Michigan linebacker Jimmy Rolder already has 13 games of experience entering his second season in Ann Arbor. Although Rolder will be tasked with a similarly limited role as his freshman season this year, his importance and value to the team have increased.
The journey so far
A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Rolder had little time to adjust to the college game. With a preseason injury to presumptive starter Nikhai Hill-Green, the already thin linebacker depth at Michigan had gone from shallow to barren.
Michael Barrett filled in as a starter alongside Junior Colson and Rolder quickly assumed the role as the first rotation linebacker off the bench. Immediately, Rolder's natural instincts stopping the run were evident. The young freshman had a feel near the line of scrimmage that only comes with years of playing the position.
Rolder repeatedly flashed as a gap-filler against the run and displayed why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. Along with those flashes, however, were growing pains in coverage. Teams would scheme to attack the first-year starting linebacker and intentionally place him in positions of conflict.
While Rolder did experience his fair share of confusion as a freshman, these reps are invaluable to a young player learning and acclimating to the college game. Rolder was even named Defensive Freshman of the Game three separate times by the coaches following his performances against Colorado State, Nebraska, and at Rutgers.
Outlook for 2023
With the arrival of Nebraska transfer Ernest Hausmann, Rolder and Barrett are expected to be key rotational pieces to a reloaded and deep linebacking room. Expect Rolder to ease the starting middle linebacker burden on Junior Colson, who all but limped to the end of last season with injuries.
Rolder expected a bigger role this season, however, 2023 will be a foundational year for the young linebacker. This season will be a year to build off for the future when he is a starting player — perhaps as early as next season, when he and Hausmann patrol the middle of a young, but ferocious front seven along with Derrick Moore, Kenneth Grant, and Mason Graham.
Rolder will have to be patient, but with one more season of learning, he could become the full-time starter next season with 28 games of experience under his belt. Not a bad trajectory for a current rotation player.