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Versatile Bush will see playing time

08/17/2014, 12:53am EDT
By By NICHOLAS PIOTROWICZ BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Rogers graduate has matured at UT

Versatile Bush will see playing time

Middle linebacker Ray Bush had 36 tackles last season for the Rockets. UT coaches say the senior’s ability to communicate with the defense is a big key. BLADE/JETTA FRASER

The University of Toledo isn't quite sure what position Rogers graduate Ray Bush will play full-time.

What the Rockets do know: if Bush keeps playing as well as he has during fall camp, he's going to find his way onto the field one way or another.

“Somewhere,” UT coach Matt Campbell said. “One of those starting 11 spots.”

Bush is listed as a defensive end on UT's roster, but he also has played both middle and outside linebacker and Toledo's “star” position, a sort of linebacker/​safety hybrid. The redshirt senior currently is battling incumbent starter Chase Murdock for the middle linebacker spot, though Bush has played so well during the spring and summer that he has forced UT to make tough decisions about who should play when.

“I'm really impressed with him,” Campbell said of Bush. “I don't know in our program that there's been a young man, who has grown in his four years — not just as a football player, but as a person, as a man — [more] than Ray.”

The coaching staff's feelings about Bush have changed drastically during Bush's time as a Rocket. The coaches always loved Bush's vision and his versatility; they weren't always crazy about his attitude.

In spite of his talent, Bush wasn't always a hard worker, which frustrated the coaches.

Bush could play, but with his unpredictability, Toledo wasn't sure when — or if — he'd live up to hype he had created while a multi-sport star at Rogers.

“It's no secret that I had my ups and downs,” Bush said. “I just found exactly why I'm playing football: my passion. It's just been easy since then. Everything's been coming easy.”

Bush's first three years were hit and miss. He played in 10 games as a redshirt freshman and had an excellent midseason game against Eastern Michigan, but he didn't parlay it into much. He played only one game the next year and was content in the middle of the depth chart.

“I came to college and just wanted to have fun and stuff. I took some time off from the field because I'm like, 'I'm out here doing what I want to do,'” Bush said. “That was the biggest thing, was maturity. I had to focus on the little things I was supposed to be doing right.”

He has been doing a lot of those things lately.

Campbell said Bush has been “one of the biggest surprises” in camp, and he's impressed the staff with his ability to control the game from middle linebacker.

Toledo needs that spot to be filled by an athletic but cerebral player, and the Rockets think Bush has a chance to be that man.

“He's a really good communicator for us, which is one of, if not the top thing in football, especially in defensive football,” linebackers coach Tyson Veidt said.

“The pace of offenses has picked up, and he communicates with all guys on the field, which is a super trait for us.”

Time was Bush's biggest motivator. Bush, who already has graduated from UT, said he realized he wasn't going to be playing football forever, so he began preparing like he wanted to be on the field. He had by far his best year last season, recording 36 tackles and having big impacts in two key Mid-American Conference wins.

Before spring practice in 2013, Bush evaluated himself honestly. He could be careless and disinterested, and he said that wasn't how he wanted to be known. He decided that he was going to alter the course of his college career.

“It was then I really realized I only have so much time playing college football, so what do I want my legacy to be? What do I want to be remembered as?” Bush said. “I just decided I'm going to play hard every play and do what I'm supposed to do, regardless of how I feel. I just made a choice.

“You're either going to go after it or you're not.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at: npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 724-6110, or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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Tag(s): College  Toledo