Jake Ryan has been named one of the five finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the premier College Football Linebacker.
While he struggled earlier in the year with some of his run fits, and to a certain extent, his pass drops, I think a lot of the down feeling people had about him around here was due to the fact that they nitpicked his flaws. His flaws were far from uncommon amongst college ILBs, even the best of them, and the plays he's made throughout the season have been the reason he's still considered one of the best LBs in the country.
My thoughts here
Jake Ryan is a guy that many Michigan fans were down on after some early season struggles with the transition to inside LB and how to successfully go about run fits and to a lesser extent, pass drops. But he has improved quickly over the course of the year, and now better understands how to get through the wash, how to pop a lead blocker, and how to shed them to make tackles. His downhill burst is still on display as he's wracked up TFL this season, and he has continued to be more fluid in his pass drops and understanding of the coverage schemes. Probably has more upside as a 3-4 OLB at the next level, his flexibility (similar to Green Bay's Ryan Matthews) has to make pro scouts excited about his prospects, as he's proven to be a guy you can move around, bring off the edge, bring through the interior, and leave on the field on all three downs and maintain a lot of flexibility within the defense. He's improved from a good ILB to a great one over the course of the year, and while he still gets out of position at times when instincts take him away from the play, he is as good as any LB in the B1G, and that's why he's on this list.
I really do think he deserves this recognition. I really do think he has been great throughout the 2nd half of the season, and not just for schematic reasons from opposing offenses. I know he's been mostly dismissed to the point that people (including many of the writers of this blog, so I don't get called out for not calling out people) use him as another data point to diminish the coaches (to the point that people are so down on the football team and Ryan that this news isn't even on the board until now), but I think those people are wrong, and I think moving him to ILB not only was the best move for Michigan this year, but was the best move for Ryan going forward (even if his ultimate position is OLB in the NFL).
So congrats to Jake Ryan on being named a Butkus Award finalist. Other finalists include Eric Kendricks (UCLA; the guy I think will win); Hau'oli Kikaha (Washington); Denzel Perryman (Miami), and Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame).
This was requested by joeyb in the comments of today's gif post. I'm here to serve (language NSFW):