Michigan Wolverines Football: Mike Macdonald's Advice To Michigan LB Junior Colson: 'Shadow Josh Ross'
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Mike Macdonald's Advice To Michigan LB Junior Colson: 'Shadow Josh Ross'

Michigan Wolverines football freshman linebacker Junior Colson has made the biggest impact out of any first-year Wolverine in the 2021 season. The Haiti native and Brentwood (Tenn.) Ravenwood product has totaled 20 tackles (ranks fifth on the team), one pass breakup and one fumble recovery (which sealed the win against Rutgers in the Big Ten opener).

Head coach Jim Harbaugh has said Colson "doesn't look like a freshman," speaking to how physically ready he was for this level when he enrolled early in January and how quickly he's picked up on the mental side of the game in that same time frame.

Colson was recruited by the Wolverines' prior defensive staff, but has loved working with first-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and new linebackers coach George Helow, who have him playing middle linebacker. The spot isn't exactly where the previous coaches were planning on using him, but it's been a seamless transition.

"I'm liking it so far," a smiling Colson said Monday.

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Michigan Wolverines football Junior Colson
Michigan Wolverines football's Junior Colson's fumble recovery against Rutgers was one of five on the season for the Wolverines. (AP Images)

"I hoped I would play early, but you never know," added the former four-star recruit who was rated as the No. 84 overall player in the class of 2021 by Rivals.com. "I just want to help in any way I can. I’m happy that they put me in the position to be able to thrive and be a leader.

"I think I can still step it up another level. I’m still learning; I’m still trying to get better. Every week, I want [to get] one percent better."

His accelerated timeline has been aided by redshirt junior linebacker Josh Ross, one of the squad's four captains. Ross has taken Colson under his wing because, well, Colson didn't give him a choice. Heeding the advice of Macdonald and Helow, Colson has been 'shadowing' Ross ever since the former joined the program last winter.

"He’s helped me tremendously," Colson, who has played 144 snaps on the season, said. "He’s a smart dude, and I try to pick up on every little nugget he drops. You’ll see me following him around everywhere, walking … ‘Where you going next?’ He’s an awesome guy, and he’s taken that leadership role to the next level.

"Coach [Macdonald] was like, ‘Shadow Josh Ross. He does everything right.’ So that’s what I did during spring ball and fall camp, I just tried to shadow him. All the little moves he does, I’m like, ‘I’m going to steal that before you leave. I’m going to take that.’"

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Undoubtedly one of Michigan's most valuable players, Ross leads the team with 40 tackles (second-place, sophomore safety Daxton Hill, has 29 stops), with 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage, and has added five quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.

"Following him, you’re going to end up in a good place, and that’s my mindset," Colson said. "If I just follow him, I’ll be able to pick up little nuggets here and there that will help me in my future. He’s been here a long time, and he’s done a lot of things, seen a lot of things — the good and the bad — and I’m just going to try to pick up on those little things."

A high I.Q. player in his own right, Colson is improving by the week, just as he's set out to be, even though it's a steep learning curve with the way Macdonald has structured his defense.

"Every week, we’re changing up the whole playbook, and that’s the biggest adjustment [between high school and college]," Colson said. "In high school, you’ve got a specific set of plays, and that’s all we ran. If it worked, it worked; if it didn’t, we lost."

Michigan Football Notes

• Despite being ranked No. 8 in the nation and holding a 6-0 record, the Michigan players are continuing to have an underdog mentality. Colson said it's not hard to embrace even with the strong first half to the season.

"Just trying to remain humble, because there are still doubters, so it’s us versus everybody else," Colson said of the squad's mentality. "We’re trying to compete, keep that same energy each week. This week, we talked about, we’ve got to step up the energy, step up the energy and not become complacent and keep it going throughout the year."

• Colson's fumble recovery (forced by redshirt freshman outside linebacker David Ojabo) was a pivotal play for the team, and it meant a lot to him personally as well.

"It was a surreal moment," Colson said. "Coach came up to me after and was like, ‘Did you get it?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ I was just happy I was at the right place at the right time and could help my teammates."

• Asked about the defense's struggles while facing misdirection plays, Colson said it's not a trend, and that they know what needs to be cleaned up.

"No, not really," he said when asked if it was a concern. "I think we’re in a good spot, but we’ve got to just keep working on little things to get better at. We knew that teams were going to try to copycat the things that we messed up at. This past week, we knew this game was going to be a lot of trick plays, and that’s what we expected."

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