Fraser sophomore Anthony Merlo ended up on the wrong side of Braiden McGregor’s highlight-reel moment. And it appeared to hurt.
Early in Friday night’s MAC Blue contest at Fraser, McGregor, a four-star defensive end at Port Huron Northern (Michigan), plowed over the Ramblers left tackle while chasing a ball carrier. Merlo hit the ground hard and was slow to get up.
“He definitely has more years in the weight room compared to me,” Merlo said after Fraser’s 42-14 loss to the Huskies (5-1, 3-0 Blue). “Being a sophomore and having to go against a guy that’s 17, 18, it was hard.
“That was the first time I felt college-level hand speed. I have to give him credit on that one. I’m definitely going to remember this game.”
Even though McGregor (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) didn’t make a tackle on that play, it did help show just how dominate he can be. Ranked the No. 2 player in the state before the season, McGregor is committed to Michigan football for college.
“I try to get past whoever’s in front of me,” he said. “Putting a guy on his back is beneficial. I let that (attitude) talk for itself.”
McGregor was rarely involved in the play Friday — only because Fraser (0-6, 0-3) avoided him nearly every play.
“We know what he can do; everyone in the (MAC Blue) knows,” Fraser coach Jon Skladanowski said. “We stayed away from him. He’s a very physical, strong player. He’s going to do well at the next level.”
That’s the hope for the Wolverines, who are thin on elite defensive linemen right now. Coach Jim Harbaugh fought off Clemson and Notre Dame — plus a late push by Ohio State and former U-M defensive line coach Greg Mattison — to secure McGregor’s verbal pledge.
“He’s easily one of the best players committed to Michigan in the 2020 class,” said recruiting analyst Steve Lorenz, who covers the Wolverines for 247Sports. “You don’t want to lose that type of prospect in your backyard. He’s physically impressive and has all the tools to become a great (college) player.”
While there is no sure thing in recruiting, McGregor’s commitment to Michigan appears solid.
“There’s no indication other schools are even recruiting him at this point,” Lorenz said. “It would take something drastic (coaching change) for McGregor to even consider other programs at this juncture.”
McGregor said he needs to get stronger before arriving in Ann Arbor, but plans to contribute immediately. He wants to play weak-side defensive end as a freshman, and move to the strong-side as a sophomore.
“Strength is always something you can improve,” McGregor said. “I’ve been hitting the weight room five days a week during the season. The major thing for me is getting to know (U-M’s) playbook as soon as possible. I’m excited to get there and enroll early.”
Northern coach Larry Roelens believes the Wolverines are getting an elite athlete in McGregor, who was offered by Clemson to play tight end, but he wanted to stick with defense.
“He’s a two-year captain for a reason — he comes to work everyday,” Roelens said. “His length, his speed, his size, his strength; that’s why he’s going to the University of Michigan. He has all those attributes.”
Despite U-M’s somewhat shaky start this season, McGregor said his commitment remains “100%.”
“For some reason, everyone hates on Harbaugh, everyone thinks he’s overrated,” McGregor said. “I think he’s a really good coach. You look at what he’s done the past couple years, putting guys in the NFL.
“You want to go and try to win a national championship, but it’s more than just on the field. Off the field, he’s a guy that’s going to treat you like a man and help raise you. His compassion is there. I don’t think he’s lost his compassion at all.”