[Ed-S: bumping this to diaries. I wonder who the Diarist of the Week will be...]
After picture paging a play from the spring game in which James Ross makes one of his several TFLs on the day, I was trying to think of his best comparison. Forgive me for going outside Michigan lore, but I think he compares decently well to Sean Spence, or at least has the potential to in the future. For those unfamiliar, Spence is an outside linebacker from Miami(FL) who was selected in the 3rd round, #86 overall by the Steelers in the 2012 draft. In full disclosure, I'm a Miami grad, (currently at Michigan and don't worry, Michigan always comes first) so that's where my knowledge of Spence's career comes from. It is also likely the reason why I was able to quickly connect the two's similarities. Anyways, here's the meat of why I think they're similar:
Recruiting and Measurables
Both were 4-star outside linebackers, but Ross may have been a little more impressive. Spence's offer list looks lacking, made up of Rutgers and North Carolina types, but he committed early enough to explain that away. Spence was part of the famous 2008 Miami Northwestern High ("national championship" high school team) of which Miami pulled basically their entire number one class that year, most of which turned out on the bench or became an interception machine (Jacory Harris), but I digress.
Spence was listed as 6'0 and a tiny 186 lbs (!!!), whereas Ross was listed as 6'0, 209. Spence ended up coming in at 5'11", 231 lbs at the Combine, and I wouldn't be surprised if Biggs was trying to sneak in an inch or two. Ross is listed on the latest roster at 6'1", 223. I think around 230-235 is reasonable to expect Ross to end up at, although if he actually is north of 6', he could end up a few pounds larger.
Strengths and Weaknesses
If it wasn't obvious yet, one of the reasons I think this comparison works is because they both could be classified as under-sized. Ross may outgrow that moniker, but for now, it's appopriate. Additionally, they're both quick, smart, instinctual linebackers who can bring the wood, despite their size. Dan Gibbs can vouch for Ross. Here's a few snippets of Spence's draft profile from NFL.com; tell me it doesn't sound familiar.
He was a four-year starter at Miami, and although undersized he makes up for this deficiency through speed, instincts and overall athletic ability
He can quickly diagnose a play and use his explosive hips to meet running backs and deliver the blow.
Spence is undersized and needs to play free of big blockers on him to be productive. He can flow to plays but "rides the pole" and falls off tackles at times.
I'll confess, but I don't know what "rides the pole" means in a football context, so maybe Ross can be free of that weakness. I'd assume it's a bad habit of making initial contact and stopping his feet, but that's just my guess.
Spence played in every game as a true freshman, and only didn't see the field a handful of times in his career - due to injury and a pesky little Nevin Shapiro related suspension. Happy that Ross won't have that on his resume. Spence made a name for himself with a couple plays in a loss to Tebow in Gainesville his freshman year, and eventually became the leader of Miami's defense. He played some at the MIKE his senior year due to injuries and the graduation of Tennessee Titan starter Colin McCarthy. He ended up a Butkis semifinalist and earned All ACC honors (har har har ACC, but still) before graduating and heading for the NFL.