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Michigan Football Linebacker Review: Veterans manned the middle

The defensive signal-callers had a lot of experience to work with.

Michigan v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
Jacob Singer Jake Singer is a junior at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science. He is a Michigan Football and Basketball Writer for SB Nation's Maize and Brew

The Michigan Wolverines’ linebacker unit played a crucial role in the team’s performance during the 2023-24 season. Key players in this group included Junior Colson, Michael Barrett and Ernest Hausmann, each of whom contributed significantly to the team’s success in bringing home the national championship.

The linebackers showcased a lot of experience this season given Colson started in 2022, Barrett was in his sixth season and Hausmann started as a true freshman at Nebraska. This veteran leadership played a crucial factor when linebackers coach, Chris Partridge, was fired the Friday before the Maryland game. In his place, Rick Minter, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter’s father, stepped in.

Despite the outside noise, the stars of the linebacker room had very strong seasons.

Colson, a formidable 6-foot-3, 247-pound junior, has been nothing short of a cornerstone on Michigan’s defense. He led the team with 95 tackles in 2023, outpacing his teammates significantly, as no other player exceeded 65 tackles. His 44 solo tackles and two for loss underline his ability to read the game and react swiftly. His performance earned him the second-team All-Big Ten selection, and he was awarded the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which recognizes his tremendous influence both on and off the field.

Despite battling injuries, including playing the title game with a wrapped left hand, Colson’s resilience never wavered. His performances in key games — 11 tackles against Ohio State, eight against Iowa, 10 against Alabama, and six against Washington — shows his commitment and consistency throughout the season.

In his three seasons, Colson never lost to Ohio State, always won the Big Ten, and is leaving for the 2024 NFL Draft as a national champion.

In his six years with the Wolverines, Barrett showed consistent performance growth. Standing at 6-foot and 240 pounds, he has been a regular on the team, with 33 starts and 62 game appearances. His 2023 stats include 65 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two passes defended and three forced fumbles. Barrett’s performance peaked in 2022, leading to back-to-back All-Big Ten selections and recognition as the Most Improved Player on defense.

With Barrett out of eligibility, he can finally leave Ann Arbor with peace of mind, seeing the Wolverines go from 2-4 in 2020 to the National Championship just a few years later.

Hausmann, a transfer from Nebraska, quickly became a key member of the Wolverines’ defense. His first year with Nebraska saw him tally 54 tackles, and in 2023 with Michigan, he recorded 46 tackles, two for loss and five sacks. His performance in the Big Ten Championship against Iowa was particularly notable, securing eight tackles, which tied the team high in that game.

With Barrett and Colson headed to the pros, Hausmann is expected to play a more prominent role in Michigan’s defense next season.

Overall, the 2023 season highlighted the Wolverines’ linebackers’ effectiveness in contributing to the team’s defensive strategy and achievements. The combination of Colson’s consistency, Barrett’s experience and Hausmann’s emerging talent underscored their importance to the team’s success and set expectations for next season with Hausmann returning and former Maryland linebacker, Jaishawn Barham, transferring in.