Entering his fourth fall at Michigan, redshirt junior linebacker Mike McCray was talked about as a possible contributor in the middle of U-M’s defense.
Not only did he contribute, he started 12 games for the Wolverines.
Why the success? Well, for the first time in his career McCray was finally healthy – and it showed – as he finished with 72 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss for the Wolverines top-ranked Big Ten defense.
“I think my game improved a lot, I didn’t play last year,” McCray said of season. “Just getting reps and seeing the offenses, learning tendencies and things like that, (and) basically getting better at seeing the offense when I’m on the field.”
Adding: “I just out there every week and try to get better,” McCray said. “I don’t think about the past or anything like that. I just try to get better every week.”
From watching on the sideline to being an everyday starter, McCray will also get his first chance to play in the postseason when No. 6 Michigan (10-2) takes on No. 11 Florida State (9-3) in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 in Miami, Fla.
“I’m extremely happy, grateful as well,” McCray said. “To not playing at all and this year playing every game, it’s just a whole another experience. Just great knowing that you’re going to be playing in a bowl game. New Year’s Six bowl, a big game, just looking forward to it.”
Admittedly, McCray says it took him two weeks mentally to get over Michigan’s season ending loss at Ohio State. But also the time served a good purpose by helping recover from the rigors of Big Ten play.
“I feel a lot better than I did after the Ohio State game,” McCray said of health. “Everybody is a little banged up a little bit after week 12, week 13 really. Then having time off a little bit helps your body real and things like that.”