Don Brown has been fielding strong defense after strong defense since arriving at Michigan. He gets a lot of credit for that but he'll be the first to tell you it's because of his players. Brown recently identified junior cornerback Ambry Thomas and redshirt freshman linebacker Cameron McGrone as two guys who did a great job on the field in 2019.
Before the season started, it was unclear if Thomas would even play. He battled colitis all summer long, lost more than 20 pounds and struggled make his way onto the field when fall camp started. All he did after that was make a full recovery, start every game and lead the team in turnovers forced. Brown could not be more complimentary when talking about Thomas on Jon Jansen's In the Trenches podcast on Monday.
"First off, he’s a tremendous person," Brown said. "He’s a great leader, a guy that is a time-on-task, attention-to-detail guy.
"It was really concerning during the month of July because he was more in the hospital than he was out. He only missed maybe four or five practices at the beginning of camp but then he got in there and was never out of the lineup ever again the entire year.
"When you’re battling the physical ailment that he had to battle, obviously you’re not sure what you’re going to get out of a player. It was probably, for me, the No. 1 success story that I can point to in terms of an individual on a defense."
McGrone didn't have to battle a sickness like Thomas did, but he wasn't in the starting lineup to begin the year. In McGrone's case, he was behind Josh Ross on the depth chart but was thrust into the lineup when Ross got dinged up against Army and he never looked back either.
"The thing with Cam is athletically, I would have to say he’d be in the top ten percent in the country at linebacker," Brown said. "This guy has tremendous ability and he’s a very smart guy.
"Really, as a young player, the thing that requires the most time on task is the use of your hands — at the collegiate level, which obviously ties right into the next level. I think that was his biggest jump. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a very smart guy and really started to use his hands well.
"Sometimes guys who are very fast, don’t play fast on the field. He was able to translate and play fast almost immediately, and it certainly showed, even in the Wisconsin game."
Brown had a loaded comment about Thomas and McGrone, which speaks to just how highly he thinks of those two. They'll both need to step up in order to lead the charge against a talented team like Alabama. Brown clearly thinks they're up for it.
What was the best play made by Thomas all year? McGrone? Comment below!!!