With the timing of the Big Ten's football season still up in the air, Michigan junior linebacker Cameron McGrone is planning on continuing his career in Ann Arbor.
Wolverine Digest has learned that McGrone will be back for another season, which is particularly important for Michigan after losing junior offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield and senior cornerback Ambry Thomas to the 2021 NFL Draft last week. Both Mayfield and Thomas were expected to be among the leaders on each of their respective sides of the football, so the losses left large holes in the Wolverines lineup.
In 2019, McGrone had the fifth most tackles for the U-M defense with 66 total stops across 13 games. But out of the four players to record more tackles than McGrone, three are out of the picture as Jordan Glasgow, Khaleke Hudson and Josh Metellus are all now in the NFL. Hudson and Glasgow both played primarily at the second level, so McGrone will be called upon to play an even bigger role for the Wolverines in the middle.
And while McGrone was mightily productive last year from a sheer volume perspective, the inside linebacker made a lot of key stops and impact plays. Thanks to his quickness and a lack of false steps, McGrone added nine and a half tackles for loss in 2019, a number that ranked No. 4 for Michigan.
Impact of McGrone's return
In the past, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has lauded McGrone for his speed, and he has even drawn comparisons to one of U-M's most explosive former linebackers in Devin Bush. That speed can help McGrone cover running backs out of the backfield, and it will be relied upon once again when U-M returns to the field.
Along with McGrone, Michigan will need a big effort from Josh Ross in the linebacking corps with departures from Hudson, Glasgow and Josh Uche. Ross is one of the more experienced players on the defense as a whole, and he a strong candidate to start at one of the two outside linebacker positions, the other being the hybrid Viper role.
Last year, McGrone was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention for his quality performance on the field, and Ross earned the same honor one season prior. Now, the linebacking tandem will be looked at as primary run stoppers at the second level for the Wolverines.
On a couple occasions last year, McGrone was perhaps the most effective Michigan defender in a pair of lopsided victories. During a week six road contest against Illinois, McGrone registered 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack in Michigan's 42-25 win. Two weeks later, McGrone is on the record for 12 stops as the Wolverines toppled No. 8 Notre Dame by a score of 45-14 at home.
Given the losses for Michigan on defense, these types of games may need to become a bit more common for a successful Michigan campaign-- whenever that occurs.
How thankful are you that Michigan will have at least one more season with Cameron McGrone anchoring the defense in the middle? What do you think is a reasonable expectation for the U-M junior this coming season? Let us know!