Sophomore LB James Ross could be breakout star for Michigan

Michigan had one of the nation's top 20 defenses last season, but inexperience in the front seven -- especially linebacker -- make it likely that the Wolverines will fall some in the rankings this season.

The Wolverines are counting on a lot of young talent to come through, and one of the youngsters is outside linebacker James Ross.

Ross (6-feet-1, 220 pounds) was considered one of the nation's top 20 linebackers in the 2012 recruiting class and played extensively last season as a true freshman, starting twice and finishing with 36 tackles. He is the fastest of Michigan's linebackers and also showed great instincts last fall. He had a strong spring and has followed that up with a good fall camp.

Ross learned early last season what it took to play at this level. He played in the opener against Alabama and "they showed me that this is a game full of grown men," Ross told mlive.com.

His performance last season made coaches comfortable enough to move junior Desmond Morgan from one outside spot to middle linebacker, where he will start this fall. The other outside spot will go to either junior Brennen Beyer, who played end last season, or senior Cam Gordon.

Senior Jake Ryan would've started ahead of Beyer or Gordon, but he suffered a torn ACL in spring practice. He was expected to miss the first six or seven games, but his rehab has gone better than expected and word is he now could be back by mid-September.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to thewolverine.com about Ryan: "Jake's doing a lot. Jake's doing a lot."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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