Port Huron – Braiden McGregor was playing catch on the sidelines with Port Huron Northern quarterback Seth Klink during practice Monday morning while their teammates were involved in a special teams drill.
McGregor, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound four-star two-way player, will play defensive end at Michigan, and plans to enroll early in January.
While McGregor has made a name for himself the last couple of years on the defensive side of the ball, national powers Alabama and Clemson offered him as a tight end.
Port Huron Northern coach Larry Roelens brought McGregor up to the varsity during his freshman year for the playoffs. He said McGregor started at defensive end his sophomore year at 6-4, 210 pounds.
And then McGregor bulked up to 6-5, 245 pounds prior to his junior year and played tight end, as well as defensive end, for the first time, showing flashes of brilliance (six receptions, 99 yards, three TDs).
Still, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh figures McGregor’s biggest impact will be on defense, believing he will be able to cause havoc with his ability to get to the quarterback with his 4.7 speed. He had 99 tackles, 13 for lost yardage, eight sacks and 29 quarterback hits last year.
“Braiden is just a dynamic athlete on both sides of the ball, a guy we can do pretty much whatever we want with,” Roelens said. “He can run sideline-to-sideline. He’s 6-6, 260, but he can run well with that frame that he has. He catches the ball very well, runs great routes, just very physical.
“He’ll play both sides of the ball for us. He’ll play tight end, slot receiver, defensive end, outside linebacker. We’ll be moving him around, and just the progression of understanding the game of football, weight room, getting faster and bigger and stronger from his sophomore year to now is amazing. Just how fluid and technical he is, is fantastic.”
McGregor is looking to be more of a leader during his senior year. He received his first offer from Central Michigan after his sophomore year, then just continued to get offer after offer last year.
“For the team, we’re looking to make a run for state (title), obviously to make the playoffs again and hopefully enter with an undefeated record,” said McGregor of his goals. “Personally, I want to become a better leader and get ready for college.”
Port Huron Northern was 9-2, advancing to the Division 2 district final his sophomore year, then went 10-2 last year, advancing to the regional championship game, losing to eventual state champion Warren De La Salle, 21-3.
McGregor said it’s a good feeling to have his college plans set.
“It’s really nice, not having to do interviews with certain schools, like talking to everybody,” McGregor said.
McGregor said he didn’t feel any pressure last year with offers on the table from multiple national powers.
“I wouldn’t really say it was pressure, it was more like motivation for me to show people why those schools were after me,” McGregor said. “That’s the way I saw it. I liked it a lot.”
McGregor talked about his growth, both physically and with his football ability.
“My sophomore year I came in 6-foot-4 and 210, a skinnier kid, but a little faster,” McGregor said. “Then, I worked out with a trainer five days a week, just started getting after it. Then, I got the offers, they started rolling in and I kind of realized I had to get my weight up, get my strength up. Then, I put on 15 more pounds for this year.”
McGregor said he could bench 225 pounds his sophomore year. He can now bench 335 pounds, and 225 pounds 17 times.
“I feel a lot stronger, just little things, whether it’s my spin moves or long-arming people,” McGregor said. “It’s very helpful for high school. I’ll even have to be up (weight) more for the next level.”
McGregor enjoys playing linebacker, but knows he’ll be playing defensive end at Michigan.
“I think with just my versatility, I like linebacker a little bit more for high school, just being able to run sideline-to-sideline, being able to read the play, being able to blitz,” McGregor said. “But, defensive end is going to be my position the next four years. I like it a lot. I think I’m the prototypical size for it. I think I have the speed for it. It’s just something that I’m excited for.”
McGregor can’t wait to be more of a weapon on offense this season.
“I love it,” McGregor said. “There’s really nothing like catching a touchdown, especially in a rivalry game. Seth (Klink) does a great job of getting me the ball. It’s definitely something that’s fun, just being able to run a route. I like being against somebody one-and-one and just being able to beat them. That’s probably one of my favorite things to do, whether it’s defensive end, linebacker or tight end.”
McGregor said his recruiting journey motivated him to excel.
“I got my first offer from Central Michigan in February of my sophomore year,” McGregor said. “I got a call from Notre Dame two weeks later, then an offer from Michigan that April. It was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got to get working.’ I had been working hard, but not like Division 1 caliber. I got in the weight room, did agility drills three times a week. It just brought my motivation way up and I just took off from there.”
He took a visit to Alabama during Thanksgiving weekend last year to watch the Iron Bowl, Alabama’s rivalry game against Auburn.
“Alabama offered me as a tight end,” McGregor said. “Bama, Clemson, Florida State, they all offered me as a tight end. I went to Clemson during spring break, took a five-school visit -- Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Alabama -- and they pretty much all offered me as a tight end.
“It was crazy, that Auburn-Alabama game, an atmosphere that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I was sitting in the end zone, two rows up, something I’ll never forget. It was just me and my dad. After I had talked to Coach Saban, they showed me the depth chart and showed me how I’d be used. They told me how their two tight ends graduate this year, and have a sophomore and one junior, and I felt this could be a really good option. But, the more I thought about it, the more I gained weight, I felt that’s a good position, but I’ll probably outgrow it.”
McGregor has always been a Michigan fan. He feels the Wolverines are a great fit for him.
“My dad asked me before this whole recruiting thing took off about if one school offered you, which school would you commit to, and I said Michigan, and that was back when I had one offer,” McGregor said. “And then I got the offer, kind of sat on it, thought about it, and after I took my visits I just felt Michigan was home.
“Coach Harbaugh is probably the most real coach that I’ve met. He’s real down to earth. He’s not a coach who is like running a factory. He cares about you. The opportunities that he gives you to succeed, there’s nothing like it. The coaching staff that he’s hired is phenomenal. It’s definitely family-oriented.”
But, Michigan is still months away, and Klink is looking forward to working with McGregor.
“He’s really fun to throw to, he’s so lengthy and he’s really athletic, has a lot of speed for his size,” Klink said. “We have a good relationship going. We were throwing pretty much all winter, throwing in the gym, then we got out here this summer before the 7-on-7s.”