Sunday, June 22, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #64 Mike McCray II

Mike McCray II (image via Go Blue Wolverine)
Name: Mike McCray II
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 242 lbs.
High school: Trotwood (OH) Trotwood-Madison
Position: Linebacker
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #9
Last year: I ranked McCray #58 and said he would be a backup linebacker and special teamer. He redshirted.

I thought McCray could have filled a role as a special teams player last year, but he spent the year on the bench. It was probably a good thing, because Michigan has played a lot of freshman linebackers in recent years; the only player on the linebacker two-deep to redshirt was Jake Ryan back in 2010. Last year Ben Gedeon burned his redshirt for a fairly small amount of playing time late in the season, though he performed well for a freshman once he got on the field.

McCray is ranked lower this year but will probably see some playing time. The Wolverines have considerable depth at middle linebacker, where Jake Ryan will start and probably be backed up by sophomore Gedeon. That leaves McCray to fend off freshmen Michael Ferns III and Noah Furbush for the third MIKE linebacker spot. I would expect to see McCray on the field for stretches of time early in the year and possibly on special teams, but the likelihood is small that he will be a significant contributor just yet.

Prediction: Backup middle linebacker, special teams contributor


  1. UM's special teamers are getting better! Good to see!

    1. Are they? We were 103rd against kick returns last year.

  2. Where's anonymous dude whining about weight gain?

    Not that I can name too many guys who should be higher (Kugler and Shallman are the only big ones), but McCray is still ranked a bit high in my book, just because there's a glut of similar LBs on the roster. Hoke and company have over-recruited the position, to the point that if one goes down, we lose very little. After the deep group of key rotation guys (Ryan, Ross, Morgan, Bolden, Gedeon, maybe RJS) there's a second tier who can play special teams and may or may not contribute, but certainly aren't being leaned upon unless multiple injuries strike: Gant, McCray, and whoever stands out from the large freshman class (I agree Ferns is the most likely). These guys are easily replaced by one another, IMO, and unlikely to ever see a meaningful down outside of special teams. I think this season you'll see a change and most of the freshman red-shirt.

    If an injury happens to Ryan and/or Gedeon, I'd expect Bolden or Morgan to slide to MIKE before a guy like McCray would take defensive snaps. They don't matter much for special teams either, as you can further add guys like Hill and Clark into the mix of similar roles and interchangeable parts. If Bolden and Morgan weren't as experienced and versatile as they are, McCray might be more significant. But as it is, even if all three starting linebackers get hurt, McCray STILL won't be starting, so by that measure a guy like Bellomy is far more important. I do think McCray will be a significant part of the special teams unit, but I thought that last year too...

    1. Agreed on LB overrecruitment. I wonder if the reason for that is they feel they went too small size-wise with their initial LB recruits. The latest batch have been monsters.

      This is part of why I'm skeptical that the defense is going to take a huge leap this season. Besides the obvious (Pipkins's return, lack of pass rush, the safety situation), I still don't think they have what they want at LB--or at least among the non-freshmen. If they did, they wouldn't be moving them around.

    2. Will we see most freshmen redshirting? Canteen and Peppers will most likely get a lot of snaps -- I am thinking around 10 freshmen will redshirt.

    3. GMatt has complained publicly about the lack of size at LB. He was apparently frustrated that Ross did not bulk up for his second year. Morgan is on the small-side and Bolden is not a bulky guy either. Ryan gives them a little more size than the other guys with his move to ILB, and GMatt was clear about wanting to get his playmaker in the middle of the action. Can't blame him - of the older LB's who have seen a lot of snaps, only Ryan appears to be on an NFL track.

    4. I haven't noticed size being the problem - seems more like speed is the issue in general, but I guess I'll trust Mattison. That would explain Furbush as a LB...not so much Wangler. Yes, Ross is small - they knew that when they recruited him though. I find those kind of comments a little unsettling.

      @suduri - I meant the LB freshman. The last few years they've been playing early, but now, with sufficient depth and upperclassmen, it won't be needed. The other positions - many of which are bearing the burden of the LB over-recruiting - don't have the same depth/experience and therefore freshman are more likely to make an impact.

    5. @ Painter Smurf

      I don't think there are many people to blame about the lack of size at linebacker. Michigan is either recruiting guys who are too small, or they're not doing a good job in the nutrition/strength and conditioning departments. I find it hard to believe that Morgan, Ross, etc. wouldn't put on the weight necessary if the coaches asked them to do it, so I think that's an area that the coaches need to fortify. If they want bigger players, they need to cultivate them.

    6. @Lanknows

      Wangler seems to be a specialty recruit. The coaches probably hope he can develop into a light and athletic LB who can cover against spread teams and still play the run adequately. Thunder would know more, but didn't Wangler's recruitment take off with Michigan towards the end of the season after we struggled with a few spread teams. It would seem the worst case scenario is he is a permanent back-up and special teams player since he is a legacy and didn't have a lot of other programs chomping at the bit for him.

      I also find the comments about size disconcerting. The fact that Mattison would publicly complain about it is interesting. Would seem to indicate that they are disappointed with how the players are taking responsibility for it. I think this year we will see a little more size with Ross, Stone, and Bolden all in their 3rd year and Gedeon entering his second year.

    7. @Anon, I've heard that theory and it makes some sense. It just doesn't fit with the above mentioned narrative that the coaches want to get bigger at LB.

      I'd be surprised if they thought they could have situational specialists at LB. If seems like playing more nickel defense would be a more reasonable approach, but maybe I'm thinking too conventionally.