Michigan football is going through some changes on the defensive side of the ball in the 2022 season. There were a lot of questions, and experts everywhere assumed the defense would take a step back. they were wrong.
First-year defensive coordinator Mike McDonald returned to Baltimore to replace Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator Jesse Minter. Both had ties to the Ravens and with Michigan now implementing a defensive scheme, Minter said this would be his second year on defense despite changes at the top.
Leaders and talented guards like Aden Hutchinson, David Ojabo, Daxton Hill and Josh Ross were now in the NFL. With a new coordinator, replacing all those players, the Michigan defense was faced with adversity.
Arguably the biggest challenge the defensive group faced early in the season was the linebackers. Mike was the linebacker and quarterback of the Ross defense. While junior Colson had an outstanding freshman season, he is being asked to take on more as he moves up the middle. The expected starter at will linebacker, Nikhai Hill-Green, had a hamstring injury that would last the season, in fact it would ultimately cost him his entire season. The man everyone was sleeping on was Michael Barrett.
Barrett faced adversity of his own in 2021, with his Viper position no longer part of the defense, and he was dealing with injuries of his own. Barrett spent most of his time on special teams, a group he had flourished with since arriving in Ann Arbor, and he essentially learned a new position as limited snaps at linebacker. With Hill-Green injured, Barrett took over as the starting will. Rather than transfer when Don Brown was let go in ’21, Barrett stayed and worked his way back, once again earning a major role with the Wolverines to begin the 2022 season.
Depth behind Colson and Barrett was limited. Caleel Mullings was spending the off-season camp playing linebacker and running back. Hill-Green’s injury forced him back to linebacker, but he was clearly not as comfortable as he had spent the entire off-season working with the defense. Freshman Jimmy Rolder was a talented future star, but would need time to make an impact.
The first half of the season in particular was full of bumps and challenges. But in the back half, Colson and Barrett were constant factors for the defense. Playmakers, like Barrett’s two interception performance against Rutgers. The pair combined to lead the team in tackles with 173, while also contributing 5.5 sacks.
In a recent media appearance, Barrett explained how strength coach Ben Herbert helped prepare him for such weather.
“You never know what adversity you’re going to face,” Barrett said. “You are defined by how you react to it.”
Barrett’s persistence, success, and now his return to Ann Arbor is all about Michigan’s culture. Everything we talk about a resurgence under Harbaugh from 2021, embodied by Barrett. Now, the linebacker group that was a question mark in the 2022 season is an undeniable force in 2023.
Colson and Barrett return, while Hill-Green is healthy and ready to return. Jimmy Rolder contributed as a freshman who is ready for a bigger role. There are names to watch like Micah Pollard, and a bunch of very talented freshman. Michigan also added one of the best players in the transfer portal, Ernest Hausman. Depth has gone from a concern to an asset, and now we’re wondering how Michigan will possibly play all that talented player.
Still, change is coming to the group. Coach George Helo and Michigan mutually agreed to part ways this season, but a familiar face is back in Chris Partridge. No player at Michigan may be more familiar with Partridge than Barrett.
“I was excited he recruited me here,” Barrett said. As for Partridge, it is similar to many of the appointments made by Harbaugh over the past two seasons, with fresh ideas and energy.
“Different approach, just enthusiasm. He has a way of getting everybody excited, getting them going.”
So while the linebackers are now deeper and more talented after a season Barrett called a “growth year” for the group, will there be heated competition? Did anyone have a problem with the inclusion of a player with early experience like Haussmann?
The simple answer is no. Barrett welcomes anything that improves his group and team. He knows it starts with how they treat each other in their rooms.
“We’re always teaching each other, coaching each other, we never look at it like he’s going to take my place. It’s always love, support, we’re always there for each other.” Are.”
The linebackers at Michigan faced adversity last season, and will undoubtedly face some in some form this year, but they are stronger than ever. Young players will continue to rise, and a player like Colson or Hausman could have an all-timer season. A name we are not discussing much may be breaking. There is so much we don’t know. One thing we do know, this group will be led by Michael Barrett on and off the field. He’s as good as he could be this year because he’s back in Ann Arbor.
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