Watch Michigan QBs throw at Peach Bowl practice in Atlanta on Dec. 26, 2018.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
ATLANTA — There are always two sides to bowl prep.
Teams keep one eye on the game itself and another on next season. That’s certainly the case for Michigan this week going into the Peach Bowl.
Michigan’s defense has some immediate voids to fill Saturday against Florida with Rashan Gary and Devin Bush Jr. out of the lineup. Looking ahead to next season, the Wolverines be without their two best corners for the 2019 season, as both Lavert Hill and David Long may declare for the NFL draft.
This month, though, Michigan’s found some promise with a few youngsters who are getting extended reps for the first time in their careers.
“A couple people have impressed me, but the first two that come to mind are (cornerback) Vincent Gray and (linebacker) Cam McGrone,” Michigan sophomore linebacker Josh Ross, who is expected to start in place of Bush, said Wednesday. “Vincent has made a strong push this bowl prep, he’s been doing some good things out there. Moving around fast, covering guys.
“Cam, I get the privilege to play with him every day and see his development. He’s gotten a lot better since the beginning of the season. It’s good to see that in a young linebacker.”
McGrone, a former 5-star prospect, took a redshirt this season as Michigan’s linebacker depth in front of him left him without any serious playing time.
Still, the 6-foot-1, 228-pounder from Indianapolis stood out as a high school inside linebacker for his ability to cover sideline-to-sideline while still being able to slash into the backfield.
His build is similar to Bush’s, as was his production in high school. Ross, meanwhile, was good in spots this season in his first year in the linebacker rotation. He and junior Devin Gil split reps throughout the year but will both have larger roles in the future.
“Just keep getting better,” Ross said. “Everyone has to take advantage of every rep you get.”
Gray, a Rochester Adams product, is the type of long, rangy corner Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown and cornerbacks coach Michael Zordich often covet.
He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 184 pounds and is physical enough to play man-to-man coverage. Still, mastery of that certainly takes time working on it.
If Hill and Long both return, Michigan’s defensive backfield should have plenty to work with. If one leaves, the other could pair with sophomore Ambry Thomas — the only returning corner on this roster with experience.
If both leave, at least one spot will be open. Gray has turned a few heads this month and could find himself in a good spot if that continues.
The other postition that needs help is the defensive interior. Michigan is graduating nose tackle Bryan Mone and lost Aubrey Solomon to a transfer to Tennessee last week.
Starters Carlo Kemp and Michael Dwumfour will be back. Michigan will bring in freshman Mazi Smith in Jaunary, with fellow freshman Chris Hinton following in the summer.
This month, though, redshirt freshman Donovan Jeter (6-foot-3, 308) has been given more time to grow.
“Donovan Jeter’s a very good football player, so strong. Just like Josh Ross, so aggressive,” Kemp said. “I don’t know what it is with these young guys … they just love to attack. They’re violent, they’re violent players.
“Donovan’s going to be a very good player and he’ll help us out. Especially in this game.”
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NickBaumgardner.