On Monday afternoon, Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh met with reporters for the first time since the Peach Bowl loss to Florida in December, and he unleashed some interesting information in regards to where some guys are playing this spring.
With offensive coordinator Josh Gattis in town, along with his #SpeedInSpace mantra, you should expect a lot less two tight end/fullback sets. That said, Michigan fullback Ben Mason is working multiple positions on both sides of the ball.
Jim Harbaugh Ben Mason playing both ways on defense at (multiple) positions... Fullback will be uses in short yardage and goal line situations mostly... We want to see him possibly get 60 plays a game... Could play some 3-tech, DE, TE, and RB/FB— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 18, 2019
In 2018, Mason was probably on the field for 20 or so snaps per game, depending on the game flow. If the goal is to get him up to 60 or so snaps per game, you’re going to have to line him up elsewhere, which is exactly what they are doing for him this spring.
In my eyes, the plan for Mason this spring seems to be to find one position he is best at, along with his clear talents at running back/fullback. Whether he will be able to work on both sides of the ball is to be determined, but it will be interesting to see if the coaches use Mason in multiple spots during the spring game — which is April 13 at 5 p.m.
Elsewhere, redshirt freshman Hassan Haskins is now working at running back full-time. He was working at both running back and linebacker last season, and only saw the field on special teams. He will now permanently be with the position group he came into U-M with, which is a position group in dire need of depth following the departures of Karan Higdon and O’Maury Samuels, and with Chris Evans currently off the team.
Speaking of working at both running back and linebacker, that is exactly what redshirt freshman Ben VanSumeren is doing. He came to Michigan as a fullback/linebacker, and actually saw snaps at fullback against Western Michigan and SMU last season. As said before, the fullback position will not be as utilized as it once was. VanSumeren is thought of as a workout warrior and hard-nosed football player like Mason, so it will be important to find him a permanent position as well.
Harbaugh also revealed redshirt freshman Michael Barrett is now at the Viper position. Before getting on campus, fans envisioned the former high school quarterback as being a new type of offensive weapon the Wolverines have not had under Harbaugh. That is no longer the case, and it appears he and true freshman Joey Velazquez will be battling it out for the starting position in 2020.
All four of these players will have some sort of role in 2019, as they are all well past their redshirt seasons. Personally, I am most excited to see what the staff does with Mason. Finding ways to get him on the field is important, as he is a versatile player who can lower the helmet to get a hard-earned yard, or come out of nowhere to make a big hit, as we have seen on special teams. I will certainly be looking for him during next month’s spring game.