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Zeke Berry’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2022

The Wolverines add another young safety to a talented position group.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Michigan at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are some pretty exciting incoming freshmen from the 2022 Michigan Wolverines recruiting class, particularly on defense, with multiple prospects landing inside the top-100 on the 247Sports composite. When thinking about the upcoming season, these are the first that come to mind.

While Zeke Berry is technically outside that delineator (though 247’s own rankings had him 53rd overall), he is a name that fans should know going forward. In terms of ceiling, it is hard to match Berry’s, and he is not just a raw product coming in. 2022 might be a growing year, but he is definitely capable of seeing the field right away.

The story so far

Berry looked to be a west coast lock, coming from California and originally committing to Arizona before being linked to Oregon, but he ended up as a strong recruiting win for Jim Harbaugh. He landed at No. 171 on the composite, but he is likely going to overperform this ranking significantly. This is the exact type of player that can thrive in Michigan’s defense and he could be the successor to the template laid out by Daxton Hill.

The profile is saturated with praise for his athleticism and versatility. Berry is fast, agile, and a hard hitter, giving him the ability to both run with receivers and be an impact blitzer. Like many top prospects, he played both ways in high school, and while he is unlikely to see time on offense with the Wolverines, he will surely be deployed in a bunch of ways across the defensive backfield.

The viper position is gone, but it is hard to not think about that concept when looking at Berry. He could absolutely fit some of those linebacking responsibilities as well while also maintaining those critical coverage skills. He might need some time to get acclimated to the system, but since his intangibles are rated highly as well, that should not prevent him from getting some playing time relatively soon.

Outlook moving forward

Berry seems primed for the nickel spot with Rod Moore and R.J. Moten taking over the safety duties full time. It may not come to fruition this fall, but when the true freshman does see the field, that seems like the most appropriate role, and given the number of five-defensive back sets Michigan uses, the opportunity will be there.

Moore can play some nickel at times, but his versatility does not mean Berry has to beat him out to earn some snaps; rather, it would probably be someone like converted-defender Mike Sainristil who will start in the role before Berry is ready. But whether it is October or November or even 2023, this is a player who will be a difference-maker sooner or later for the Michigan defense.