As Michigan heads into practice this spring, veteran experience isn’t quite its strong suit on the defensive side of the ball – that’s for sure.
However, competition at linebacker is looking quite good according to U-M defensive coordinator Don Brown, who spoke about his group of linebackers on The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb.
“Here’s what we are looking at, (sophomore) Devin Bush, Jr. and (senior) Mike Wroblewski are sharing time at MIKE (linebacker),” Brown said, further explaining the emergence of Wroblewski, who stands at 6-foot-2.5, 240-pounds. “By the way, Robo is very much in the discussion because he has had an unbelievable winter. He really has. I just corrected a quiz for him today. I think he was close to 100% not knowing his position, he knows what he does. He knows what all 11 guys do. He has worked extremely hard.”
Brown also raved about the Bush Jr., who played as one of the Wolverines' primary back ups 2016 and was also a key special teams contributor as well.
“Then you have young Devin Bush, Jr. and I think he is, obviously we played him at the WILL spot behind Mike (McCray) last year and he got work. He got in games,” Brown said. “We think he is a little more natural at the MIKE, he can run, he can be a sideline to sideline guy. I’m anxious for him to do that."
And last but not least, Brown pointed out the importance of Michigan’s lone returning starter on defense, fifth-year outside linebacker Mike McCray, and another potential up and comer, sophomore Devin Gil.
“Then obviously, you have Mike being the returning at WILL and then Devin has had experience at WILL, now he is coming over to MIKE. If you look at it, we got three experienced guys for two spots, if just looking at it from a starting point," Brown said.
Further adding: “Then Ben Mason is with us, our incoming freshman and I’ve moved Elysee Mbem-Bosse to WILL along with Devin Gil, which a year ago at this time, we had no depth. Now we’ve got some guys and coach always says all the time, let’s cage match time, let them figure it out, so that’s what we’ll do.”
While hearing Wroblewski’s name may be odd to some, Brown says his work ethic and knowledge of his system has earned him an opportunity this spring.
"He has worked like a competing animal every day since the season has been over,” Brown said. “He has a complete understanding of our concept and he is in the mix, which is a beautiful thing.”
If Brown has his way the competition between the three will be razor thin.
“Now if they’re all close, then I’ll let all three of them play, let them rotate in the course of the season and actually give them a chance to stay fresh in the fourth quarter,” Brown said.
Michigan's second-year defensive coordinator is also excited about the possibilities at his Viper position. Last year the hybrid spot was manned exclusively by Jabrill Peppers. In 2017 similar-sized defenders like Josh Metellus and Khaleke Hudson will factor in at the position, but so too will more prototypical SAMs like Josh Uche and Noah Furbush.
"Josh Uche... he can fly now," said Brown. He can really run. Furbush, 240 pounds can run a 4.51, so we’re excited about him.”
"He’s a fast guy and playing at a high level."
Stay tuned to the Michigan Insider for details on the "Viper plan" this spring, the growth of Josh Uche and Elysee Mbem-Bosse, and more. In the meantime, for more of Brown breaking down the defense, the linebacking corps, and more, press play below.