|West Bloomfield, MI – 6'2" 220|
|Scout||4*, #196 overall
|Rivals||4*, #222 overall
#15 OLB, #3 MI
|ESPN||4*, #236 overall
#15 OLB, #5 MI
|24/7||4*, #202 overall
#8 ILB, #5 MI
|Other Suitors||ND, MSU, OSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Ross featured in no fewer than four FBOs: vs De La Salle (senior), vs De La Salle (junior), vs Detroit Loyola (junior), vs Southfield (sophomore).|
|Notes||Twitter. Brother of James Ross. OLSM(Ross, others).|
I did it too. I did this:
[Ross's] status as a Michigan lock for the vast majority of his recruitment has relegated him to an underrated status among most casual fans.
Josh Ross was a Michigan lock from the minute he stepped on the field at OLSM his freshman year, and he committed a year ago, and I've been all about the other two linebackers in this class. This is because Ross has been as out of sight, out of mind as it's possible for a consensus top 250 player to be. Then I watched the tape above.
Linebacker tape is often a compilation of comical offensive busts on which the LB in question gets to shoot into a ballcarrier without anyone even trying to block him. Ross's tape is not that. Ross stacks and sheds repeatedly—once he even does so on offense, violently discarding a DE to get into a route—before getting to the ballcarrier and terminating him with extreme prejudice. Another genre of play in that reel is Ross reading an attacking before an OL attempting to zone him can make contact. He cuts through trash; he times a number of blitzes immaculately; he shows sideline to sideline range. It's just a highlight tape. But it's a good-ass highlight tape.
Heck of a play by Josh Ross. Shoots the gap. Knows exactly where the play is going. No wasted steps with him https://t.co/jRtanieYAZ
— Clint Brewster (@clintbrew247) March 22, 2016
The Ross grew up in a linebacker family, and was a four year starter at OLSM who racked up more than 500 career tackles. Only the odd injury early in his career prevented him from having the maximum amount of experience an incoming freshman can have. The end result is a high school linebacker with an uncanny ability to read what's in front of him. OLSM coach George Porritt's favorite Ross anecdote is an uncanny read…
“The thing was, I knew they were running that play,” Ross said. “They ran it like five times and I knew they were running the wheel route.”
As the play began to develop Ross made his move.
“I dropped back and the running back came out on the same route,” he said. “So I went underneath him and caught the pick and ran out of bounds. I should have run to score, but I felt the game was over and we could take a knee.”
…that Ross made as a 13-year-old freshman.
The default comparison is his older brother, the ultra-instinctive James Ross. Ross was an intermittent starter and Penn State obliterator who was 5'11" in a Not Don Brown defense, and a lot of scouting reports envision Josh as that plus three inches and 30 pounds. Josh Newkirk said he "plays just like his brother" after catching him at the Opening regional in Columbus; Steve Lorenz calls him a "bigger version of his brother." Tim Sullivan:
It's unfair to compare Ross to his older brother James, but at the same time, it's almost impossible not to. In physical appearance, playing style, even facial similarity, he's a whole lot like "Biggs."
Scouting reports that aren't referencing James emphasize the rough and tumble nature of the younger Ross's play. He is a hammer in search of a nail:
- Scout: "Physical linebacker who is best when coming forward. Takes on blocks with aggressiveness and leverage and likes contact. Anticipates well and shoots gaps. A sure tackler who wraps up and drives through the ball carrier. Strengths: Instincts, Shedding Ability, Tackling Technique."
- Allen Trieu scouting him against Dewitt: "…physical player … really comes down hill and loves contact. He is a strong kid who strikes with power. He shows good burst and straight line speed. We really like his size, physicality and his intangibles. He is a smart kid who reads keys … takes on lead blockers [very well]"
- Tim Sullivan: "reads and reacts … with outstanding quickness, and he has the physical quickness to get to the point of attack in a hurry. He doesn't quite bring the same level of violence to the ball carrier that James did in high school, but isn't far off."
- Brandon Brown: "…looks to be nearly 230 pounds. He's solid, stout, and muscular but still moves extremely well. …repeatedly took on very large offensive linemen before shedding the block and searching for his gap. … strong, athletic, in very good shape, highly intelligent, a natural leader, and loves contact. "
- Clint Brewster: "…great instincts and gets a beat on the play with a quick first step. His ability to shoot a gap and blow up the ball carrier is uncanny. … won't give ground and will meet the ball carrier or fullback in the right hole and not get pushed backwards. … plays really fast but with a controlled aggressiveness. …exciting closing burst and plays with great confidence."
- Chris Partridge: "He's physical, he's tough, and he's hard-nosed. He is one of those guys you think about when you think Michigan football and the level of physicality we play with here. He is going to be a middle linebacker for us."
- Don Brown: "… tremendous fundamental linebacker. He is also an excellent blitzer. He is an aggressive player and a great tackler, and his fundamentals are off the charts. Josh plays with tremendous passion at the linebacker position."
- Porritt: “reacts to the ball so well and (has) that instinctive ability to get to the ball. He’s got a lot of strength and power and is an intelligent kid. Works at the game, loves the game and plays it with passion.”
The one exception to these takes is ESPN's, which may be (read: is) based on his junior year, and sounds more like a viper(!!!) than a MLB:
…explosive, big-play linebacker with an attack mentality. Lacks ideal length/range for an OLB and size/power of an ILB prospect. …Beats blockers to ball with quickness. Slips through seams between the tackles more than stacks and sheds with physicality. … Transitions smoothly in coverage and shows good range and athleticism. Quick to level off in zone, read the QB, underneath route development and close on targets with terrific timing, burst and balance. Does not project to be a guy who will win many battles in a phone booth at the college level; most production should come from his instincts and quickness in the short-area.
That is a coverage LB who needs to be sheltered from lead blockers and is not the player described by the other three sites.
In fact, those other sites think Ross's main drawback is coverage. While there were some positive mentions in early camp sessions, by the time he was a mature prospect it was consistently mentioned as the proverbial Area For Improvement. Scout's profile mentions he "can continue to get quicker and improve in pass coverage," and when it came time for Sam Webb to discuss Michigan's linebacker contingent at the Opening the phrases were along the lines of "a little stiff," "held his own," "adequate in coverage," and "can and will show better with the pads on."
The other source of dissent is, awkwardly, Future Blue Originals. Ace took in the 2015 OLSM-De La Salle game and came away a bit disappointed:
I'm still waiting for Ross to put it all together … still has moments when he gets taken out of plays, not because of his physical talent, but because he can be hesitant. … A big issue is Ross still hasn't developed any moves to shed blocks; unless Ross had a lot of momentum going and could bash through a guy, once a lineman got his hands on Ross he was effectively neutralized. … if the switch is flipped his ceiling is very high—he's big, fast, and relatively fluid for an inside linebacker.
A year later in the same game, Adam saw considerable development:
… packs a heck of a punch …. There are no light or glancing blows; every hit is a hit. Unsurprisingly, he was consistently able to take on blockers and knock them back. The play at 1:00 is a nice example of this, as Ross bashes the tackle and ricochets off, which allows him to slow down the back and assist on the tackle. … (2:00) sees Ross knock back a blocker, escape, pull up to avoid a fallen offensive lineman, pursue toward the sideline, and make the tackle before the back can turn the corner.
I ran Ross's tape by Ace to see if his opinion changed and he did say that the senior version of Ross was displaying abilities Ace hadn't seen in person.
Per Lorenz, Michigan projects him to middle linebacker. Brown did mention he could play either of the fairly interchangeable ILB spots. Ditto Singleton; Anthony is a guy who will have a shot at being a linebacker version of viper(!!!) and could be a WLB. Michigan is apparently in love with all three.
Etc.: Here's an entrant for "most entertainingly overheated scouting report," 2017 edition:
Performance: Stud. Beast. Man. Animal. People from other teams — players, coaches, and parents alike — used these words to describe Ross throughout the day.
Studbeast Manimal is a 2020 recruit out of Louisiana.
Why Ben Gedeon? Uncannily close fit in terms of recruiting accolades—Gedeon was composite #215—and frame—he was listed at 6'3", 220. Gedeon became a hard-nosed middle linebacker with good range; his main problem was covering in space. Selected NFL.com draft profile takes:
Keeps pads square. Does a good job of punching blockers early and keeping himself in position to make a play. Shows ability to play off of block and keep his contain shoulder clean. Doesn't fly downhill unnecessarily. Plays with instincts in the middle. Processes well sifting through blocks and bodies to find the ball carrier. … Just an average athlete. … Lacks pursuit speed and reactive athleticism to consistently secure tackles in space. Gets engulfed at times and lacks a counter to unhinge quickly from a player's length. … Man coverage responsibilities could become a chore.
Gedeon got locked behind Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden, the latter inexplicably, before emerging into a starter and fourth round pick his senior year. Ross probably needs a year to get up to the 230-240 range Gedeon finished in, but from there should be a viable candidate to start in the middle.
Other comparables include Morgan (the best stack-n-shed Michigan linebacker in recent memory but more athletically limited than Ross projects to be) and, yes, his brother.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Zero projection, Opening appearance, ton of scouting opportunities, near-total agreement.
Variance: Low. Already technically advanced, zero projection, minimal size questions.
Ceiling: High. May just lack the top end athleticism that would make him an early NFL draft pick. Otherwise seems to have the total package.
General Excitement Level: High. High ceiling multiplied by high likelihood he hits that ceiling equals high excitement level.
Projection: Like the other two linebackers in the class there will be an apprenticeship year followed by a multi-way war for the open MLB spot created by Mike McCray's graduation. With apologies to the guys already on campus, it appears the leader going into that war will be the freshman who gets the most playing time and practice hype this year. Prior to doing this profile I thought that was unlikely to be Ross; now I'd give him at least as much of a shot as anyone else, and maybe more since he projects as a thumper in the middle more cleanly than Singleton or Anthony.