There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it will do so likely in empty stadiums with a conference-only schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Michael Barrett, redshirt SO
247 Composite Ranking: 3 stars (ATH 61, Overall 751)
2019 Stats: 7 tackles
Sometimes the strategy with recruiting is to find athletic prospects and figure out where they can best fit later. For Michigan, this has often involved enticing players with the Viper position that has become very popular thanks to Jabrill Peppers and now Khaleke Hudson. While much of recruiting is a sales pitch, someone does eventually have to fill the role on the defense.
Michael Barrett was a high school quarterback who had some options to play there at the college level, but he decided to come to Ann Arbor and find a home on the defense. After a modest redshirt freshman year that saw sparse defensive snaps, he will now compete to take over the spot vacated by the graduated Hudson. There are plenty of question marks regarding his game, but he has as much potential as anyone else in that area of the field.
Does Barrett make more sense at the Viper position or at Sam?
The Viper position at Michigan requires players who are strong and athletic, capable of both blitzing and covering tight ends. Barrett looks like a good fit here, but he also could end up as the strongside linebacker, which functions a little closer to a defensive end (think Josh Uche) but shares some responsibilities with the Viper and can house similar types of players.
Barrett is still raw, and not just physically. His role has yet to be truly solidified, although it does help that he has been on campus for a couple seasons now. The Wolverines have not used him on offense — though he has been involved in some fake punts — implying that they do want to use him as a linebacker in some capacity. He probably could rotate at almost any of the spots across the position, but his easiest path to playing time would be at Sam or Viper.
Experience at quarterback could help Barrett diagnose opposing offenses, and many of his traits should translate nicely to the other side of the ball. He was a powerful runner which should come through as a blitzer off the edge, and he seems to have the speed and athleticism needed to buzz around blockers. Coverage could be a challenge, as it is for many younger players at the position, so it will be interesting to see if he can avoid being a liability against tight ends down the seam.
Overall, Barrett is still an unknown, but there is not really any certainties on the outside parts of the linebacking corps. Michigan has been very fluid defensively under Don Brown, so whatever role he plays will naturally see rotation. I think he will get a shot at some Viper, but probably is best suited at Sam, as he is a little bigger in size and could struggle in pass coverage. Wherever he plays, the plan will be to let him attack the backfield and use his athleticism to disrupt the offense however he can. Despite Barrett’s inexperience, expect him to be involved in some way right from the start of the season.