|James Ross III|
Weight: 220 lbs.
High school: Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary's
Jersey number: #15
Last year: I ranked Ross #62 and said he would be a backup linebacker and special teams contributor. He started two games and played in all thirteen, making 36 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and .5 sacks.
Ross was one of my favorite and highest rated players coming into 2012, and he didn't disappoint. Early practice buzz suggested he was going to be hard to keep off the field, and that held true once the season began. When starting WILL linebacker Desmond Morgan missed the Iowa game due to injury, Ross stepped in and made a career-high 12 tackles. This spring when Desmond Morgan moved from WILL to MIKE to replace the graduated Kenny Demens, Ross was inserted into the starting lineup.
I expect good things from Ross this year. He's excellent at diagnosing plays and he can cover a lot of ground. He struggled a little bit with pass drops last season, but that's a problem for many young linebackers. Ross's primary backup on the depth chart is sophomore Royce Jenkins-Stone, whom I don't really trust yet as a football player. I suspect that if Ross were to miss any length of time, Morgan might slide back over to WILL to make room for sophomore Joe Bolden, who's a superior player to Jenkins-Stone. Morgan, Bolden, and Ross are three starter-quality inside linebackers, but then there's a drop-off to Jenkins-Stone and a freshman like Ben Gedeon. If Michigan's defensive line can keep offensive linemen off of the linebackers, I think Ross could be in the discussion for all-conference honors by the end of the year.
Prediction: Starting weakside linebacker; 90 tackles, 2 sacks