Not Buying His Own Hype, Josh Uche Working to See the Field in 2018

Not Buying His Own Hype, Josh Uche Working to See the Field in 2018

Football

Not Buying His Own Hype, Josh Uche Working to See the Field in 2018

ANN ARBOR, Mich — There are a lot of hype trains rolling through Ann Arbor right about now.

It started with third-year defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour in the spring, and has rolled along with Shea Patterson being named the starting quarterback for Michigan’s Week One contest against Notre Dame.

But another name that’s been bandied about. And even though he’s not considered a starter, and was a minor contributor in 2017, he’s expected to be a big piece of Michigan’s defense going forward.

During Big Ten media days, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said good things about third-year SAM linebacker Josh Uche’s development during the offseason. Though playing behind fifth-year LB Noah Furbush, Uche is right there, should he be able to put things into an extra gear during fall camp.

“Yeah, I think he’s on that kind of precipice – he could be a complete animal,” Harbaugh said. “He really could be. I’ve seen those signs. Really pulling hard for him for all great things to come his way.

“He’s really been training like that’s what he wants. This could be his time. It really could be.”

And, that sounds like exactly what’s happened.

Furbush, asked who on the linebacking corps has stood out and could be an under the radar player this year, took no time to signify Uche’s progress.

“We’ve got a lot of talent across the board at linebacker,” Furbush said. “I think one person that’s doing a lot of nice things, especially in pass rush, is Josh Uche. He’s really coming out this year.

“You can tell there’s just a determination from Josh. He really wants to be a great pass rusher. He’s really passionate about his craft. You can see he’s really driven.”

But, despite the accolades, Uche doesn’t want to hear it. He just wants to work for it.

“I don’t like to listen to the hype, because hype won’t get you paid or put food in your stomach,” Uche said. “I’m just trying to do whatever the coaches want me to do.”

It’s been a long road to this point.

Last year, he wanted to get onto the field more, but he didn’t get many chances. But he made the best with what he could.

With only three tackles in 2017, Uche turned one of those into a 10 yard sack in the season opener against Florida. He got his first two tackles in that first game, and then only one more in the mid-season matchup against Indiana.

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown says that Uche’s frustration was palpable, but there wasn’t much he could do to help him unless Uche helped himself.

“After the bowl game, we had a discussion, because he wanted to play more,” Brown said. “He wanted to fight me, I think! I’m joking. But, he wants to play. It’s easy to say, ‘Hey Coach, I want to play! Let me play.’ ‘Well go earn it, how about that? How about go earn it?’ Well, he’s earned it. And I think that’s probably what’s fair to say.

“So, with that being said, we’re integrating him in different areas of our defense, which we’re able to do, because of the way we systematically approach things to take advantage of his unique abilities. He’s now 241-pounds. I want you to think about that for a minute – and he still runs 4.5. I gave Ben Herbert a kiss on the lips for that one! Because he’s in a position now where it’s not a skinny guy now getting bounced around and trying to figure out my feet and posture and all the things that you’re looking for in a complete football player.”

Uche clearly took that message to heart, given his progress this offseason in the strength and conditioning program.

He remembered that conversation with Don Brown, and used it to challenge himself to be better. He started making sure he was around other players who already had gotten themselves into the position to succeed and mirrored their attitudes and work ethic.

“Last year, I wanted to contribute,” Uche said. “I wanted to be out there with my brothers and Coach Brown challenged me to earn that playing time. And I took that to heart. Every day, I was just hanging around Chris and Khaleke every day. I’m just trying to be around some greatness, and whatever they was doing, I was doing the same thing. I just wrote down a list of goals I wanted to achieve and – it was (getting up to) 240 (pounds): boom. And I’m not going to reveal the rest of that, but I wrote down a checklist, and slowly, but surely, I’m hitting those goals.”

Now, Uche says he loves the game of football more than he ever has. And it’s showing to his teammates and coaches. Don Brown even went as far as to say he’s become “a student of the game.”

He’s worked and worked and worked, and now he should get the opportunity to make good on his dedication. And, due to all of his progress, Uche says, he feels like he’s become a more complete, holistic football player.

“I feel like I got better in all phases,” Uche said. “My pass rush got a lot better working with Coach Allen (Gant), my linebacker stuff got way better than anything else, just working with all the other coaches.”

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