Freshpectations for 2016: Linebackers

Going into National Signing Day 2016, Michigan had several holes to fill on the roster but none more than at the linebacker position. Thanks to the departures of starting senior linebackers Joe Bolden, James Ross, Desmond Morgan and Royce Jenkins-Stone, as well as Allen Gant, the staff needed a big haul to fill out the depth chart.

On top of finding quality talent to add to the roster, UM also had to land linebackers that could start from day one. And it looks like they’ve definitely done that.

The incoming linebacker haul includes Devin Bush Jr., Elysee Mbem-Bosse, Carlo Kemp, Joshua Uche and Devin Gil.

Bush Jr.

MGoFish Scouting Report

Though some believe he’s undersized, Bush is a versatile linebacker that has the size, speed and tenacity to be a game changer at the next level. He has the athleticism to make plays all over the field and should fit in Michigan’s defense perfectly. And thanks to the future depth chart and his early enrollment, he has a very good shot at playing early and often.

Scout.com’s Scouting Report

Plays fast to the ball. Very instinctive player who plays one step faster than many opponents. Has very good game speed. Great inside the box going downhill. Works some on the edge as a blitzer as well and he is very effective. When he hits, there is pop with it. A lot of opponents go backwards. Best in attack mode. Can move sideline to sideline. Plays with aggression and an ideal in the box. Not elite size or length, but big enough.

Rivals.com’s (via Tim Sullivan) Scouting Report

Bush doesn’t have the long, tall frame that many come to expect from elite linebackers, but that hasn’t prevented him from reaching that distinction all the same.He’s firmly entrenched in the Rivals250, and for good reason.

Despite his height, Bush is athletic enough to cover in space and make plays on the ball in coverage. He’s a natural read-and-react linebacker in the box, and has the toughness to make every play you’d expect of a true middle linebacker. Because he isn’t tall, he’s unlikely to ever be a 250-plus pound linebacker, but thanks to his attitude at the point of attack, he’ll pack a wallop anyway.

Bush isn’t used much as a blitzer for his high school team, but his athletic ability and feel for picking through traffic should allow him to succeed in that capacity, as well

Highlights


Mbem-Bosse

MGoFish Scouting Report

Mbem-Bosse is a big, nasty inside linebacker that has the athleticism to play sideline to sideline and match up with tight ends, something UM desperately needs on the roster. Though he’s raw, his size and speed combination could help him become a very nice player in the Maize and Blue for years to come.

Scout.com’s Scouting Report

Mbem-Bosse is a very athletic linebacker that boasts a 4.5 40-yard-dash with a nose for the football, not shy of finding the weight room off the field as well. As athletically gifted as he is, Mbem-Bosse is just as physical and should factor in nicely at Michigan.

Rivals.com’s (via Tim Sullivan) Scouting Report

Mbem-Bosse is a classic middle linebacker type with the ability to play right behind the line of scrimmage stopping the run, and to blitz on passing downs. He has good natural instincts, even though he’s relatively new to the game of football.

Most impressively, Mbem-Bosse is a very good athlete for his size. He can drop into coverage, or chase run plays sideline-to-sideline. He’ll need to continue learning exactly when to use the various skills in his set, but the potential is there.

It’s that inexperience that Mbem-Bosse will have to work through. While he does have a good feel for the game, he’s only been on the gridiron for a few years and can continue to develop his knowledge of situational play. With more repetitions against high-level players, he should be able to improve very rapidly.

Highlights


Kemp

MGoFish Scouting Report

Kemp has the size, athleticism and instincts that should fit Michigan’s defense very well as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. Whether he starts off at defensive end or linebacker, there’s a good chance he sees the field early on in his career thanks to his early enrollment and the opening on the depth chart.

Scout.com’s Scouting Report

Kemp is an intriguing player who play multiple spots in college. He played both defensive end and linebacker as well as fullback on offense. He’s physically very strong, and can overpower multiple blockers and make a play. He shows a quick first step and can beat an opposing lineman off the snap. He’s a good athlete for a big man, can move laterally and covers a lot of ground. Depending on how much weight he puts on, we could see Kemp playing on the edge of even moving inside and playing as a tackle.

Rivals.com’s (via Tim Sullivan) Scouting Report

His size is good enough that Kemp will have the ability to play mostly as a true defensive end, whether it’s from a two-point or three-point stance. U-M has used its Buck from both stances this year, and it’s been primarily a pass-rushing or defensive line position.

What Kemp brings is the appropriate size to hold his own up front, along with the athleticism to perform some of the more specialized roles, such as dropping into coverage or shifting all across the front to find the best pass-rush opening. While Michigan has players capable of doing both aspects of the gig, he’ll come in with the ability to do both at a high level without much shoehorning.

As an added bonus, he has plenty of high school experience at both positions the Buck shares responsibilities with. He was a running back and defensive end earlier in his high school career, and this season, he’s made the switch to middle linebacker, where his team is able to use his athleticism and lateral mobility, and he is able to get more comfortable playing in space. For a position that does both of those aspects, he has hit the right training schedule in his four years of high school ball.

Highlights


Uche

MGoFish Scouting Report

Uche is an athletic, quick hybrid defensive end that has a nose of the passer and looks to be a great fit as a Buck linebacker/pass rush specialist in Michigan’s defense. Though he needs some time in the cafeteria and weight room before being able to really contribute, he has the raw ability that could become a scary force off the edge after taking in some more coaching.

Scout.com’s (via Corey Bender) Scouting Report

Uche, who’s boasts a time of 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, is explosive off the line of scrimmage and certainly utilizes his speed and quickness to his advantage against bigger, heavy-footed lineman.

He played his first full season of high school football just last year and is a high-character young man who’s just tapping into what he can become over the next four to five years. He’s a hybrid that can stand up or shift down and put a hand in the dirt at defensive end.  There’s no doubting his ability to wreak havoc in the backfield.”
“His best football has yet to come for him

Rivals.com’s (via Tim Sullivan) Scouting Report

Uche is undersized. Even if he moves back to linebacker in college (a distinct possibility), he’s going to have to add plenty of weight to be an every-down contributor. To play on the line, he may have to add as many as 50 pounds. Fortunately, he has the frame for it.

What he lacks in size, however, Uche makes up for with speed. He’s a terror off the edge, and gives opposing offensive linemen fits because they can’t pass-set fast enough to get a hand on him. If going around the outside was his only move, he’d still be an extremely dangerous player.

Uche will have to improve his technique and variety of pass-rush moves to be a more well-rounded player in college. As long as he can do that and add weight without reducing the speed that makes him so dangerous, he can be an outstanding defensive lineman.

He’s also athletic moving side-to-side, and more comfortable playing in space than many high school linebackers – to say nothing of defensive linemen. While he’ll have to add levels of complexity to his knowledge of the game in order to maintain that level of success in college, he has the ability to do it.

Highlights


Gil

MGoFish Scouting Report

Gil is physical, athletic hybrid linebacker/safety that is expected to play the inside linebacker spot for Michigan and could really turn into a nice player at the position. Though he’s still transitioning into his playing weight, as long as he maintains his speed and athleticism, he should be in contention to play early.

Scout.com’s Scouting Report

When talking size, Gil has it for a big safety. Could even get a look at linebacker down the road depending on how he grows. Loves to mix it up physically. Does not shy away from contact and makes plays in the box and behind the line of scrimmage. Can shed blocks and strike the opponent. When the ball is in the air, he tracks it and makes plays on it. Has very good hands. Always around the ball and makes big plays.

Highlights


Michigan’s 2016 Depth Chart Prediction

  1. #42 Ben Gedeon, SR
  2. #59 Noah Furbush, JR*
  3. Devin Bush Jr, FR
  4. #4 Reuben Jones, SO*
  5. #45 Chase Winovich, JR*
  6. Carlo Kemp, FR
  7. #9 Mike McCray, SR*
  8. Elysse Mbem-Bosse, FR 
  9. Devin Gil, FR
  10. #19 Jared Wangler, JR*
  11. Josh Uche, FR

Freshmen Year Predictions

Michigan will only return one linebacker with starting experience in 2016 (Gedeon) and a couple with special teams experience (Furbush and Winovich). Besides that, there isn’t much field experience at all which means the freshmen will have a fantastic chance to not only see the field but land a starting spot early on this fall:

  • Bush Jr. is a very smart, instinctive, stout linebacker that has the athleticism to play sideline to sideline. If he picks up the playbook and performs well in spring and summer practices, I believe there’s a real chance that he could be starting early on at inside linebacker.
  • Kemp is another early enrollee that has the size and instincts to play early on. Though he may be a little bigger than the staff would like for an every down linebacker, he could see the field this fall on goal line/short yardage situations. At the very least, I believe he is a consistent special teams player from day one.
  • Mbem-Bosse may have the highest ceiling of the freshmen linebackers but will not have the advantage of Bush Jr and Kemp as an early enrollee. However, as long as he comes to Ann Arbor in game ready shape, I believe he sees the field this fall.
  • As for Gil and Uche, both could use a redshirt year getting into college ready shape. Once they get a year of weight training with S&C coach Kevin Tolbert, they should fight for starting spots on defense and/or special teams in 2017.

What are your freshpectations for Michigan’s incoming linebacker signees? Add your thoughts below in the comment section! 

Photo Credit: South Florida High School Sports