May 2, 2011

Porritt: Ross is instinctively great

Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker James Ross made it official today, pledging his services to the Wolverines and head coach Brady Hoke. The present coach of the senior-to-be, George Porritt, weighs in on what Rose represents for his school and how he projects in Ann Arbor.

Porritt saw Ross battle his way through a high-ankle sprain, an injury that affected him for most of the 2010 campaign. Ross got hurt in St. Mary's season opener, yet still managed to post 95 tackles, five sacks, an interception and seven forced fumbles for his team.

The first-team all-state performer (The Detroit News) has plenty to offer any school, Porritt noted.

"He's one of the best instinctive players I've ever coached," Porritt insisted. "He reads plays so fast, and his first step is so explosive. He's physical, too, but it's his uncanny ability to read and get after the football that is his greatest asset. He's a great young man who works hard and is very humble."

Porritt will never forget the effort Ross delivered in culminating his sophomore season, one in which the 6-0, 209-pounder posted more than 100 tackles, five sacks, five forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and an interception. Ross saved his best for last, according to his head coach.

"In the state final game, he had 13 solo tackles," Porritt recalled. "He just showed such an ability to find the ball and play at a high level, even as a sophomore. That was big time."

Ross originally declared an intention to wait longer in the recruiting process before pledging to a school. Space for linebackers quickly became limited at Schembechler Hall, though, with three of the better linebackers in Michigan and Ohio pledging to Hoke and his staff over the last several weeks.

Ross decided to jump on board, and Porritt wasn't too surprised when that happened.

"We discussed it last Friday, him and I," Porritt said. "I said it's getting a little bit hectic, and maybe it's time. He sat down with his parents and they came up with it. I knew they were leaning a little bit that way. But I didn't know myself until this morning."

The St. Mary's head coach will stay on Ross to be fully focused on his senior season, rather than letting his thoughts run too far ahead. A fully healed Ross should be able to make a huge difference for his team, a year after the ankle woes.

"He hurt that ankle in the first game of the year, about the third series," Porritt said. "He missed a game and a half or two games. He battled through it all year. I didn't think he was back 100 percent until the last game or two.

"He was getting taped up, doing the work all year long. It just really hampered him. He got rolled up on. But he got through it and missed very little for a high ankle sprain."

This year, Porritt noted, will be a chance to demonstrate even greater focus.

"He'd better play good," Porritt said. "If he doesn't, I'll be mad. He has a senior year to play, and teammates he's got to be committed to. It's very important. I tell him: 'You want to be a great player anyway. Your focus and commitment has to be to what you're doing right now.'"

The St. Mary's coach expects his standout linebacker to play middle or weakside linebacker once he does move up a level. Porritt guessed Ross' weight now at around 218, which means he's still need to pack on the pounds at some point.

"He's got some work to put on some pounds to play as a Mike backer, but he could play either," Porritt noted. "His greatest strength is his ability to read, to beat the plays before they develop."

Michigan beat the competition for Ross before it developed too much. Porritt expressed respect for Michigan State's recruitment of Ross, as well as for MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. But Michigan's staff won this battle, perhaps in no small measure because of Hoke putting Greg Mattison in charge of his defense.

Ross is known as a Ray Lewis fan, and the new U-M DC just came from coaching the NFL great with the Baltimore Ravens - a fact that has already resonated with recruits.

"When Mattison got the job, James had some feelings he wanted to go to Michigan," Porritt said. "That got the ball rolling a little bit. I know his dad has some feelings for Michigan. It's nice to see a young man go to Michigan.

"A guy that's coached one of the best 'backers to have played the game, for a kid, that always lights up their eyes. Coach Mattison's track record speaks for itself. Michigan's defense will be a big plus."

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