CLOSE

Michigan linebacker Josh Ross said there will be no drop-off in production from the defense Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Ann Arbor — There may be no bigger loss on Michigan’s defense than middle linebacker Devin Bush Jr., the quick, instinctive, emotional leader last year who became the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Josh Ross, however, is ready to take over that role.

Bush was an All-American last year and the Big Ten’s Linebacker of the Year. He had dynamic closing speed and a knack for finding the ball. Bush learned from watching and will now start in that spot when Michigan opens the season Saturday night against Middle Tennessee State.

Ross said Bush passed him the proverbial torch really before the end of last season. Bush was hurt in the Ohio State game and then decided not to play in the bowl game, and Ross got the start. Ross, a junior, played in all 13 games last season, splitting time at weakside linebacker with Devin Gil. He finished with 62 tackles, including 5 tackles for loss, one sack and two passes defended.

“It’s my time now,” Ross said of getting that torch from Bush. “It’s my time to go get it. It’s my time to lead the defense. It’s my time to take the torch, that’s kinda what he passed to me. It’s time to transition and it’s time to be a bigger leader than I have been before. I’m definitely ready.”

He’s ready because he paid attention to how Bush played. Ross said he has become more vocal, because that’s what the position calls for. He was backup to Bush last year and shared outside duties with Devin Gil.

“Playing with a guy like D Bush, that dude, one of the best players I’ve ever been around,” Ross said Tuesday. “So learning from him, him kinda passing the torch into this year for me has been a big deal, so I’m ready to go.”

Defensive coordinator Don Brown has been singing Ross’s praises since bowl practices, and he hasn’t stopped. Ross missed spring practice with a hamstring injury, but coaches like to talk a lot about a player’s football IQ. Apparently, Ross is off the charts.

“First off, it’s not a challenge to coach Josh Ross,” Brown said. “He’s the brightest linebacker I’ve been around in a long time. Even when he was injured in spring, this guy knows his stuff. You don’t have to worry about what kind of a day’s work you get out of Josh Ross.”

CLOSE

Michigan linebacker Josh Ross said the Wolverines are working toward winning big games. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

Ross has been known, like Bush, to inflict big hits. That’s only part of his game.

“I’m a guy that’s never going to stop,” Ross said. “I’m always going to push. I’m a high-motor guy, I’m a big hitter, and I’m always going to get to the ball no matter what.”

Bush wasn’t the only departure from the defense. Also gone are starting ends Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich and cornerback David Long. But this group has been brimming with confidence throughout camp and have assured this defense will be what Brown wants — aggressive and attacking.

“One of the biggest things, we’ve been around each other three, four years. All us guys know each other, we know how we play,” Ross said. “There’s not gonna be no drop off. We’ve got great guys. You’ve got Kwity Paye, Lavert Hill, D Gil, myself, just guys on a defense where we’re gonna come get it, no matter what.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis

Middle Tennessee at Michigan

Kickoff: 7:30 Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: BTN/950

Line: Michigan by 34

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE