McCray II (left) is also a standout TE for Trotwood-Madison; the elder McCray (right) was a captain at OSU.
As first reported by Scout, Trotwood-Madison LB Mike McCray II—the son of former Ohio State captain Mike McCray—made his commitment to Michigan official this afternoon ($):
"I have committed to Michigan," McCray stated. "I've been feeling like Michigan was the right school for me for two weeks now, and there's no reason for me to wait any longer. It's the right time for me to commit, and I'm very excited to be a Wolverine. I'm being recruited by Coach (Mark) Smith and we have a great relationship. We speak at least once or twice per week."
McCray becomes the 14th commit of the class of 2013 and the first linebacker. He told Scout he's being recruited as an inside linebacker, but as you'll see, I think he ends up on the strongside.
4*, 92, #10 ATH,
Michigan brings in another player generally regarded as a four-star, as McCray lands in the early lists of every recruiting service save Scout, which has released by far the most limited rankings (though that changes this week). Rivals is especially bullish on McCray's abilities, placing him all the way up at #44 overall in the country. Both Rivals and 247 list McCray at 6'4", 230 pounds, while ESPN (6'3", 225) and Scout (6'2", 220) have him a little smaller. Considering recent articles on McCray have him listed as high as 238 pounds, I think the higher figures are likely more accurate; some suggest that he could grow into a defensive end role, though he's needed at Michigan as a stronside linebacker, where his size projects well.
McCray landed at #18, one spot behind fellow commit Taco Charlton, in the recently-released Bucknuts top 50 players in Ohio. Mark Porter thinks McCray is headed for a position switch ($):
“He would be an active defensive end and will probably grow into that position as a college player. He plays linebacker now, but I think he ends up moving down to the line at the college level.”
However, the strongside linebacker in Michigan's 4-3 under is practically a DE; Jake Ryan took snaps at both SLB and weakside DE last year depending on the situation. In this case, McCray's size and possible tweener status could be a strength.
McCray really broke out in 2011 as a junior, helping lead Trotwood-Madison to a Division II state title. Scout's Bill Greene was extremely impressed with McCray's performance last season ($):
One of the more improved juniors in Ohio this season, and a legitimate Top-10 candidate in a loaded year in-state. McCray's improvement can be traced to better side-to-side movement, and better recognition from his linebacker spot. He is super-athletic, plays with high intensity, and displays good overall football intelligence. I definitely see McCray receiving an Ohio State offer at some point, and this weekend makes sense with his teammate Bradley on campus with him.
McCray was ranked at #13 in Scout's initial Ohio top 50 ($), but unlike teammates Cam Burrows and Bam Bradley, he did not receive that Buckeye offer (as of now, at least). Rivals Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt watched McCray play twice last season, praising his instincts, pass coverage, and discipline in his first evaluation, then saying this after watching him in the state title game (both links $):
At 6-4 and 220 pounds, McCray is one of the best playmaking defenders I have seen this year. He is always around the football, always playing at 100 miles per hour and never tiring despite going both ways. McCray doubles as a tight end on offense, and there are teams interested in him for that position in college. His highest upside is definitely on defense, though, where his combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability should ensure a long career in football. If McCray plateaus right now he's still going to be one of the top linebackers in the Midwest, and probably the country. But McCray also has room to grow in his game. He can add strength and definition to his body in the weight room this off-season, which should also improve what is already pretty good speed. If he takes another step forward with off-season preparation, McCray is going to be scary good a year from now.
After the state finals, BuckeyeGrove's Mark Givler added, "McCray simply does everything you can ask a linebacker to do; he fills gaps, makes plays in space, and does a great job in coverage." For those afraid that McCray is too big for linebacker, it certainly sounds like he has the athleticism and coverage ability to play in space, and that shows up in his film as well.
McCray chose Michigan over Tennessee and Illinois, while also holding offers from Arizona, Boston College, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Nebraska, N.C. State, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Oklahoma and Tennessee offers obviously stand out; despite the lack of an Ohio State offer, McCray was generating national attention when he decided to commit.
McCray had 88 tackles, two forced fumbles, and five interceptions—returning three for touchdowns—as a junior. As a tight end, he hauled in 30 receptions for 494 yards and nine touchdowns, making him the increasingly-rare true two-way player.
As a sophomore, McCray tallied 65 tackles, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions while catching 11 passes and scoring five offensive touchdowns.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals credits McCray with a 4.61-second 40, which is quite fast for a player who could conceivably play DE at the next level. While he's lauded for his athleticism, I'll still give that four FAKEs out of five.
Short junior highlight reel:
As noted, McCray has no problem dropping into coverage and making plays.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
McCray will immediately provide depth at SLB, a position only redshirt sophomore Jake Ryan and redshirt junior Cam Gordon—he of the multiple position switches—currently occupy among scholarship players. Ryan appears to have that job locked down for the next few years, while Gordon should be competent enough to play as a backup while McCray takes a redshirt year.
That said, McCray has the size and athleticism to be an early contributor, and his coverage skills could mean Michigan is afforded the luxury of sliding Ryan down to WDE and putting McCray in at SLB in passing situations once he has a handle on the defense. Once Ryan graduates, McCray will have every opportunity to take the starting job on the strongside; we'll see if he's battling, say, E.J. Levenberry for that role when this class fills out.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 14 commits in the class of 2013, all but two of whom garnering four-star ratings on Rivals. McCray is the first linebacker in the class to commit—Charlton plays OLB in high school, but he's coming is as a WDE—and it looks like Michigan will take three total in the class. The other two will likely come from the trio of high-caliber recruits currenly listing Michigan at or near the top of their list: WLB Ben Gedeon, WLB Dorian O'Daniel, and SLB E.J. Levenberry.
For more detail on the scholarship situation, check out Brian's recruiting section from Monday's Unverified Voracity. Major needs for the rest of the class are at running back, wide receiver, defensive tackle, and cornerback.