When Josh Ross was asked last week about his expectation for Michigan football’s linebackers – and what type of impact he and fellow inside linebacker Cameron McGrone could have for the defense -.he didn’t think twice before providing an answer.
“My expectation is we’re gonna be the best linebacker group in the country,” Ross, a redshirt junior, said Sept. 27. “And (McGrone) feels the same way. The talent he has, the talent I have. Us together, we can be the best. So we’re prepared and we’re ready to go do it.”
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On Thursday, McGrone echoed Ross’ proclamation.
“I totally agree with that statement,” McGrone said. “I feel like we have the best combination of speed and physicality. Also, just that linebacking group is so smart. Even the young guys, they’re catching on really fast. Really little mental errors throughout all practices.
“I think the combination of all those things, I think that’s what’s making us the best in the country.”
Expectations already were high for Michigan’s linebackers with
McGrone and Ross returning
close to two seasons combined of starting experience at inside linebacker. And the two have done nothing to quell the hype.
Part of the reason why: For the first time, McGrone and Ross will get to play next to each other.
In 2018, Ross played the majority of the snaps at weak-side linebacker, recording 54 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack as McGrone redshirted. Last season, Ross was the incumbent starter before suffering a early season-ending injury and also redshirting. With Ross out, McGrone stepped in and had a breakout season, with 65 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
Entering the 2020 season, McGrone and Ross are expected to start at the two inside linebacker positions. And so far, the two have been almost interchangeable.
“It’s been amazing,” said McGrone, a sophomore. “It’s like being out there with myself sometimes. We look like the same. We’re moving the same, taking the same steps, same things. It’s really kind of crazy.”
“The game has slowed down a lot,” he added. “I see little things a lot more. It’s like my eyes have opened up a little bit wider. And like you said, I was thrown into the fire, but I was ready. Now, I’m well-prepared and I’m ready to go out there.”
McGrone trained at the weak-side linebacker position before filling in at middle linebacker. And he and Ross believe that experience will be advantageous this fall.
“Learning both positions is so helpful, not only for our defense but for me especially, just knowing what’s going on from both linebacker positions, knowing where my help’s coming from from the backend and knowing what the front’s doing on both sides,” Ross said Sept. 17. “It’s very helpful and I really feel like it’s going to benefit our defense this year for sure.”
“I think really no other linebacker corps can say they have linebackers that have those abilities,” McGrone said Thursday.
If things go as planned and McGrone and Ross start alongside each other in the middle of Michigan’s defense, the two will be living out a scenario they once dreamed about while living together during the winter semester in 2019.
“I’m just scared for everybody else, honestly,” McGrone said.