After adding two blue-chippers to the 2019 class over the weekend, Michigan picked up a third BBQ at the Big House visitor for the 2018 class this afternoon. Four-star Indianapolis Lawrence Central linebacker Cameron McGrone chose the Wolverines over fellow finalists Notre Dame and Indiana in a ceremony at his school for M's third pledge in three days.
I'm a Michigan Man #GoBlue
— Cam McGrone (@McGrone_Strong) July 31, 2017
Encouragingly, 247's Steve Wiltfong reported that fellow Indiana native and four-star guard commit Emil Ekiyor attended the announcement, a good sign following his recent visit to Alabama.
McGrone, who earned an Army All-American invite after a standout performance at The Opening last month, is the 12th commit in the 2018 class and the first at inside linebacker.
4*, #23 OLB,
|4*, #16 OLB||4*, 80, #14 OLB||
4*, 96, #3 OLB,
4*, #14 OLB,
247 was already the most bullish on McGrone heading into the Opening finals, and after they moved him up 94 spots to #40 overall, easily his highest ranking. The others have him as a four-star right on the edge of most top lists; he's #330 overall on Scout, the first OLB outside the Rivals250, and the first OLB outside the ESPN300.
McGrone measured in at 6'1.5", 214 pounds at the Opening Oakland regional. Once he packs on some extra muscle, he should fit in as a WILL in Don Brown's defense.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Scout's free eval...
Aggressive backer who gets moving downhill in a hurry. Shows good burst and quickness off the snap of the ball and timing when he is blitzing and shooting gaps. Plays with good motor and looks like he is always running at 100 percent. Physical and takes on blocks as well as arrives at ball carriers with impact. Good straight line ability but can still improve on side to side agility and man to man pass coverage skills. Suffered an injury as a junior so must show that he is fully recovered from that as a senior.
...and ESPN's underclassman eval...
Strengths: Aggressive plays with leverage and has ability to close quickly. Used in stunts and blitzes, adjusts angles to chase and will close quickly. ... Areas of Improvement: Block recognition when not on a designed blitz. Coverage- not asked to cover much, uses his athletic skills to blitz not cover. ... Bottom Line: Run and hit LB prospect with a relentless style and effective change of direction ability. Will need to develop at depth and in coverage to realize his upside.
...could've been written by the same person, give or take their impression on his ability to read blocks. They both hit on what you'll see are recurring themes: McGrone is explosive, aggressive, and goes all out; he's also more refined as a run defender and blitzer than he is in coverage.
McGrone first got onto the radar after his freshman season, when he caught Rivals analyst Josh Helmholdt's eye at the Best of the Midwest Combine, earning "newcomer to know" status:
Looking every bit his listed 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, McGrone has an excellent linebacker frame with long arms. He tested really well, running in the 4.5 range for the 40-yard dash, then went out and made one-on-one work look very easy – which is difficult to do from the linebacker position.
He posted the best SPARQ score among rising junior linebackers at the Opening Columbus regional that May, earning top ten underclassman performer honors from Scout's Allen Trieu. At the time, 247's Steve Wiltfong caught up with his new high school coach to get a scouting report:
“He’s explosive,” Peebles said. “For a sophomore I think he uses his hands extremely well. His speed and length obviously is going to be real attractive to recruiters. For a sophomore he throws his hands, he gets off blocks very well, I never saw him on tape get caught up.”
McGrone tore his ACL in the regular season finale of his junior year. Rivals had already seen enough from his film to move him up the position rankings:
McGrone was a player we identified last winter before he started landing college offers, and he has showed continued progression. We knew before the season he was a really athletic linebacker prospect, and junior film shows he is learning how to transfer that skill set to the football field.
The injury sidelined McGrone for the early part of this year's camp season, so only a few weeks after getting cleared by doctors, he went out to Oakland to try to earn a spot in the Opening finals. He tested right around where he was at pre-injury, and his coach was amazed by how quickly he bounced back:
On May 21, McGrone participated in Nike Football’s The Opening Regional Oakland and posted a 4.67 40-yard dash and 35-inch vertical around six months are surgery. The performance landed him a spot at The Opening Finals.
“It’s been amazingly fast,” Lawrence Central head coach Bill Peebles said. “Honestly, it almost scares me. I’ve never seen anyone come back so fast to full speed after an ACL surgery. He’s only six months or so out and he’s at full speed…It’s like it never happened.”
Also from that article: McGrone is a young rising junior—his coach notes he could be a rising sophomore—which only adds to his upside. Scout noted his quick-twitch athleticism and ability to play in space while naming him one of the top ten defenders at the event.
McGrone's next major stop was Notre Dame's Irish Invasion camp, where he was neck-and-neck with Shayne Simon for Alpha Dog honors from 247:
Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central linebacker Cameron McGrone made a strong case to be the Alpha Dog himself. He absolutely swarmed running backs in 1-on-1s including the highlight of the day, popping a running back and forcing a fumble to end the cat and mouse session. He’s a space eater. McGrone is a plus athlete and his speed was on display when he won fastest man in the linebacker race to close out the camp.
Trieu concurred, putting McGrone in the "best of the best" category from the camp:
McGrone looks fully recovered from his injury. He looked fast and comfortable in space. He was being coached by the Irish staff on playing more under control while playing fast, but he was moving very very well. It was good to see how well he has rehabbed.
At the Opening finals, McGrone's athleticism earned him mention as one of the top four linebackers from 247's Kipp Adams:
During position drills, McGrone was the most fluid linebacker out there. He was assertive in his movements and displayed great explosiveness coming downhill. At 6-foot-1.5, 215 pounds, McGrone is a well-built prospect who won more reps than he lost in the 1-on-1 competition.
247's Barton Simmons went so far as to name him a top-three overall performer for the Saturday portion:
While Tindall doesn't let running backs get around him, McGrone doesn’t even let them get going. The Indiana native was regularly stopping running backs behind the line of scrimmage because of how well he accelerates to the football.
Oddly, Scout didn't have anything on McGrone from the event, but Rivals's Notre Dame outlet covered it:
McGrone, who hails from Indianapolis Lawrence Central, showed zero signs that he is around seven months removed from an ACL injury. The four-star is extremely quick and would add speed to the Notre Dame linebacker core if he selects the Irish. He is also a fluid athlete and covers a lot of ground in the middle of the field.
Playing on the same team with Allen and Oghoufo, McGrone certainly stood out amongst the talented defensive players on the entire team as well. It’s scary to think he is moving so well in the short amount of time from his major surgery and that athleticism is one reason why Notre Dame and Michigan are coveting the talented linebacker.
You get the picture. McGrone is an excellent blitzer and run defender whose guided-missile forays into the backfield should make him an ideal fit as a Don Brown inside linebacker.
McGrone holds offers from Iowa, Louisville, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Syracuse, among others.
Indianapolis Lawrence Central plays in the largest classification in the state, sharing a conference with Ben Davis (Chris Evans). According to the Rivals database, which dates back to 2002, McGrone is the second four-star prospect from the school, joining 2015 Tennessee linebacker signee (and one-time Michigan commit) Darrin Kirkland. The school also produced former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson.
Before his junior-year injury, McGrone recorded 52 tackles (27 solo), 15.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in just six games, per MaxPreps. As a sophomore, he had 36 tackles (25 solo), 4.0 TFLs, and a sack in eight games.
FAKE 40 TIME
McGrone ran a laser-timed 4.67 40 at the Opening Oakland regional, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. He's also recorded a 4.27 shuttle, 34.8-inch vertical leap, and 40.0-foot powerball throw for a SPARQ rating of 107.52—a good all-around score that's a little short of elite.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Mike McCray's eligibility will be exhaused by the time McGrone steps on campus, every other linebacker contributor from this fall should be back, including Devin Bush Jr. and the star-studded linebacker haul from the 2017 class. That should afford McGrone a redshirt year, then he'll work to crack the rotation before his best chance at a starting gig opens up when Bush departs after the 2019 season.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
McGrone is the 12th commit in a class that should eventually end up at 20-24 prospects, depending on attrition. After the 2017 linebacker class, Michigan can stand pat with McGrone on the inside and Otis Reese at VIPER. They'll continue to recruit targets at RB, WR, TE, OT, DT, DE, and CB/S.
Here's the class as it currently stands: