Click HERE to sign up for a subscription to TheWolverine.com and get your FREE gift code for $99 in Michigan apparel and gear!
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown will lose some outstanding players next season, but he’s got a lot of good ones returning, too.
Junior linebacker Devin Bush Jr. will be the toughest to replace, and it starts in the Peach Bowl, which Bush noted he was not cleared to participate in when he announced he’d be leaving early for the NFL Draft. A few have already stepped up in his absence.
“Next man up,” Brown said Thursday. “This kid [sophomore linebacker] Josh Ross has been playing all year. We’ve lost guys, including Devin, for a period of time in games, so he’s got to play. I have a lot of confidence in the young man moving forward.
“The good thing is I knew pretty early in the process Devin was hurt, so at least I’ve been able to prepare him for the challenges ahead.”
Freshman Cam McGrone has turned heads for the last several weeks.
“I think [he’s] doing a good job,” Brown said of the rookie. “[Redshirt freshman] Jordan Anthony is certainly reliable. He’s really put himself in a good situation. Those two guys in particular.
“On the back end, this [freshman cornerback] Vincent Gray is really impressing me. Obviously, [sophomore cornerback] Ambry Thomas kind of gets left out there. I think he’s playing really, really well. I have no fear about what his ceiling is or how good a player he is, all those things. I think he’s going to be a really good player.”
Michigan’s young safeties have also made a move. Freshman Sammy Faustin has “gotten a little bit of run,” Brown said, but one in particular has stood out.
“[Sophomore safety] J’Marick Woods really [is going upward],” Brown said. “This bowl period has been really good for him. [Sophomore safety] Brad Hawkins … really good for him. With [junior safety Josh] Metellus, J’Marick, Hawkins and our incoming recruits, I feel really good about that back end.
“I feel really good about what we were able to do at linebacker. We’ve really got everybody back with the exception of [fifth-year senior Noah] Furbush [and Devin Bush]. That’s a positive. We’ve got a couple holes we’ve got to plug in the defensive line, which is an ongoing process, but we feel good about what we were able to do in the early signing period.”
One defensive tackle in particular is making a move.
“I think [Donovan] Jeter is going to be really good,” Brown said of the redshirt frosh. “He’s another guy this bowl practice period has been a benefit for him. He now knows the defense, has a good handle on what we’re trying to get done and he’s strong as an ox now. Moving him is an issue.”
Replacing junior end Rashan Gary, meanwhile, is a by-committee endeavor. But, again, Michigan gets a head start on that task in the bowl game with Gary sitting out.
“The key is with the growth of [sophomore] Kwity Paye and [junior] Josh Uche, we’re able to manufacture production out of that position pretty solidly between those two guys,” Brown said. “That just needs to continue this weekend.”