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Livonia — Before Devin Bush became a grizzled veteran sophomore linebacker, he learned the ropes from his upperclassmen teammates.

“The man right there,” Bush pointed to the next table before Michigan’s annual football bust Tuesday night. “Mike McCray. He took me under his wing when I first got here.”

Bush led the Wolverines with 94 tackles this season, but he credits McCray, along with several former Wolverines for getting him to this point and shaping his approach to the game on so many levels.

“We play the same position, and I just watched him,” Bush said of McCray, a senior. “I always watched him. I always watched (former Michigan linebacker now in the NFL)Ben Gedeon, I always watched the older guys, (former Michigan defensive standouts now in the NFL) Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill (Peppers), Taco (Charlton), all those guys. I watched them to see how they handled themselves and how they handled the game of college football. I just took things from each of them. It helped me a lot just getting through the season, getting through practices and how to handle myself.”

He was a Butkus Award finalist, third-team Associated Press All-American and was voted the team’s top linebacker this season. While the recognition on the national and conference level piled up, Bush said he would have preferred to see more wins.

Michigan finished the regular season 8-4 and is headed to the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.

“I’m excited for (the awards),” Bush said. “I’m not very pleased with the year we had, but those awards, I just thank everybody for being there for me when I needed them and all my coaches, the whole staff and my family there to support me.”

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As the Wolverines continue preparations for the bowl game, Bush said his focus is on beating South Carolina in the bowl to send off the seniors on a high note and to springboard into next season with some momentum.

“It’d be a good feeling to have a ‘W’ with these seniors and just to win a big game,” he said. “I think it’d give us good momentum and confidence for next season.”

Bush along with sophomore Rashan Gary together are the heartbeat of a young group of defensive players who have either started or gained valuable experience this season.

He said as this season progressed, they learned and grew together and they will “stick to the plan” set out by defensive coordinator Don Brown. Bush said there’s plenty to improve on, and they also learned that opponents figured out ways to attack Michigan. They will hone in on that aspect.

McCray, a co-captain, still has one more game, but after the bowl, Bush will be expected to be a leader. That’s something that comes naturally.

“It follows me,” Bush said. “My whole career has always been almost like the lead-by-example guy, the emotional guy.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/chengelis

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