Michael Barrett was recruited to the Michigan Wolverines as an athlete, and that’s exactly what he has been for the last five seasons. Barrett is a 240-pound front-seven Swiss Army Knife that has repeatedly adapted his playing style and role in order to fill various needs when called upon.
Journey so far
After redshirting in 2018, Barrett became a key special teams player in 2019. Barrett — who was a former dual-threat high school quarterback — was even called upon to complete a pass on a fake punt to Dax Hill for a critical fourth-down conversion against Army. Tangent: “A critical fourth-down conversion against Army,” we have come so far.
After becoming a full-time starter in 2020 at Don Brown’s patented “viper” position, Barrett wasted no time in providing the year’s top highlight. In Michigan’s first game against Minnesota, Barrett hit Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan so hard he knocked him into Canada.
Blitzing off the edge, Barrett rocketed off the ball, chopped his steps on the fake mesh exchange, and then accelerated into and through Morgan to create a forced fumble. The ball fluttered into the unsuspecting arms of defensive tackle Donovan Jeter who returned it for a Michigan touchdown.
Barrett finished the season third on the team in tackles, but the Wolverines were the laughing stock of the Big Ten finishing the season 2-4. The Wolverines made wholesale changes in the offseason, including replacing Brown with Mike Macdonald. Bringing in a new defensive coordinator also meant a position change for Barrett from viper to a more traditional linebacker.
Relegated to a reserve role for the majority of the 2021 season, Barrett made the most out of his opportunities every time he was on the field. Against Washington, Barrett executed a perfect fake punt to keep the chains moving, and on the very next play, Blake Corum scored.
Later in the season against Maryland, Barrett fielded and fired off a cross-field lateral pass to A.J. Henning, which resulted in a big-play Michigan touchdown. But Barrett’s biggest contribution came defensively when a Michigan weakness was revealed.
Against Michigan State, the Spartans exposed a flaw so dramatic it felt like a bad Scooby Doo unmasking — the Wolverines were over-reliant on substitutions and could not match Michigan State’s up-tempo offense. Especially, at the linebacker position.
The solution: a player that could hold up against the run and play fluently in coverage. The solution was Michael Barrett.
Barrett became an imperative piece of success the rest of the season for the Wolverines at linebacker and helped mitigate the effectiveness of up-tempo offenses. Although still a rotational piece, Barrett allowed the defense to play chess with an extra bishop waiting next to the board.
Entering the 2022 season, Barrett was expected to play a similar role behind Nikhai Hill-Green and Junior Colson. However, an injury forced Hill-Green out of action for the entire season, and the Wolverines again needed Barrett to step in.
Barrett finished the season second on the team in tackles (72), tied for third in sacks (3.5), and third in interceptions. Barrett was named the team’s Most Improved Player on Defense and was recognized as an All-Big Ten selection (third team, coaches; honorable mention, media).
Outlook for 2023
At this point, Barrett has as much experience as anyone in the country. Barrett has appeared in 49 career games for the Michigan Wolverines, dating all the way back to the SMU game in 2018.
While a diminished role is expected in 2023 with the arrival of Ernest Hausmann, if five years of history have taught us anything, Michael Barrett will find a way to carve out an impactful role.