When Devin Bush Jr. came to Michigan, waiting wasn’t an option.
As defensive coordinator Don Brown recalls, the Wolverines made Bush the second-string WILL linebacker “virtually when he walked in the door.”
And on Saturday afternoon, almost a year after walking in that door, it was easy to see why.
Bush finished with three tackles on the day, serving as one highlight of a Michigan defensive unit that put Wilton Speight under pressure during the entirety of the spring game. The redshirt junior quarterback took three sacks — a number that could have been inflated if not for Speight’s own evasiveness — and threw two interceptions, one of which resulted in a 100-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter.
If the Wolverines weren’t barred from tackling the men behind center, Speight would probably be hurting, and Bush would have been a big reason why — accounting for two of the three sacks himself (for a loss of 21 yards) and showcasing his ability to blow up plays in the backfield if Brown calls for such.
More importantly, though, Bush’s performance Saturday afternoon was a microcosm of the accumulation of factors that contributed to his development over his first year in Ann Arbor.
And that first year of development was a busy one. Though the sophomore linebacker was featured at the WILL linebacker spot during his freshman year, he lined up as a starter at the MIKE position during the spring game.
Contributing early on at the WILL had benefits in and of itself, as Bush was given the opportunity to learn behind Mike McCray, the early de facto leader of this Wolverine defensive unit.
“Mike’s always gonna be there when I need help,” Bush said. “He’s always gonna correct me when I’m wrong. He’s hard on me too. He wants me to make the play that no one thinks I can make.
“We’ll be in meeting rooms, I’ll probably drop a pick, he’ll turn back, look at me, and just stare at me like, ‘Why ain’t you catch the ball?’ ”
But as Bush explained, being forced to learn the responsibilities of both roles slowed the game down for him and allowed him to quickly acclimate himself within Brown’s system — pinpointing the Orange Bowl as the moment that things finally clicked into place and he began feeling comfortable in meetings for the linebacker corps.
“I think he’s just more comfortable because he’s been here since last spring, been here for a whole year now,” McCray said. “It looks like he’s just more comfortable out there and just having fun.”
Outside of the on-field improvements and the mentorship he received from McCray, though, Bush has evolved physically as well. Despite being only four pounds lighter than he was at the beginning of Michigan’s spring practices — something Bush joked was a byproduct of eating more salad and grilled chicken — he says he has still dropped fat and added muscle. And Brown has taken notice of his sophomore linebacker’s new physique.
“I mean, just look at him,” Brown said. “I teased him yesterday — he walked by me and he didn’t have a shirt on — I go, ‘I remember last year, you were a short, pudgy guy.’ And he’s chiseled. He’s got a Division I body now.”
That “Division I” body, coupled with his newfound comfort on the defensive side, could make Bush an enticing marvel come the fall. After all, Brown is looking forward to seeing it himself.
“It’s so nice when you have a young guy like that and he can play two spots,” Brown said. “You could ask some guys to do that, and they’d look at you like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But he handled it really with ease.”
“We’re excited to see him when it’s live and in color, for sure.”