Monday, May 2, 2011

James Ross, Wolverine

Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker James Ross

James Ross, a linebacker from Orchard Lake, MI, committed to the Wolverines on Monday morning.  He chose Michigan over offers from Arizona State, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, and USC, among others.

Ross is 6'0" and 215 lbs.  He's a 4-star prospect and the #2 inside linebacker to both Scout and 247 Sports, and a recent post from Rivals mods stated that he will be a 4-star on their site, too.  ESPN is maybe sorta kinda thinking about ranking players.  Ross had 103 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries and 1 interception as a sophomore.  As a junior for OLSM, he notched 95 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception for a team that went to the state championship game in 2010.

Orchard Lake St. Mary's has been good to Michigan (and football in general) over the past twenty years.  Other notable products of OLSM include former Wolverines David Bowens, DiAllo Johnson, Jermaine Gonzales, Grant Mason, Chris McLaurin, and Morgan Trent.  The Eagles have sent players to Florida State, Penn State, and Ohio State recently, and Ross is the first one to choose Michigan since McLaurin in 2005.

There's essentially nothing to dislike about Ross as a prospect.  Even though he's not lightning fast in a straight line, he's a true "quick twitch" athlete.  Watching his feet and hips move, he has the agility of a safety.  But the most impressive thing about Ross is how quickly he diagnoses plays.  I'm not sure that I've seen a high school player - and certainly not a Michigan recruit - make quicker decisions and find the ball faster than Ross does. There are times when he knifes into the backfield so quickly that it almost seems as if he's blitzing.  He plays on the balls of his feet and never seems to get caught flat-footed.  His ability to get into his drops and flip his hips is on par with Jonas Mouton, a second round NFL draft pick a few days ago.  Mouton was somewhat slow to diagnose plays, but he was superb at getting into his pass drops.  Ross also has a fantastic, innate ability to make subtle movements to avoid blockers.

If I were forced to find weaknesses in his game, I would mention two things.  First, he's a little bit small at 6'0" to 6'1" and 215 lbs.  He could get on the field at Michigan at 225-230 lbs., so I don't think size will prevent him from being a solid college player.  However, it could potentially be a drawback down the road if he becomes an NFL prospect.  Second, there are times when he leaves his feet to make tackles.  He flashes the ability to run his feet on contact and drive ballcarriers backward, but it's not 100% consistent.  He won't get on the field for Greg Mattison if he doesn't run his feet consistently, though, so I imagine that will be fixed quickly.

I've seen comparisons made to Ian Gold, but I'm hesitant to make that particular comparison.  I saw Gold play in high school; he was a fantastic running back (and sprinter), but defense wasn't really his forte at the time.  Ross would probably lose to Gold in a foot race and the OLSM product is already bigger than Gold as a collegian.  I don't really see a Michigan parallel, but the player Ross reminds me of is Jonathan Vilma, the former Miami Hurricane and current NFL linebacker.

Ross is the eighth player to commit to Michigan in the class of 2012.  In somewhat of an oddity, all eight players have committed in pairs by position.  Two offensive linemen committed within a couple days of each other (Ben Braden, Caleb Stacey), then two linebackers within a couple days of each other (Kaleb Ringer, Royce Jenkins-Stone), then two tight ends (A.J. Williams, Devin Funchess), and now Joe Bolden and Ross.

Ross was initially reported to be recruited as a weakside linebacker, but recent comments by Josh Helmholdt at The Wolverine suggest that Michigan was more recently talking to him about playing the SAM linebacker position.  Personally, I don't see a 6'0", 215-pounder developing into a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 under defense, but my opinion has very little to do with what Greg Mattison does.  We'll just have to see what happens.  There's no question in my mind that Ross should be able to compete for playing time at Michigan within two years of getting to campus.  Whether he plays at WILL, as an undersized MIKE, or as an oddly shaped SAM, this kid looks like a potential All-American.

Go Blue!

TTB Rating: 92


  1. Wow. LB recruiting seemed like such a chore for the staff over the last 10 years, and now the coaches are making it look easy. I think your assessment is right on. He is just dynamite at reading plays and is relentless in his pursuit. You almost feel sorry for the blockers who are trying to slow him down. Ross is not overly powerful and goes to his knees on a lot of tackles, but as you mention, the coaches will fix that. Based on his coverage skills and size, my guess is he winds up at Will. Regardless, I bet the staff signs him up for special teams the moment he sets foot on campus. I really look forward to seeing these kids rejuvenate UM's defense.

  2. Magnus,

    You should post more pics of Kate Upton on this site. She is quite a fine piece of ace.

  3. @ Anonymous 11:39 p.m.

    She is pretty good looking.

  4. Jonathan Vilma? Yes please!

  5. This new format is way better than the black background. Props.

  6. This kid's nuts.

    Magnus, is it possible that Ross could have a slightly late growth spurt and get an inch or two taller? I mean, the kid's only a junior.

  7. @ David 12:33 p.m.

    Yes, he could still grow a little bit. If he gets to 6'2" or 6'3", he might be a better fit at MIKE. But if he doesn't grow, height might be an issue down the road.

  8. @ Anonymous 10:51 a.m.


  9. If we got Ojemudia, then I suppose he fits in as a rushing DE (WDE?). But, if he's only 6'2", then isn't he a better fit at SAM? Then, we're just loaded at LB. Too loaded?

    Note: I'm basing positions based superficiallly on the single-statistic parameter of height. But, it seems like we want our rushing DEs to be taller.

  10. @ TriFloyd 4:14 p.m.

    Honestly, I don't really see where Ojemudia fits. I think he's a weakside end rather than a SAM. Those weakside ends don't have to be huge (Tim Jamison was only 6'3"), so his lack of size isn't a big deal. But I think there are a few guys in Ohio who are better players and who Michigan might be able to lure.

  11. Enjoyable read. I'm encouraged by the rare unbridled enthusiasm. Based on Ross' offer list, your opinion is shared by some elite college coaches.

    Have to agree with you on Ojemudia. With Roh, Black, and Beyer all slotted for WDE there isn't any immediate need for another body at the position. And with 4 LBs already committed it seems like the scholarships could be used a little more wisely.

    If Godin and Ojemudia commit to the class in the next couple weeks, and if indeed they want to keep Godin at SDE (as they told him), then that probably fills up the class for DE. I'm sure they'd make room for an elite guy, but you start approaching a numbers crunch pretty quickly.

    All premature consternation, to be sure, but I think Ojemudia may have been offered in part to keep him away from MSU.


  12. @ Lankownia 7:36 p.m.

    I don't think football coaches offer kids just to keep them away from rival schools. If they don't think he can play for them, then I don't think he would have been offered. And if coaches do use that strategy, I think it's a poor one.

    Frankly, I think Brady Hoke is making in-state and midwest recruiting a priority, and he probably prefers to take a B- recruit from Michigan rather than a B recruit from Idaho. I'm willing to give Greg Mattison the benefit of the doubt on most of these defensive offers, so while I'm not a huge fan of Ojemudia, I'm putting my faith in these coaches to make good choices. The previous defensive staff never really earned that level of respect from me (for reasons that are abundantly clear).

  13. Yeah, I'm sure they think Ojemudia is a good player, but part of making local recruiting a priority is consistently beating MSU, and restablishing the heirarchy that Hoke expects. As its better to take a local kid than not, its better to beat MSU for a guy than not. We've all learned that perceptions matter. I'm not at all saying Michigan would offer any and every kid that MSU does. I agree that other offers are a minor concern but it could help tip the scale in some marginal cases.

    Would Ojemudia have received an offer already if he wasn't teammates with 2 other highly regarded prospects on a traditionally strong local program that is generally considered to be an MSU feeder? If he was just a guy from, say, Tecumseh? I don't know, but the circumstances might be a little enticement to offer him. Kid's a junior so it's obviously early, but his most impressive offers besides UofM are Iowa and Stanford.

    On another note... it'll be interesting if Funchess and Ojemudia both commit to see if Michigan starts putting the full-court press on Burbridge if things go well in the fall (on his end - and Michigan's). I know he is supposedly an MSU lean, but we could use a WR and Burbridge has offers from OSU and ND and is generally considered a top 5 in-state prospect.


  14. Black might play SDE in 2012 out of necessity. Wilkins has a long way to go. Rock and Heitzman will probably be nowhere near ready.

    Roh and Black will probably graduate before Ojemudia develops.