard that Gordon set for himself in his redshirt freshman year, but it was significantly better than the injury-riddled 2011. Gordon was a reserve linebacker and starred on kick coverage for the special teams. He finished the season with 17 tackles, including three of those for losses. If the linebackers are going to be an effective group without Ryan on the field, Gordon is going to have to be a playmaker like he was at safety in 2010.

Coaches are also expecting big things from junior Desmond Morgan. Morgan accepted the responsibility of being one of the defensive leaders on the team when he changed his number to 48 in honor of former Michigan legend Gerald Ford. Morgan, like Ryan (#47 for Bennie Oosterbaan) have earned the right to play with the Michigan Legends patch on their jersey. This season, Morgan will get a chance to prove his worth. He will be the lone returning starter to take the field at linebacker to open the season, and does so as one of the most productive defenders on the squad. Morgan fell just shy of leading the team in tackles last season with 81, which was seven less than the injured Ryan. The most impressive part about his tackle total is that he almost matched one of the best linebackers in the country, playing in only 11 games, missing two with an injury.

In 2013, Mattison will count on Morgan to be even more of a ball-magnet. The linebackers without Ryan aren’t one of the stronger groups on the team, so a standout player like Morgan will be absolutely crucial until his return. The junior has dealt well with pressure in his young career at Michigan, notching a career-high 11 tackles in both the Ohio State and Michigan State games last season. If he continues to play his best football in the big games, he will find himself right next to Jake Ryan in the fans’ hearts.

Career Stats – Gordon
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2010 40 37 77 0.0 3.5 0 2 3
2011 3 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
2012 13 4 17 0.0 3.0 0 0 0
Totals 56 42 98 0.0 6.5 0 2 3
Career Stats – Morgan
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2011 26 37 63 1.0 4.0 0 1 0
2012 41 40 81 0.5 5.5 0 0 0
Totals 67 77 144 1.5 9.5 0 1 0

Battle To Start

Gordon and Morgan will likely be starters at linebacker when the Wolverines take the field against Central Michigan on the last day of August. However, in Greg Mattison’s 4-3 defense, there is one more spot up for grabs while Ryan recovers from injury. At this point, there are a few players that seem to have realistic shots to win that spot.

James Ross III worked his way into the lineup as a true freshman and looks to break out in 2013

One of the nice surprises on defense last year was freshman James Ross III’s play at linebacker. In 13 games, only two of those starts, Ross recorded 36 tackles, including 2.5 of them for losses. As a sophomore, Ross appears to be the early frontrunner to take over the third starting spot. When Desmond Morgan missed the UMass and Iowa games with an injury, it was Ross that the coaches called on to make the starts at linebacker. In that one Big Ten start, the fearless freshman lead the team in tackles with 12, which should be a major talking point while deciding the third starting linebacker in 2013.

Perhaps Ross’s toughest competition for the starting spot is fellow 2012 ESPN.com All-Big Ten Freshman Team linebacker Joe Bolden. Though both players received this honor, along with being named to the BTN.com All-Big Ten Freshman Team, Ross gets a slight edge over his classmate because he was called on to make starts last season while Bolden played every game as a reserve. Though Bolden recorded five less tackles than Ross, he did spend a bit more time in the backfield. He had four tackles for losses on the year and a memorable 24-yard sack against UMass. The Cincinnati native will have every opportunity to earn big minutes in the upcoming season.

A third sophomore has an outside chance of starting, if he can have an exceptional camp. Royce Jenkins-Stone played 13 games on special teams last season, but only one at linebacker, the position he was recruited to play. The reason Jenkins-Stone has a chance to start is just because of pure ability. As a top-five linebacker recruit last season, the sophomore definitely has the talent to put on a show during practice and fight his way up the depth chart. If he doesn’t win a starting job, expect Jenkins-Stone to contribute more as a reserve linebacker than he did last season.

After moving to linebacker this season, junior Brennen Beyer probably has a chance to start as well. Though the talented sophomore class will likely dominate the linebacker position during the rest of Beyer’s Michigan career, coaches wouldn’t have moved him from his former position at defensive end if they didn’t believe he could get in the rotation. After playing as a reserve on the line, Beyer was moved to linebacker to help solidify the position this Spring. He is a big linebacker and would really strengthen the run-stopping ability if he wins the starting spot.

Career Stats – Ross III
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2012 21 15 36 0.5 2.5 0 0 0
Totals 21 15 36 0.5 2.5 0 0 0
Career Stats – Bolden
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2012 16 15 31 1.0 4.0 0 1 0
Totals 16 15 31 1.0 4.0 0 1 0
Career Stats – Jenkins-Stone
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2012 3 3 6 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 3 3 6 0 0 0 0 0
Career Stats – Beyer
Year Solo Assisted Total Tackles Sacks TFL FF FR INT
2011 5 6 11 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
2012 9 10 19 0.0 0.5 1 0 0
Totals 14 16 30 0.0 0.5 1 0 0

Fresh Faces

Hoke’s 2013 recruiting class also brought in a couple for four-star linebackers to help this group. Mike McCray is a really strong player that is also solid fundamentally.  Athletically, there is room for improvement for this freshman, who would potentially be a better fit playing on the line because of his lack of outstanding speed or agility. That being said, the Ohio native was ranked highly as a linebacker in recruiting and will likely contribute to the team somehow this season; either on special teams or as a substitute on defense.

Fellow freshman Ben Gedeon will also battle to get in the rotation at linebacker, after being recruited as a linebacker out of high school. Gedeon also played running back and tight end before college, but was brought to Ann Arbor to play on the defensive side of the ball. His versatility will likely land him a spot on the special teams unit during his first season, but if he does see some time at linebacker, fans will fall in love with his old-school toughness and all-out mentality. Expect Gedeon to be one of the better defenders on the team before his time at Michigan ends.

Wrapping Up

Though there don’t seem to be many standout players in the linebacker core after the injury to Jake Ryan, Hoke and Mattison have several young players that are seemingly ready to make a big difference on defense. A strong sophomore group will likely be the X-factor for this unit in 2013, as they battle for the final starting spot. Depth shouldn’t be a problem with the linebackers, as eight or more players will likely contribute upon the return of Ryan.

National Signing Day: visualizing Michigan’s 2013 recruiting class

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013



Stay tuned in the coming days as we profile each of the 27 members of Michigan’s 2013 class.

High school All-American games preview

Friday, January 4th, 2013


Now that Michigan’s season has drawn to a close, the second season has ramped up  to full steam. Recruiting is pretty much non-stop these days, but now that the coaching staff is able to devote the vast majority of its time to pulling in the best class possible, it’s a frantic race for the Feb. 6 finish line. That’s the day of National Signing Day, when all letters of intent have to be signed and submitted and become binding. But before we get there, several All-American games exist to showcase the top talent on the national stage. Some of the players are already committed, while some choose to make their announcements live on national television during the game. Still others opt to wait until National Signing Day to pledge their commitments. Here’s a look at the games and the current Michigan commitments that will be playing in them, as well as the targets that Brady Hoke’s staff hopes to lock in within the next month.

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 | 5pm EST
Under Armour All-America Game | St. Petersburg, Fla. | ESPN

The Under Armour All-America Game is ESPN’s version and features the Black (Highlight) team and the White (Nitro) team. Team Highlight is coached by former NFL head coach Herm Edwards, while Team Nitro is coached by Steve Mariucci.

Current Michigan commits:

#9 – LB – Mike McCray II (White)
#12 – QB – Shane Morris (White)
#17 – DT – Henry Poggi (White)*
#55 – OG – David Dawson (White)*
#57 – OG – Patrick Kugler (White)*
#72 – OT – Logan Tulley-Tillman (White)

*denotes starters

Michigan targets:

#22 – S – Leon McQuay III (Black)
#1 – WR – Sebastian LaRue (White)
#4 – WR – Laquon Treadwell (White)
#78 – OT – Cameron Hunt (White)

Other notables:

#3 – WR – Alvin Bailey (Black) – Former Michigan target, committed to Florida
#32 – RB – Ty Isaac (White) – Former Michigan target, USC commit

Rivals:

#6 – CB – Cam Burrows (White) – Ohio State commit
#7 – ATH – Jalin Marshall (White) – Ohio State commit
#7 – CB – Gareon Conley (White) – Ohio State commit, former Michigan commit
#8 – TE – Marcus Baugh (White) – Ohio State commit
#97 – DT –  Joey Bosa (White) – Ohio State commit
#34 – LB – Alex Anzalone (Black) – Notre Dame commit, former Ohio State commit
#60 – OT – Colin McGovern (Black) – Notre Dame commit
#70 – OT – Hunter Bivin (Black) – Notre Dame commit
#32 – LB – Trey Johnson (White) – Announcing commitment to either Ohio State, Florida, or Tennessee

As you can see, Team Nitro (White) has the majority of the players relevant to Michigan, so that’s the team to pay the most attention to. Of the uncommitted targets, Michigan isn’t in great position for any of them. McQuay was at the Wolverines’ Outback Bowl practice, but had this to say about where Michigan stands. He will make his decision known during the game. LaRue is an interesting one since he was committed to USC, but just decommitted. He reportedly wants to hear more from Michigan and has formed a bond with current Michigan commit Mike McCray. Hunt, a Cal commit, recently announced that he’s re-opening his recruitment and was offered by Michigan, but that was before David Dawson re-committed to the Wolverines, so it’s unclear as to whether the staff would take another offensive lineman. Treadwell seems extremely unlikely at this point. He favors Ole Miss, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, but with recruiting, you never know.

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Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 | 9pm EST
Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl | Carson, Ca. | NFL Network

The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl is considered the third-best of this weekend’s All-America games and is the Marine Corps’ version of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Current Michigan commits:

CB – Ross Douglass (East)
DT – Maurice Hurst, Jr. (East)
* Kyle Bosch and Taco Charlton chose not to play due to enrolling early at Michigan

Rivals:

DB – Devin Butler (East) – Notre Dame
WR – William Fuller (East) – Notre Dame
OT – Mike McGlinchey (East) – Notre Dame
QB – Malik Zaire (East) – Notre Dame
CB – Cole Luke (West) – Notre Dame
RB – Khalfani Muhammad (West) – Notre Dame

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Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 | 1pm EST
U.S. Army All-American Bowl | San Antonio, Texas | NBC

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is traditionally considered the nation’s premier high school all-star game and is in its 13th year. It has featured eventual Heisman Trophy winners and more than 200 eventual NFL players. This year, the West team will wear yellow and the East team will wear black.

Current Michigan commits:

#87 – TE – Jake Butt (East)
#73 – OL – Chris Fox (West)
#27 – DB – Jourdan Lewis (West)
#14 – DB – Dymonte Thomas (East)

Michigan targets:

#27 – RB – Derrick Green (East)

Other notables:

#5 – DB – Kendall Fuller – Former Michigan target, Virginia Tech commit
#10 – LB – E.J. Levenberry – Former Michigan target, Florida State commit
#21 – S – Su’a Cravens – Former Michigan target, USC commit

Rivals:

#24 – RB – Ezekiel Elliott – Ohio State commit
#9 – CB – Eli Apple (East) – Ohio State commit
#35 – K – Johnny Townsend (East) – Ohio State commit
#69 – OT – Evan Lisle (East) – Ohio State commit
#76 – DT – Michael Hill (East) – Ohio State commit
#72 – OT – Steve Elmer (West) – Notre Dame commit
#1 – RB – Greg Bryant (East) – Notre Dame commit
#74 – OL – John Montelus (East) – Notre Dame commit
#26 – LB – Doug Randolph (East) – Notre Dame commit
#88 – WR – Corey Robinson (West) – Notre Dame commit
#9 – LB – Jaylon Smith (West) – Notre Dame commit
#44 – LB – Mike Mitchell (West) – Announcing commitment to either Ohio State, Oregon, or Texas A&M
#17 – WR – James Quick (East) – Announcing commitment to either Ohio State or Louisville

Unlike the Under Armour game, Michigan’s four commits playing in this one are split between the two teams. Derrick Green is the big one to watch since he is reportedly leaning towards Michigan. He fueled speculation on Wednesday by posing for a photo with the four Michigan commits and then went on a Rivals chat and said Michigan does hold a slight lead. Ohio State and Notre Dame both have a number of commits playing in the game as well, and there are a couple that are making their announcements live during the game and have Ohio State among their finalists.

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Another thing you may notice is the complete lack of Michigan State prospects on the rosters for these three games. Of the Spartans’ 15 current commits, only two are rated four stars by Rivals and the rest are three stars.

Arbitrary Michellanea discusses adventures in twitterdom

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012


Apparently you can’t congratulate a friend on twitter…

For us fans, bloggers and media-types, Twitter is a valuable way to learn real-time news and connect with the athletes we all watch. But for those athletes and other celebrities, it’s a terrible invention that always seems to create controversy and get them in trouble. The rise and popularity of Twitter over the last couple of years has necessitated the NCAA adding social media bylaws into its recruiting rules, one of which was apparently broken by Roy Roundtree last night.

Roundtree tweeted the above congrats to Trotwood, Ohio linebacker Mike McCray who verbally committed to Michigan yesterday. Roundtree also attended Trotwood, and while he was not in high school at the same time as McCray, it’s highly likely he knew him from his association with the program over the last few years. Nevertheless, it’s considered a secondary NCAA violation.

While not a huge deal in and of itself – secondary violations of this sort happen all the time at every school – Michigan needs to tread lightly considering the probation brought on by Rich Rodriguez’s practice violations.

The exact same situation occurred last week when Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert tweeted a potential recruit, but an NCAA spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that those types of violations are considered “isolated” and “inadvertent.”

It’s a trivial rule, especially when a kid is congratulating another kid for making a big life decision, but the NCAA obviously feels that it has to police the public thoughts of college kids. I have no problem with Roundtree’s case, but Twitter is a problem in the case of recruits such as Yuri Wright and others.

Don’t trash talk through Twitter to counter someone who says he’s tougher than you…

Michigan center David Molk set off a minor fire storm last week with some comments made to the AnnArbor.com about his NFL Draft stock. Molk took offense to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who said Molk is a “finesse” player and that will hurt his draft stock.

One of these guys was the Rimington Award winner

“He never played against me,” Molk said. “I don’t think a finesse player has ever had defensive linemen quit during a game; quit and give up because you’re hurting them. I don’t think a finesse player has ever done what I do, which is just ground kids out of the hole.”

Mayock might do well to remember Molk’s Sugar Bowl performance, essentially playing on one leg after hurting a foot in pregame. He can also reportedly squat over 700 pounds and bench close to 500. That’s one tough and strong SOB. He probably won’t get drafted in the first three rounds, but it won’t be because he’s a finesse player.

But that wasn’t the only thing that ticked Molk off. He also said that he didn’t like that Wisconsin center Peter Konz was ranked ahead of him and was a first-team All-American. He says that he’s better than both Konz and Ohio State center Mike Brewster.

“I have skills he (Konz) doesn’t have,” Molk said. “Obviously my strength is far better, I’m faster, I would say I’m smarter. Obviously, he’s an intelligent person, I’ve talked to him, but I just think I have a technique that’s unmatched (by him).”

About Brewster, he added, “He’s nowhere near me as a player.”

Brewster took offense to the comment and tweeted “If they are talking then you are doing something right. And Molk, keep my name out of your mouth…”

Molk knows first hand how much better he is than Brewster. Molk’s teammate, defensive tackle Mike Martin, dominated Brewster in Senior Bowl practices. The numbers at the NFL Combine didn’t hurt Molk’s case either. Molk ranked second among all players with 41 bench press reps, compared to Brewster’s 29 and Konz’s 18.

Molk may end up getting drafted below both Konz and Brewster, but one thing is for sure: whichever team does draft Molk will be getting a steal. You really can’t fault a guy for being confident in himself, especially an offensive lineman where a mean streak is often appreciated.

Stealing our thunder is like stealing credit cards

As everybody knows, Michigan is tri-Big Ten champions with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. It took rooting for Ohio State on Sunday afternoon and a heroic effort by Buckeye senior William Buford to send Michigan into a frenzy for capturing a share of its first title in 26 years.

That is pure joy, pure exuberance by a group of underdog college kids ending a two-and-a-half decade drought, accomplishing the main goal it set out to achieve. But that didn’t stop ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb from raining on their parade. On his radio show on Monday, he criticized Michigan’s share of the title because the Wolverines didn’t play Wisconsin twice.

He does have a point that, in a perfect world, all teams in a conference should play the same in-conference schedule, but he’s off base in saying that because Michigan didn’t play Wisconsin twice it didn’t deserve a share of the title.

Michigan beat Wisconsin by 18 in its one meeting in Ann Arbor and Wisconsin went an unusual 5-3 at home in conference play, losing to Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa. Michigan went 4-4 on the road in Big Ten play – the same as Michigan State – so a Wisconsin win would be far from certain. On the other hand, Michigan’s other one-play teams were Iowa, who it lost to on the road, Nebraska, who it beat by 16 on the road, and Minnesota.

Michigan State didn’t have to play Illinois or Northwestern twice – two teams it lost to in its only meeting – as well as Iowa and Penn State. Ohio State didn’t have to play at Purdue, who it barely beat at home, or Iowa, Minnesota, or Penn State.

Obviously, each of the three missed out on potential losses by not playing an equal schedule, but that’s the conference’s fault, not Michigan’s. At the end of the day, the banner will be raised, the year 2011-12 will be added to the record books, and the 16 members of the Michigan basketball team will go on as Big Ten champions regardless of what an ESPN talking head says.

No sleep til Brooklyn…

Michigan and West Virginia agreed to a basketball game in the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York next season as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. It’s the only game not featuring a regional team – the others being Princeton vs. Fordham, Long Island vs. Seton Hall, and Manhattan vs. South Carolina.

A rendering of The Barclay Center in Brooklyn

This is definitely intriguing for multiple reasons, the obvious being John Beilein’s first matchup against his former school. Beilein put West Virginia basketball on the map, taking the Mountaneers to the Elite 8 in 2005, falling to Louisville in overtime.

Secondly, Michigan has a huge alumni and fan base in greater New York city and this will give them a chance to see the Wolverines in action. The only other opportunities are when Michigan plays in either the preseason or postseason NIT, the last being the 2008-09* season when Michigan beat UCLA and lost to Duke in Madison Square Garden.

Finally, it will be a good opportunity for Michigan to play a quality non-conference opponent on a national stage. There will be plenty of fanfare about the new arena, which is bringing the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, and a Michigan win on that stage would only help with recruiting.

The Ohio takeover…

As mentioned above, Michigan got its 14th verbal commitment yesterday when Trotwood, Ohio linebacker Mike McCray revealed his intentions to play for Brady Hoke and co. McCray is a four-star, currently rated the 44th-best overall player by Rivals. You might remember Trotwood as being where some guys named Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, and Brandon Moore hail from. It’s a perennial power in western Ohio and Michigan is building itself quite the pipeline.

Michigan now has five commits from Ohio for the 2013 class, four of them currently rated four stars. Add those to the nine incoming freshmen from Ohio and one has to wonder what Jim Tressel is thinking right now, watching guys who he used to have in his pocket fleeing the state for “that school up north.”

The recruiting surge over the last month has been unheard of and has everyone talking about Michigan. Even Michigan State fans are starting to fear the return of the big two and little eight (ten).

* Michigan did play two games in Atlantic City, N.J. last season, but that’s not exactly in New York city.