From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#10 Devin Bush/LB/Michigan/5’11”, 232 Lbs
-Sifts through traffic quickly and rarely loses sight of the ball carrier
-Explosive blitzer with low pad level to knife into backfield
-Diagnoses plays quickly and closes ground in a hurray
-High football IQ player; preparation really shows on the field
-Comfortable in zone coverage and can hold water in short to intermediate areas
-Has shown the ability to flip hips and get deep into coverage to disrupt passing lanes
-Struggles with leverage and extension against blockers
-Labors in movement skills in man coverage; doesn’t have foot speed to match up in man consistently
-Tends to watch QBs eyes too much when dropping into coverage; can be moved off spot with eyes
-Slow to readjust on the fly as a defender
-Tends to over-scrape against the run when off-tackle, opening up cutback lanes
-Finished three-year career at Michigan with 172 total tackles, 10.0 sacks, 1 interception, and 11 pass breakups for Wolverines
-Consensus All-American in 2018
-Finalist for Bronko Nagurski and Butkus Award in 2018
-Named the Big Ten Woodson-Nagurski Defensive Player of the Year in 2018
-Voted a team captain in 2018
-Son of Devin Bush Sr., defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams, and Cleveland Browns; won Super Bowl XXXIV with the Rams
Despite being a bit undersized for the position, Michigan junior linebacker Devin Bush makes up for his lack of height with a huge heart and sheer determination at inside linebacker.
Voted a team captain for the 2018 season, Bush built upon a strong start to his career at Michigan by earning All-American honors last season across the board, while also earning a Butkus and Nagurski Award finalist distinction, capping off his career with the Big Ten’s Woodson-Nagurski Defensive Player of the Year award.
For all of his deficiencies in height, all Devin Bush did at Michigan was make plays left and right, largely thanks to his relentless film study. As Bush struggled to keep blockers off of him with extension and hand usage, he put himself in position to succeed time and time again by knowing what was coming based on formations and reading his keys quickly, moving as the ball was snapped to get to the right spot on the field.
In 2017 against Purdue, that was never more present than on the road against the Boilermakers.
Look at the way Bush sees the formation and turns his back to the quarterback at the snap, locking his eyes on the trips right formation to read what’s happening. He’s quickly able to sniff out the tunnel screen and blow it up behind the line of scrimmage for a huge tackle for loss.
One of the biggest questions I had about Bush going film study was his ability to drop into coverage, whether in man or in zone. I came away feeling pretty confident in his ability to be a 3-down linebacker at the next level, due to his comfort in zone, and high IQ in terms of drop depth and taking away passing lanes.
One area I wouldn’t ask him to play though is man coverage. He tends to get grabby in man because he knows he can’t keep pace as well as he’d like, especially with running backs out of the backfield.
Against Ohio State in 2018, Bush was burnt twice in the second half on running back wheel routes. Once by Mike Weber, and here by Demario McCall. Yes, there’s a subtle pick play on Bush as he tries to get into the flat to match up with McCall, but he just doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up with speedy backs down the field. Look at the amount of separation there.
Now, I don’t want to fault Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown for this, but that’s putting Bush in a position to fail. It happened repeatedly in this game.
When he’s playing man against bigger tight ends, he tends to grab onto the receiver and lock his eyes into the backfield, resulting in the receiver creating separation on him in coverage.
Against Penn State in 2018, Bush is matched up with Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth in man coverage. Look at the way he grabs Freiermuth at the top of his route and locks his eyes on Trace McSorely in the backfield. Once Bush does that, he allows Freiermuth to slip out of his grasp and work open across the middle of the field for a decent gain.
That has to be coached out of him at the next level.
One final coverage drop for Bush here in this write-up, and it’s the best one I saw him have.
Again against Ohio State, Bush reads the coverage out to his left and realizes he needs to get deep. Watch him flip his hips at the snap, get deep in his drop and disrupt the post route to Parris Campbell.
Against the run, Bush flows really well to the ball, has the ability to slip blocks when he needs to, and is a sure tackler once he gets to the ball carrier.
The best run stop I saw him have over two seasons came against Florida to open the 2017 season.
He’s quick to read run, but he stays patient and flows to his left, avoid all of the garbage in front of him to work open for a shot on Lamichel Perine in the backfield.
With his size, he has to play like this, especially against the run. At the next level, his defensive coordinator has to make sure he’s constantly on the move when playing the run, or else bigger, stronger offensive linemen will swallow him up.
I’ve seen Bush gets a lot of first round hype as of late, mostly to the Steelers from NFL Network guys, but I think the first round is a bit too rich for him, especially with his size and limitations. Early second round seems much more preferable for him, but he’s definitely a guy I’d take a chance on in the draft.
Projection: Early Day 2
Games Watched: Florida (’17), Purdue (’17), Cincinnati (’17), Notre Dame (’18), Penn State (’18), Ohio State (’18), Michigan State (’18)
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