Despite signing six linebacker prospects between the 2012 and 2013 classes, Michigan still has opportunity for playing time with the incoming freshman class. Ben Gedeon (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson) and Mike McCray II (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood Madison) are both coming in with the mentality that they need to be ready to play.
“The coaches have said to be ready to play and make sure I stay in shape. There are a couple guys that have been hurt so they said there might be more opportunity to play early,” Gedeon said. “I really can’t say anything yet because I haven’t been able to get there and compete. After fall camp I’ll be able to see where I fit in and if I’m ready to play.”
Gedeon is likely slated for either Mike (middle linebacker or Will (weakside linebacker) depending on where he’s needed and what spot he picks up the quickest. Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan are the returning players with experience at middle linebacker, and James Ross at weakside backer.
That means there isn’t a true two deep at either spot, and depending on where Gedeon is at physically he might be called upon early. The linebackers are typically rotated often in coordinator Greg Mattison’s defense, which is why Gedeon has been preparing himself to compete.
“I’ve been doing a lot of weight training. I’m at about 230 or 235 pounds right now and I’m trying to stick around there,” he said. “Coach Mattison just said to be ready to go, so we’ll see where I’m at after camp.”
McCray might be in a different boat with the injury to Sam (strong side) linebacker Jake Ryan. That’s the position McCray projects to, and the depth behind Ryan is slim.
“I always planned on going in to compete,” McCray said. “I found out [Ryan] was injured and I knew I would have to be ready to step in because I don’t know what will happen once I get up there.”
McCray had an injury of his own with a torn labrum but says he is already ahead of schedule. He was cleared to lift a month ago and has been focused on reaching his target weight of 230 pounds.
Most of the experiences will be new for them, but they will both have the opportunity to work with new linebackers coach Roy Manning. The loss of defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery was a gain for McCray and Gedeon as they added a new coach to learn from along with Mark Smith.
“I’m excited because he played at Michigan and then went on to play in the NFL,” McCray said. “I know he knows what he’s talking about. He’s also young so he understands and can relate to young kids.”
Having that ability to relate could end up helping the incoming freshmen, since the adjustment from high school to college is so difficult. That reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet for either linebacker, but it’s something they both have been thinking about.
Gedeon believes it will all start to hit him once he starts practicing and is actually around the program more. The feeling for both isn’t so much pressure or anxiety, but excitement.
“I’m just anxious. I’ve been thinking about getting up there ever since I signed with Michigan,” McCray said. “I don’t think anything negative about it, I’m just ready to be a part of Michigan football. There will be more people watching, but that doesn’t really faze me.”