By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
Big Play McCray is his nickname and Twitter handle, but Mike McCray has yet to make many big plays during his time at Michigan.
The senior linebacker out of Trotwood, Ohio will look to change that this season as he is poised to get a starting role in 2016.
After missing all of last season due to a shoulder injury, McCray is hungrier than ever to show off his talent that earned him a four star rating on rivals coming out of high school.
“It feels great to be back out there,” McCray said when asked how it feels to finally be back out on the field. And he quickly responded with a “yes” when asked if he’s hungry and ready to go.
The Wolverines lost key players at the linebacker position after last season – including Joe Bolden, James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone. With a few open spots on the depth chart for starting linebacker, McCray has gotten off to a good start this spring.
He has impressed his new defensive coordinator Don Brown during the practice sessions and led all defensive players with seven tackles during the spring game.
Brown said on March 1 that he’s “really happy” with McCray and that “for the first time in his career, he’s healthy and I’m liking what I’m seeing.”
Fast forward to the spring game and you can see why Brown is impressed with his 6-foot-4, 240 pound linebacker. McCray was all over the field making big tackles and showed he has adapted nicely to Brown’s system.
“I like his defense a lot — it’s real simple. You get after it a lot, but it’s just real simple and it’s not that difficult to learn. It’s just straight forward,” McCray said.
McCray also discussed his comfort level in Brown’s system and credited his new coach for making that happen.
“I always feel comfortable in any defense, but Coach Brown came in and met with us a lot and made us feel comfortable in getting to know him and getting to know us. That made it easier to learn the defense. He wasn’t pushy about us learning as fast, but we all learned really quickly,” McCray said.
You could tell McCray was happy to be back to making an impact for his team. He appeared in 11 games as a sophomore in 2014. In the first game of the season, McCray blocked a punt that was recovered by Ben Gedeon for a touchdown. Now both McCray and Gedeon will be looking to lead the linebackers for the Wolverines this season.
Being sidelined for an entire year has put McCray through a lot of adversity. But he’s not letting the adversity go to waste; he’s using it and his family as motivation to get back on the field and make a big impact for the Wolverines this season.
“After the game I went and hugged my dad just because it’s been awhile since I’ve been out there and he knows what I’ve been going through.”
“Being injured, it puts you through a lot of adversity,” McCray said. “With my family and friends keeping my head right, and just knowing I have people looking up to me… that motivated me to come back stronger than I was before.”