Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Jake Ryan, #47
One of the few 2010 recruits to stick with Michigan for an entire college career, Ryan was a Rivals 3-star and the #30 inside linebacker coming out of Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius. He had a handful of MAC offers before committing to the Wolverines in January of 2010. Brady Hoke - who was at San Diego State - somewhat famously took a pass on recruiting Ryan, who would end up being perhaps Hoke's best defensive player at Michigan. Here's my commitment post on Ryan from January 2010 (LINK), and I named him the most underrated recruit in that class (LINK).
When Ryan entered college, he was considered a bit of a project after missing a chunk of his junior year in high school due to injury. It was assumed he would redshirt, and redshirt he did while Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson played around with the 3-3 stack. When Hoke was hired and brought in Greg Mattison, Ryan became a SAM outside linebacker and changed from #37 to #90. He made an immediate wow play in the 2011 spring game when he jumped in front of a Devin Gardner pass and returned it for a touchdown while wearing the #37 jersey. That fall he switched to #90 and earned the starting SAM job, and he would finish the season with 37 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. That redshirt freshman season earned him some hype for a 2012 in which he did not disappoint. He made 88 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 pass breakups, earning Second Team All-Big Ten. With expectations shooting through the roof, he promptly tore his ACL in the spring of 2013. It was early enough that he was not ruled out for the entire season, so he returned mid-year and made 30 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup in an understandably mediocre campaign. Fully healed by his fifth year, Ryan moved to middle linebacker in a revamped defense and finished the 2014 season with 112 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 pass breakups, and his first career interception. He was named First Team All-Big Ten as a senior.
267 tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 7 pass breakups, 1 interception (returned for 2 yards)
2011: ESPN and Big Ten Network Freshman All-Big Ten
2012: Second Team All-Big Ten, Roger Zatkoff Award (team's top linebacker), #47 Legends jersey
2013: Team Captain, #47 Legends jersey
2014: Team Captain, Roger Zatkoff Award, First Team All-Big Ten, #47 Legends jersey
For his career, Ryan ranks #17 in solo tackles, #3 in tackles for loss, and tied for #4 in forced fumbles. While he never had a truly dominant year, he was a very consistent player for Michigan every year except in 2013, when he hurried back after tearing that ACL. But "consistent" is not really what I think of when I think of Ryan. While he was reliable, he was one of Michigan's best playmakers on defense - from blitzing to deflecting passes to keeping outside contain to forcing fumbles, he was the one guy that offenses generally had to worry about on a play-to-play basis. He has never wowed anybody with his measurables, but he simply found a way to make plays over and over again. Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Greg Mattison said several times throughout Ryan's career that he had an unorthodox way of playing the linebacker position, but he got the job done. Ryan would sometimes get his lower body out of position but find a way to redirect and make the tackle, or he might leap over a blocker, or he might sidestep a blocker instead of taking him on directly. Michigan's defense has been lacking stars in recent years, which you realize when you think about walk-on safety Jordan Kovacs being the biggest fan favorite since Brandon Graham wore the winged helmet in 2009. Ryan is the closest thing to a bona fide stud for the Wolverines since Graham terrorized Big Ten opponents in Rich Rodriguez's second year.
I WILL REMEMBER HIM FOR . . .
. . . his very first college game when he started at SAM linebacker, moved inside occasionally to blitz, and destroyed Western Michigan's quarterback while causing an interception that was returned 94 yards for a touchdown by Brandon Herron. That was the first sign - and it happened immediately - that we might have something special in Ryan.
Ryan projects to linebacker in the NFL, although it's unclear exactly where he will play. He could be a 3-4 outside linebacker, a SAM linebacker in a 4-3, a middle linebacker in a 4-3, or an inside linebacker in a 3-4. At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.65 forty, did 20 reps on the bench at 225 lbs., broad jumped 10', showed off a 34.5" vertical, and had a 4.2 shuttle time. I think he's best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 look because he can rush the passer and has a knack for hemming guys in on the edge, and I think he fits as a SAM in a 4-3 look. I do not think he has the athleticism to be a star in the NFL, but I do think he can carve out a long career if he stays healthy.