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Wojo, Niyo, Chengelis, Charboneau preview UM, MSU's opening games The Detroit News

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Ann Arbor — When Michigan linebacker Devin Bush Jr. realized his teammates had voted him a co-captain, he was stunned.

“I was surprised,” Bush, a junior, said. “I was speechless.

“It means everything. My biggest accomplishment here. That’s going to stick with me forever.”

Bush has always been well thought of by his teammates because of his good nature and enthusiasm and also, of course, because of his on-field production. He led the nation’s No. 3-ranked defense with 102 tackles last season, including 9.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. He was named the Wolverines’ top linebacker and was first-team All-Big Ten.

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All the players have been reshaped physically by new strength coach Ben Herbert, including the 5-foot-11  Bush who went from 225 pounds to just under 240. They all say they’re not only stronger but faster.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was already sold on Bush’s speed even before the transformation.

“He’s one of the fastest linebackers I’ve ever been around or seen,” Harbaugh said during preseason camp.

Perhaps more important, he’s one of the main leaders on defense, even without the title of co-captain — safety Tyree Kinnel is the other defensive captain. What stands out about his playing ability is his quickness and speed, but his leadership clearly has turned the heads of his teammates, even those on the other side of the ball.

As the Wolverines make final preparations for their season opener at Notre Dame on Saturday night, Bush is ready.

“He’s really fast,” running back Chris Evans said, “but you can tell he’s like the glue to the defense in practice. Everybody’s going up to him, he’s giving the calls. He’s so fast that even if you try to go somewhere, he’s still there. Just having him there, he’s not the biggest guy, like Notre Dame’s linebackers are 6-4, so speed-wise we’re always ready for that.”

Bush may not be the biggest guy at linebacker, but his speed and smarts compensate.

“He’s one of the fastest linebackers we’ve ever seen,” Michigan senior running back Karan Higdon said. “He’s a smaller linebacker, but he plays very big. He’s very fast, he knows the game. He coverages very well. He’s just all over a great linebacker. His body has obviously changed. He’s gained weight. He looks bigger. He plays bigger and he’s still a lot faster — that’s a great thing.”

Bush is in one of the side-by-side photos that have circulated showing players before working with Herbert and after. Bush is noticeably changed.

“I didn’t even know I looked like that,” Bush said. “Seeing the after picture, it gives you more confidence, honestly. I give big thanks to coach Herb and his staff.”

He doesn’t own the only “fast” tag on the defense, though, and Bush readily shares the spotlight. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has called this the fastest defense he has been around, and Bush said that’s because the defensive line set the tone “running 4.5s.”

“Everybody’s fast,” he said.

Bush, along with Kinnel, and offensive co-captains Ben Bredeson and Higdon, all have different leadership styles. Bush said he won’t be any different than he has always been.

“I’m more of a positive leader,” he said. “I’m always smiling. I’m always a guy with energy. I will never be somebody I’m not or depending on my mood, come out and change. I’ll always be the same person. I’m always smiling, I’m always laughing, and always want to have a good time. I’m going to lead by example and if I feel like I have to say something, I won’t bite my tongue if I have something to say.”

Although Greg Mattison coaches the defensive line, he keeps on the entire defense. He thinks Bush has a big year ahead.

“He’s a very, very good leader. Very good leader,” Mattison said. “He’s a smart football player and any time a guy has intelligence and is confident enough to talk like Don makes sure his backers do, and you’ve got a guy who comes from a football family — I’m excited about Devin. Really, really excited about Devin.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/chengelis

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