As new Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald installs a defense for the first time — not to mention by himself now that co-defensive coordinator Mo Linguist is out the door — he's almost certainly going to have some bumps in the road along the way. Luckily for him, he has an experienced stud at all three levels of the defense — Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Ross and Daxton Hill.
Because of what Macdonald is all about, it's safe to assume that Ross might end up being one of the most important defenders on Michigan's roster. Macdonald is a former linebackers coach, so he'll naturally feel comfortable dealing with that position group. Fortunately for him, he has a senior leader in Ross at the position, who should be able to act as a coach on the field. It's virtually a guarantee that Ross will be an extension of Macdonald when it comes to making calls and ensuring that everyone knows what to do.
That's something that comes easy to Ross. As a high school player, he was described as a future captain at Michigan by his prep coaches. He achieved that last year and will be one again in 2021 barring a very surprising development. He's got great leadership skills, is very intelligent and is a damn good linebacker when it comes to his physical skills.
He's not necessarily a burner but he can run. He's not huge but he's stout and tough. And he's incredibly smart, which allows him to play faster than he is. Per CFB Film Room, Ross is among the best linebackers in the Big Ten when it comes to tackling. He checks in at No. 3 among all returning backers with the lowest/missed broken tackle rate.
When it comes to stopping ball carriers, Ross gets the job done 93% of the time. That's a phenomenal number and is one of the reasons why he's so important to Michigan's defense this year. We're all waiting to see how the defense looks under Macdonald. Because of guys like Ross, head coach Jim Harbaugh feels good about what we'll see.
"We’ve got good players on defense. Josh Ross is also that kind of class. I would put him in there with Aidan Hutchinson," Harbaugh recently said while talking to Jon Jansen. "You see it jelling, you see it coming together where players are doing some different roles based on the scheme; different positions. Defensive ends are now stand-up outside backers. It fits them and they’re excited about it and learning those new positions.
“As I look at it across the board, we’ve got a defense that’s sound and good. They’re fitting the players to the scheme and how their talents are going to be used. They’re good players, so I think it’s a process and it’s a daily thing, but I see us being pretty darn good on defense."
Ross isn't the biggest or fastest linebacker in the Big Ten, but he'll likely be one of the most productive. He's got everything it takes to lead the unit and help make his new defensive coordinator look good.