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Michigan Spring Ball Preview: Linebackers leveling up

The Wolverines’ linebacker room should take a MASSIVE step forward in 2023.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

When newly appointed linebackers coach Chris Patridge spoke with Jon Jansen on the ‘In the Trenches’ podcast last week, he proclaimed he and his position group were ready to “get after it,” with spring football on the horizon.

And who could blame him? Partridge steps into the front office of a Michigan linebacker room that yields the least amount of turnover of any position group in a program that just competed in the College Football Playoff.

Fielding a wealth of experience, talent and youth, the linebacker group should promise to be one of the most well-rounded position groups on the Michigan defense. Let’s take a deeper dive into what it looks like this spring.

Junior Colson

Arguably the most outstanding of the bunch is Colson. He recorded 101 tackles (42 solo) last season as a sophomore, along with two sacks. He had a whopping 15 tackles in the Big Ten Championship against Purdue.

The Wolverines asked a lot of Colson in 2022, and it’s likely to happen again in 2023. Expect to see him flying around the field early and often when Michigan kicks off its season on Sept. 2.

Michael Barrett

When Barrett announced in mid-January he was returning for his final year of eligibility, it was music to ears of the Wolverine faithful. He is coming off his most productive season yet, tallying 72 total tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

The former Viper turned linebacker has really come into his own over the last couple seasons under the leadership of Mike Macdonald and Jesse Minter. He will certainly carry an enormous role on a defense that will lean heavily on his experience and leadership.

Ernest Hausmann

Probably one of the most intriguing players that joins this Michigan linebacker room is transfer portal addition Ernest Hausmann. The sophomore appeared in 10 games (seven starts) during his freshman season with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, totaling 54 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery.

Hausmann instantly boosts the position group for the Wolverines. He is also considered by many to be the highest-ranked player available in the transfer portal and even recently appeared on a top-10 list of 2023 linebackers by On3.

Jimmy Rolder

Also appearing in a lot of games as a true freshman last season was Rolder. He appeared in most of the Wolverine’s contests in 2022, primarily seeing minutes towards the tail-end of blowout wins.

Still, Rolder garnered plenty of attention during his first year and we should expect to see his snap count rise following his on-field experience and size he’s likely built this offseason.

Nikhai Hill-Green

One topic that largely has largely remained somewhat of a mystery is the status of senior linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green. A high school teammate of Blake Corum’s, Hill-Green missed all of last season due to an injury.

As a sophomore, Hill-Green accumulated 50 tackles as a starting WILL linebacker and one thing is for sure, the Wolverines have missed his production. We’ll certainly be hoping he’s bounced back from whatever issues he was working through and can be a solid contributor once again.

Honorable Mentions

  • Micah Pollard - Appeared in several games as a freshman for the Wolverines, primarily on special teams, but expect Pollard to take a step forward.
  • Kalel Mullings - The linebacker/running back hybrid may still be used primarily as a running back in 2023, but Mullings did earn some playing time on defense in 2022.