Michigan Football: Why Wolverines' Jake Ryan Is a Top 5 Linebacker in NCAA

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIFebruary 5, 2013

Michigan's Jake Ryan knows how to get to the ball.
Michigan's Jake Ryan knows how to get to the ball.Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

He knows where to be, when to be there and what to do once he's there; Jake Ryan just knows how to play linebacker, plain and simple. 

As one of the Big Ten's hardest-hitters in 2012, the soon-to-be Michigan Wolverines junior commanded national attention because of his wildly entertaining brand of linebacking.

He has the hair, the moves and size (6'3", 242 pounds) to be a poster child for the position.

Yes, Ryan is the total package.

Although he was only a second-teamer in the Big Ten this past season, Ryan most certainly has the skill set to be one of the five best linebackers in the country come fall (if he's not already there).

He was a key factor in the resurgence of Michigan's defense -- one of the nation's rapidly improving units -- as a sophomore. 

Just. A. Sophomore.

That's scary, especially for those who have to face him on Saturdays. 

Granted, Ryan may not have the name recognition like other top-tier linebackers such as Georgia's Jarvis Jones or North Carolina's Kevin Reddick, but his numbers are comparable to those at the elite level. 


Breaking Down Ryan's Numbers


Jake Ryan ranked fourth nationally in 2012 with four forced fumbles. Jarvis Jones led the country with seven. 

But consider a couple factors: Out of the top 20 in that category, only four were sophomores. That's impressive. Veterans are typically known for ball-hawking skills, not sophomores who are in the process of learning their position. Just over half the players in the top 20 were linebackers (12 linebackers, eight defensivebacks/linemen). 

Just a little food for thought. 

A great linebacker doesn't just tackle. No, he causes mayhem, turnovers and makes running backs beg for the next guy's number to be called.

Ryan ranked 31st nationally in tackles for losses with 16 (third in Big Ten). Jones, again, led the nation in that statistic with 24.5.

While that may not strike the masses as overly impressive, let this sink in before casting judgment: Out of Ryan's 16 tackles for loss, 13 were solo -- that was one of the best ratios in the NCAA. Others had more volume, but it takes a measurement of assisted-to-solo to truly appreciate Ryan's hustle. 

On a side note, Jones had 22 solos. The junior is a probable first-rounder in the 2013 draft. He's also identical in size as Ryan at 6'2" and 242 pounds.

Ryan, according to his ESPN profile, is 6'3" and 242 pounds. But TheWolverine.com has him listed at 230. Michigan blog, MGoBlue, has Ryan at 6'3" and 242 pounds. 

Ryan's game log


Something About Ryan


Stats, of course, are accurate and logical ways to quantify a player's effectiveness. As the show says, "numbers don't lie." That's true, but what about the intangibles, the "it" factors that Ryan possesses?

Those are second to none. 

His high motor and love for the game -- all of those cliches -- afford him success on the field. When Ryan revs his engine, the Wolverines defense follows. 

Ace Sanders and the South Carolina Gamecocks may have won the 2013 Outback Bowl, but believe this: They were on the lookout for the wild-haired Wolverines linebacker. 

Sanders was asked by MLive.com's Kyle Meinke about how to prepare for Ryan. After viewing film, it was clear that Ryan was of high priority. 

The first thing I see is 47 flying across the field. That guy's a monster. Saw it right away.

Every time he tackles you, you know it. It hurts. Some people make tackles, and you just bounce up. But he makes those tackles, and he plants you into the ground. He’s just relentless.

Michigan's defense -- particularly its linebacking corps -- has vastly improved by leaps and bounds. The Wolverines' men in the middle could end up as one of the most feared come fall. 

And that's not exclusive to the Big Ten. No, Michigan's linebackers may be among the best in the land.


Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81


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