Marcus Ray won’t let maize and blue color his view in Big Ten Network booth

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor – Former Michigan safety Marcus Ray was known for big hits during his playing career.

Now he’s known for big opinions.

Ray, 38, is a part of the Big Ten Network’s studio team, and he’s also a local presence on WTKA radio in Ann Arbor, primarily during the football season.

But on Saturday when Michigan plays Miami (Ohio) at Michigan Stadium, Ray will make his debut as a game analyst with BTN. Eric Collins will handle the play-by-play.

“I am very grateful to have this opportunity because I’ve been wanting this for a long time,” Ray said this week. “I’m not a coach anymore, I don’t play anymore, but I know I have valuable insight and can deliver content to an audience. I just don’t have experience in the booth, but that doesn’t scare me.”

Since joining BTN last year, Ray has developed an on-air style that is full of personality, facts and opinions. He prides himself on having “football eyes” and a high football IQ, and can translate easily to the public what he sees on the field and on film.

He knows, however, he might take some hits being a former Wolverine – he was a member of Michigan’s 1997 national championship team – working a UM game, but Ray intends to analyze the game as he sees it.

“I am not a homer,” Ray said. “I’m their home boy, I’m just not a homer. I’m sure people are going to say that because this game is probably going to be extremely lopsided. But if Miami gives us something positive to talk about during the game, I’m going to talk about that.

“If I see a great play by a Miami receiver over a Michigan defensive back, I’m going to take the time to explain why it was a good play. I’m going to do that for both sides. If someone makes a great play it doesn’t matter what color jersey it is. I see the game in black and white.”

Ray, who is on “Big Ten Live” every other Friday on BTN, has never worked with Collins, but he approached his booth partner the same way he has approached his Michigan and Miami preparations. He likes to study film, so he has observed Collins the last few years and understands his personality and how he calls a game.

And the last three years on WTKA, Ray also has worked as an analyst on high school football broadcasts.

“I know when to stop talking so the play-by-play announcer can do his job,” Ray said. “I understand the cues. I know how to paint a picture for the radio audience, which is different than what you do on TV. I need to describe the picture they’re looking at.”

He said he gained a wealth of experience working Michigan’s most recent spring game, which was carried by BTN. Matt Shepard called the game, and Ray worked as a sideline reporter before moving into the booth.

“I would like to be as well-rounded as I can be in this industry, doing studio, sideline reporting and in the booth,” Ray said. “This is my career focus. I know this is a competitive industry. There are things I need to work on.

“But I feel this is something I was born to do, I just didn’t figure it out early enough in life. Life makes you choose between what’s convenient and what’s your passion, and football and being around the game and having my opinion count is my passion.

“I say you learn and then you start living. I had a lot to learn before I did this. When God has something for you, he has to prepare you for it. I understand the opportunities I have. I still have a lot of Marcus Ray in me, I just do it a lot differently.”

Marcus on Michigan

Ray has broken down Michigan’s film from the 31-0 loss at Notre Dame last Saturday night, and he actually was able to find a few positives. “This team is different than the score indicates,” Ray said.

Here are some of Ray’s observations:

On Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who had four second-half turnovers: “He is not as bad as people think. I’m still high on Devin Gardner. (First-year offensive coordinator) Doug Nussmeier knows what he’s doing. That’s why there’s hope for Michigan.”

On Michigan’s offensive line/run game: “I think this offensive line is getting closer – in pass protection there’s a glaring difference from this year to last year. They know who to block. In the first two games, they gave Devin Gardner plenty of time to throw the football. I just think the coverage (against Notre Dame) was different and forced Gardner to hold the ball a little longer. There are a couple guys who need to step up, like (Erik) Magnuson. He has a little problem with movement unless it’s an outside zone. As a unit, they’re playing hard. They showed they can run the ball against a pretty good defensive front (100 yards on 35 carries). Moving forward, I think Michigan is going to be able to run the ball.”

On the defense: “Kudos for slowing down the Notre Dame run game (54 yards on 31 carries), but they are lacking a premier pass rusher. I don’t think the front four played up to their potential against Notre Dame. The interior linemen got washed out of their gaps. With the DBs, I have some concern that they lost technique when the bullets started flying and guys started getting beat. I don’t think Michigan will face a quarterback this good until Penn State and (Christian) Hackenberg. (Everett) Golson made some throws in there. My hat goes off to Notre Dame and Brian Kelly – he is a mastermind in pass protection.”

On fans getting restless: “Go study 1998 -- we went to Notre Dame and got our butts handed to us, then we came home and got blown out by Donovan McNabb and Syracuse. We were coming off a national championship year, and we were 0-2. Now, what do you tell the fans? The schedule worked in our favor after that, and we won a piece of the Big Ten championship. So what I say to fans is, slow down, pump the breaks. When Michigan stinks they still smell good even though I know it’s funky out here because the Big Ten East is up for grabs. There shouldn’t be a top favorite right now. Oregon exposed Michigan State, and I knew Ohio State was going to lose. Everyone is going to throw in the towel because we’re not going to the playoffs. So what? Michigan’s most realistic goal is a Big Ten title. That road loss at Notre Dame is going to serve Michigan well going into Michigan State. I feel better about Michigan going into Michigan State now than I did a month ago.”