Ricky Barnum committed to Michigan as the recruiting cycle dwindled back in 2008; the fairly highly-touted interior lineman decommitted from Florida and committed to Michigan and new head coach Rich Rodriguez late in the process. Since then, he's redshirted, moved around the offensive line from position to position, before finally taking advantage of Steven Schilling's departure to seize the starting position at left guard as a redshirt junior last year. Now, with David Molk leaving a huge gap at the center position, Barnum is switching positions once again and hopes to bounce back from and injury-plagued season and mitigate the departure of one of Michigan's all-time great centers in his fifth and final year in the program.
Before last year, Barnum switched positions frequently -- he had played both guard spots and even left tackle under Rodriguez (who was unfortunately fond of moving guys here, there, and everywhere). Barnum never really saw that much action before last season; he was that backup who everyone was tenuously comfortable with if the need to have him play arose. It didn't, for the most part, so when Hoke came in, moved Barnum to left guard, and gave him the starting spot, it was a reasonably comfortable situation: he was a guy with a bit of recruiting hype, plenty of experience growing in the program (not literally, as Barnum has always been quite a bit undersized -- another recurring theme in the Rodriguez era -- but figuratively, as he learned quite a bit behind quite a few experienced Michigan starters).
Barnum started the first few games and performed well enough -- graded out well in MGoBlog's UFR, basically -- and seemed to have locked down the left guard spot after Schilling's departure, but ankle injuries derailed his season a bit, limited his effectiveness, and held him out of a few games. When healthy, he was definitely serviceable at the guard spot -- he's never going to be a true bulldozer in the classical sense, but he did a great job of getting to the next level, pulling on trap plays (cough, cough, Patrick Omameh), and generally doing good work with his agility.
In his senior season, Barnum will likely be called on quite a bit. The three biggest questions for Michigan's offense are 1.) Can the outside receivers be adequate enough to give Michigan a legitimate passing game? 2.) Will Barnum be able to replace Molk well enough -- he's not going to be as good obviously -- but enough so that there isn't too much of a dropoff? 3.) Will the offensive line depth be enough to get Michigan through the season, or will there be some players who aren't quite ready called into action? Since Barnum is directly connected to two of those offensive question marks, him staying on the field and performing at an above-average level will be paramount to Michigan's success. With his history of injuries -- he's been working on making his ankles stronger but one play could derail that -- and the depth chart at center (a very important O-Line position), which basically reads: Barnum, Jack Miller, and then DOOOOOM, Barnum staying healthy is imperative. If he doesn't, Michigan's offense could scuffle a bit, but if Barnum stays on the field and performs consistently, he'll be Molk-like: not very big, decently strong, but heady, agile, and quick. Having him replace one of Michigan's all-time greats is somewhat comforting; Barnum is experienced and fairly able -- just please don't get hurt.