Michigan linebacker Devin Gil feels comfortable in the bigger role he will play this season Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — On paper, it appears life post-Devin Bush could be difficult for the Michigan linebacker corps.
And on the field, as well, it could be a challenge to fill the ample void left by Bush, the Big Ten’s Linebacker and Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Bush, who now according to several draft analysts, is pushing his way to being a top-10, top-15 NFL Draft pick, also was the tone-setter for the Wolverines’ defense last year. Still, those returning believe they have what it takes to replace the All-American.
“It’s a little different, but we hold ourselves to a higher standard and a high expectation,” Devin Gil, who will be a redshirt junior linebacker, said this week. “We all know what we expect from each other.”
And what is their expectation?
“Flying around, high velocity, killing it on the field,” Gil said. “Everything.”
Gil, who exited the Peach Bowl before halftime because of a hamstring injury that is fully healed, said this group of linebackers is eager to show what they can do. Jordan Anthony has stood out this spring, as well, along with Cameron McGrone.
“I feel like we all stand out as a whole,” Gil said. “We’ve been holding ourselves to a higher standard knowing we lost Devin Bush, even though he went on to better things. We know we’ve got to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Gil learned plenty from Bush, his teammate at Flanagan High in Florida, which was coached by Devin Bush Sr., during their time together at Michigan. Bush was quick at recognizing plays, which allowed him to play faster.
“Confident. No hesitation,” Gil said. “You see it when he plays.”
Michigan’s linebackers are working with a new coach since the departure of Al Washington to Ohio State. Anthony Campanile arrived at Michigan from Boston College, attended high school with Michigan safeties/special teams coordinator Chris Partridge and said he felt home with the Wolverines from the moment he arrived.
The linebackers have felt at home with Campanile, too. They have described his intensity and his football smarts, and Gil was asked how he compares to Washington.
“I wouldn’t compare him as similar (to Washington),” Gil said. “I would say he’s better. He brings more out of me as a player and he brings more out of all our linebackers as players. He brings a lot of intensity, a lot of love to the game, and a lot of passion, and that’s what we need.”
Gil explained why Campanile and the linebackers are a great fit.
“The energy he brings,” he said. “He’s smart. The knowledge he gives us and puts us in better position to make plays.”
Before spring practice, which concludes this week, really kicked in, defensive coordinator Don Brown said he thought this defense seemed faster than last year’s, and he thought last year’s defense was the fastest he had been around. Anthony and McGrone are young and don’t have much game experience, but Gil said both are fast and aggressive.
Not because he felt he had to agree with Brown’s assessment, but Gil said he also thinks this defense is faster. That also is a function of being in the same system for several years under Brown.
“I see that, and I feel that,” Gil said of the speedy nature of this defense. “Being able to run around with my brothers on the field, it’s like nothing you can really describe. When I see somebody running past me, it kinda hurts, but it makes you feel like we’re all swarming. That’s what we want.”
While it’s not imperative they prove they can move on from Bush, what the linebackers want is to prove is they’re going to be a solid group even though he’s gone.
“With or without him, we knew we had to take another step forward,” Gil said. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”