no, YOU'RE off topic
“Well, first of all, you saw the game, and obviously we weren’t pleased as a defense. A lot of things we stand for and the things we set out to do each year, we weren’t successful in a number of those situations. The biggest thing is missed tackles. We can’t have that in our defense. We had way way way too many missed tackles. And another thing that led to missed tackles as you watched the tape was we had missed techniques. We’re not good enough right now to be able to not play perfect technique, and when you don’t play great technique, somebody’s going to have to make an open field tackle or somebody’s going to have to make a tackle that you hope the ability of everything to stay inside and in front would take care of. That’s really a lot of what happened in the game.”
(After the jump, Mattison talks about the secondary, Alabama's offense, linebacker technique, Air Force's offense, and the defensive line)
|Jake Ryan||So.*||Kenny Demens||Sr.*||Desmond Morgan||So.|
|Cam Gordon||Jr.*||Joe Bolden||Fr.||Brandin Hawthorne||Sr.|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||Fr.||Mike Jones||Jr.*||James Ross||Fr.|
It's step-up time for the linebacking corps. They return every contributor from a year ago and get freshman-to-sophomore transitions from Jake Ryan and Desmond Morgan. Kenny Demens, Cam Gordon, and Brandin Hawthorne are entering their second consecutive years in a sane defense for the first time in their careers and could/should see larger than average leaps in performance.
They will need to be much better. Mike Martin isn't going to bail them out on six plays a game anymore. Ryan Van Bergen isn't walking through that door. Ryan has to become an elite pass rush threat; Demens and Morgan need to take on blockers and funnel to help far more consistently than they did a year ago.
This is well within reach. Now about getting there.
|SLOWER THAN BLOCKS|
|eats MSU cut|
|eats OSU TE|
|eats him again|
|FASTER THAN BLOCKS|
|flow hard son|
|GOT SOME THUMP|
|Iowa FB denied|
|No Coker part 1|
|line to seam PBU|
In 2010, Kenny Demens was not Obi Ezeh, and this was enough. Expectations were sky-high for Demens in 2011 if only because he seemed so much better than Michigan's incumbent that he had to be pretty good. In retrospect, his somewhat disappointing output was always the likely outcome. Like almost everyone else on the defense, Demens had experienced position-coaching chaos and shifted from system to system on a semiannual basis.
Stepping into an entirely different coaching regime naturally meant hesitation, and hesitation was what we got. I put up this extremely scientific pie chart after Eastern Michigan put up 4.5 YPC despite throwing six times:
We'll talk about the Jake Ryan edge allowance below; here we're fixated on the big red thing labeled "hesitant linebacker play." This was the week after I'd watched Notre Dame's linebackers tear ass after anything that moved, so I may have had a view of proper linebacker play improperly biased towards running your balls off as soon as a guard gives you a direction.
I don't think so, though, as Michigan linebackers were exploited on the edge for much of the year. Blue Seoul captured a Kain Colter option TD in With Pics(!), and while I suppose Carvin Johnson, who Seoul criticizes, could have been more Kovacs-y on the play, he did follow the golden rule of leverage by keeping Colter well inside of him. It's just that there was no one to clean up afterwards:
Johnson's mistake should have been worth a few yards, but not enough for Northwestern to convert. Earlier he was unable to shut down an outside run that got turned up at the numbers:
He's even with Hawthorne, who was the backside LB, and well behind nose tackle Mike Martin in his attempt to shut the play down. This is because he took an angle upfield of a blocker on a perimeter run, which is one of those "you better make the damn play" decisions. Demens wasn't close.
Demens got a –4 in that game and was negative the next week against MSU as the Spartans pounded the edges and found Michigan LBs a step slow. Too often Demens did not do what Johnson is managing above, like on this Ed Baker run against MSU. Watch him eat a block and let Baker to the edge:
I know this is not an edge play, but it's symptomatic of the main issue.
You want edge biff? Edge biff.
State couldn't get out to the second level on Hawthorne and he is free. This is a quintessential example of what you hear about the WLB in the under: he often ends up the free hitter because of the configuration of the DL whereas the MLB has to take on a block. Demens takes on a block, loses leverage, does not funnel to his partner, and off Baker goes. This was 60-70% of all the complaining I did about the linebackers last year and my A-#1 bitch about Jonas Mouton. Michigan linebackers aren't good about keeping leverage. (Yet.)
Before and after that, Demens was pretty good between the tackles. He pounded ND for twelve tackles and a +8.5 and was consistently above average late in the year, picking up three straight +4s against Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska before falling back towards zero in the OSU game. Late he started playing faster. His third-and-one stick of Marcus Coker was hands down Michigan's tackle of the year:
Yeah, Kovacs collapsed Alex Carder's lung. He did not stop that truck dead in its tracks. Demens was also the second key on that Braxton Miller rollout against OSU, tracking him to the edge and forming up at the right spot to allow Black to come from behind.
For Demens, it's about playing fast and going hard. Last year Mattison literally played him at nose tackle because he'd rather have Mike Martin blitz; Demens needs to go when he goes, and decide to go more quickly. That should be in reach. He'll be a solid run defender and decent down the seam, but a lack of raw athleticism probably sees him top out at a bit above average.
[hit THE JUMP for Bolden as Samson, Jake Ryan(!), and Desmond Morgan]
Can you talk about Quinton Washington emerging at nose tackle and moving Will Campbell to the 3-tech?
“What we’re looking for is getting the best four guys to be available to play inside. Q’s had a really good camp. Will’s had a good camp. So you kind of interchange those two to see which one makes that defense better, whether it’s one of them at the three and the other one of them at the nose. With so much trading and shifting and things like that, they both have to play the same position when they slide over, so it gives you an opporutnity to hopefully make yourself stronger rather than just having a true nose and that’s all he can play.”
Brennen Beyer is third on the depth chart. What does he have to do to move up?
“That group of three right there is never etched in stone. Brennen Beyer, I think, started out camp not as -- I don’t want to say tentative -- but not really realy playing as fast as I wanted him to play. Now the last week, though, he showed signs of being the Brennen Beyer of the spring. You’re going to see him play a lot. There’s no question about it. We got a group right there of guys, again, in the opening game, I don’t know how many plays you’re going to play -- you better have guys that can go in there, especially at that position because there’s a lot more running there. That’s a position that’s a defensive lineman sometimes and it’s a linebacker at other times, and he’s always got to run the farthest to chase the ball down … he has to be a guy that can run.”
[The Mott practice this year was not a punting exhibition (at which my internal monologue went WOOOOOO) so there are a few things to discuss.]
The biggest takeaway. Devin Gardner took zero QB snaps and was on the first team as a WR. I think they moved him full-time. Swingin' for the fences.
Gardner didn't do anything spectacular in his limited opportunities, dropping one long ball and not quite bringing in a high hard one, but he certainly looks the part. Seeing him in 12 is still weird, and now Dileo is 9, and if I was Brady Hoke I'd be all like "you get one number and that is your number" but he might have different priorities. Maybe.
Devin Funchess. As first impressions go… wow. He is lanky and doesn't look like he'll be much use as a blocker early, but man is that guy a big target. Looks all of 6'5" and has freaky long arms. He was the only TE to get targeted in their kind-of-actually-playing segment; he caught a touchdown on a corner route (it got raked out but after the catch was secured) and was targeted on a late-release wheel route. If he can catch, he is going to crush Mandich's TE receiving record.
Not a whole lot to decide. I expected to have a blizzard of things to try and figure out but when the first team defense came out in a nickel package I was like "oh, right, they return basically everyone." Other than the line, there were zero surprises except for a couple of Mario Ojemudia WDE cameos.
On offense, it was "is Mealer starting" and "OMG Gardner"… and that was it. Consistency is good.
DL starting Washington? This is tentative, but the first DL set they ran out there was Roh-Washington-Campbell-Black. (IE: Washington at the nose, Campbell at the three-tech.) Beyer also showed up at WDE; Brink was the backup SDE.) Apparently Jerry Montgomery told someone that those guys were the starters as of this instant, but I can't find it. People are talking about it on message boards like it's a real thing, though.
Anyway: they showed the usual nickel package where they lifted the nose tackle types and moved the SAM down to DE and the heavy package where both SAM linebackers are in the game. All was as expected except for a couple snaps in a dime package that they didn't show at all last year.
[UPDATE: Ace points out that this comes from Tom Dienhart's BTN coverage.]
James Ross. Ross was your backup WLB, which isn't much of a surprise with Poole and Ringer hurt. He'll play.
Richard Ash. I kept an eye out for Ash as I'm hoping he can give Michigan some snaps as a rotation DT after he made a couple of nice plays in the spring game. He didn't get in much, if at all, but he certainly looks a lot better conditioned. He used to look like a battleship that had no chance of moving; now he looks relatively trim.
Mealer started. Your first team LG was Mealer.
Chris Wormley. Hasn't had surgery yet for whatever reason.
No Rawls. No idea why. They ran some passing stuff with Justice Hayes that seemed to work pretty well, and did the Vincent Smith throwback screen that always works.
It was good to see football. You're just sitting in the stadium and there's actual snaps being taken in front of you and your lizard brain is going FOOTBALL FOOTBALL FOOTBALL and you're like "I know exactly how you feel, lizard brain."
Heiko takes. Are on the board. FWIW, they ran that hook and ladder a dozen times last year. I think it's just for show.
This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:
♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.
Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…
There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.
Till there was you! ♫
Linebacker depth: EXTANT!
This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?
And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
SAM (Strongside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.
Heiko took this
Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?
What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.
So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.
In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.
MIKE (Middle Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:
|2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr)||236||228|
|3rd (Junior or RS Soph)||246||232|
|4th (Senior or RS Junior)||248||233|
|5th year Senior||252||238|
Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:
|Kenny Demens||248||Jake Ryan||230||Desmond Morgan||220|
|Joe Bolden||230||Cam Gordon||222||Brandin Hawthorne||214|
|Mike Jones||224||Royce Jenkins-Stone||215||Antonio Poole||212|
|Kaleb Ringer||219||James Ross||209|
Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.
There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!
In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.
WILL (Weakside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.
If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.
For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.
In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.
|Orchard Lake, MI – 6'0", 209|
|Scout||4*, #7 OLB, #83 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #14 OLB, #172 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #8 ILB|
|24/7||4*, 95, #6 ILB, #116 overall|
|Other Suitors||OSU, PSU, Notre Dame, USC, Nebraska|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Tim interviews him at SMSB. Ace checks out OLSM games against De La Salle and UD-Jesuit.|
|Notes||OLSM (Chris McLaurin, Jermaine Gonzalez). Army All-American.|
James Ross is the second of three highly-touted Westside Cubs who will arrive at Michigan at the fall. Terry Richardson was the first, and Ross is an awful lot like a linebacker version of Richardson. He's four of four on Midwest power offers, four of four when it comes to recruiting site hype, and got a bid to one of the all-star games.
Like Richardson, the scouting reports are a series of good things… after they get in a shot at his size. Random example($):
Ross made plays in high school thanks to his instincts and quickness, rather than his size. He'll get the chance to show that being slightly undersized won't hurt him at the next level when he faces off against the all-star cast from the East.
They're not wrong. Six-foot-ish is a bit wee when it comes to linebacking, and edging just over 200 pounds is something that may prevent him from seeing the field immediately. FWIW, he says he's put on more weight:
"I'm 6'1'' and 225 lbs. right now, and a lot of criticism I get is because of my size. But I always like to throw this out there: my favorite two linebackers, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis, are only 6'1". I guess this sport has come down to where it's all about size, but I feel that at the end of the day, that doesn't matter. "
But the instincts bit is promising. Think of various weakside linebackers past—just about any will do—and imagine the exact opposite of their relationship with your frustration, and that is James Ross's rep. His coach sums it up best($):
"He's one of the best instinctive players I've ever coached," Porritt insisted. "He reads plays so fast, and his first step is so explosive. He's physical, too, but it's his uncanny ability to read and get after the football that is his greatest asset. He's a great young man who works hard and is very humble."
This will of course be tested when he hits the field at the next level. Please do not refer back to this post in the event he turns out to also take the wrong side of the fullback 800% of the time. Please do in the event his instincts lead to a lot of plays like this:
The instincts bit is repeated in other scouting reports. Ace:
I'll reiterate what I said when I saw Ross earlier this season—he's the most polished, college-ready prospect I've seen play this season with the possible exceptions of Aaron Burbridge and Matt Godin (to clarify, I'm not necessarily saying the most talented, but the players who are the most fundamentally sound and impactful right now). …
Once again, Ross's ability to tackle in the open field really impressed me—he has great tackling form, and his superior range allows him to be in the best possible position to stop the ballcarrier. He diagnosed plays quickly and never seemed out of position, and his ability to make quick reads allowed him to shoot past blockers before they could even touch him, resulting in multiple tackles for loss. Ross isn't afraid to take on a block and does a good job of shedding after initial contact without losing his angle on the ballcarrier….
After seeing Ross in two games, one against a weak Inkster team and the other against a much stronger De La Salle squad, I'm convinced he'll be a multi-year starter at middle linebacker and a player in the David Harris mold.
Although we detect some hip tightness when in coverage his balance and agility along with the ability to quickly key and diagnosis running plays allows him to be a dominant run stopper. We like his instincts and quick downhill play; can beat blockers to the point of attack with good playing speed or take on and defeat them with his upper body playing strength. This guy is a tough customer who has no problem stepping into the line and mixing it up with big offensive linemen; does a great job moving through traffic, showing excellent pursuit habits and recovery speed.
They do knock his current weight and express doubts about his ability to cover receivers in man; they praise his zone instincts. Trieu:
Smart, instinctive backer who does a great job of taking plays head on, getting rid of blockers and finding the ball. Measureables are not super, but football smarts, toughness and fundamentals are. Does a solid job in coverage, and is physical when asked to cover backs and tight ends. More of a finished product, than an upside guy, but a kid who has always been productive and should continue to be so in college.
24/7's Barton Simmons:
Though he's not a kid with great size, Ross is a kid with great instincts, awareness, and desire to get to the football. When he gets there he's physical and in the pass game, he's comfortable catching the football and finding throwing lanes. Ross is very similar in skill set to Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis who made an instant impact on the college level.
Simmons again, this time from the OSU NFTC last year:
Headlining the group in Columbus was Michigan commit James Ross out of West Bloomfield (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep. Sporting a Michigan hat on the Ohio State practice fields, Ross already looked ready to strap on the pads and head into Ohio Stadium. At 6-1, Ross is not an overpowering presence but his feet, balance, athleticism and activity in space were all unique. Ross was nearly unblockable in the pass rush drill and he also has the ability to run and cover in the pass game.
You get the idea. He is a ball-locator and tackler. He is not a five-star athlete.
As mentioned in a UV posted a couple weeks ago, Ross credits his time as a hockey player for his ability to diagnose plays:
“I actually think hockey is what separates me from most linebackers,” Ross said. “I think it helped me with that first quick step and getting to the ball as fast as you can, because hockey, once you see it you have to go. There is no delayed step into it. That’s definitely something that separates me.”
Despite Ross's friendship with Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone, the third Westside Cub in the class, it was actually Ohio State who seemed like the leader out of the gate. From a now-vaporized Sam Webb article in the News:
Ross Jr. might have been more taken aback by his impression of Michigan. Not because it was better, but because it so utterly different from what he expected.
"I really did not like Michigan like that," Ross admitted. "I was always an Ohio State guy. I kept it to myself. It really wasn't that big of a deal. My family always gets mad when I bring up Ohio State. They just say that I do not understand the success that Michigan has had."
Ross was just a sophomore when that article was published, but he'd picked up Michigan and MSU offers super early, something that was notable, uh, two years ago. Not so much now.
Whatever Ross's feelings about OSU were, his recruitment was effectively over when Michigan hired Greg Mattison. From an old Tom weekly roundup post:
He fell in love with coach Mattison. I never paid attention early on to coordinators that much, but that guy was great. He was kinda funny too. He and coach Hoke broke it all open for him. We were there close to three hours just talking about football with Mattison, and more conversation with Hoke. Hoke's like a good ole boy, it was refreshing.
That was at the end of Febuary; it took a couple more months to come to a decision but that was basically it. (The commit turned this Buckeye Planet thread into an excellent schadenfreude repository, FWIW.)
With the burden of Ross's decision off his shoulders, OLSM shot to a state title. Ross championed the defense, tackling everything that moves. He racked up a ridiculous 151 tackles and 13.5 TFLs along the way. Rivals named him to their "RivalsHigh 2011 All-American Team" as a result. His recruiting rankings didn't shift much; his performance was about what people expected.
At Michigan Ross is ticketed for the weakside, though this is where I say the usual bits about how there are only minor differences between the MLB and the WLB in Mattison's system. The WLB has to be a little better down the seam and gets a little more protection from lead blockers, but it's mostly the same gig as MLB.
"He never wants to be the guy who someone sees at a game and says, 'This guy's supposed to be all that? He's kinda crappy' " Ross, Sr. said. "He never wants to be that guy, so he strives to give everyone what they expect and more. He's looking to go bananas this year."
Why Ian Gold? As an inside linebacker who topped out around 6'0" and 225 but made it work with great instincts and an ability to cut through traffic, Ian Gold is a tight fit as a YMRMFSPA. His career was before I watched every game in extreme detail, though.
Gold came to Michigan as a tailback but was moved quickly; Ross has an edge when it comes to experience. He'll do very well to match Gold's productivity and NFL pedigree—a second rounder with almost 500 career tackles.
If you want a guy of more recent vintage, the Mini David Harris suggestion offered by Ace above is a good one.
Guru Reliability: High. General consensus, healthy, multi-year starter, well-known kid who showed at an all-star game.
Variance: Low. Projects to (basically) same position in college, lots of experience, ahead of the curve mentally.
Ceiling: Moderate. Size will be an issue and the scouting reports don't mention the sort of "wow" athleticism that could make up for that.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Seems like he'll be the platonic opposite of Jonas Mouton, the Janus of weakside linebackers. Mouton alternated ridiculously good and ridiculously bad plays. Ross probably won't turn in as many of either. A solidly above-average Big Ten linebacker who is short of national stardom seems like the most likely outcome.
Projection: Ross's lack of size and a healthy depth chart at WLB (which returns rising sophomore Desmond Morgan, senior Brandin Hawthorne, and adds redshirt freshman Antonio Poole) suggest a redshirt. Like Richardson, it seems smart to get him a second year of separation from guy who started as a freshman. Unlike Richardson, there's a lot of room on special teams for linebackery tackling types, so he may get drafted into coverage teams for one of those Argh Wasted Redshirt wasted redshirts.
Either way, there's a clear path to the two-deep in his second year. Hawthorne and Demens will graduate. The former opens up the backup WLB spot and there's a chance the latter will drag Morgan to MLB, which seems like a more natural position for him. Even if that doesn't happen, Ross will be fighting with Poole for a good chunk of playing time behind Morgan. I wouldn't put it past Ross to win the job outright at some point, either. If he gets the redshirt dollars to donuts he's at least a two-year starter.