As the Michigan Wolverines near the halfway point of spring camp, both sides of the trenches are starting to get a feel for who will be the standard bearers heading into the fall.
While the battle for starting jobs remains as fierce as always in the Wolverines’ meritocracy, offensive lineman Karsen Barnhart is confident he’s entered spring camp in a strong position to come out on top.
“I’m a lot more comfortable now,” Barnhart said during a media availability on Monday. “I know that I have big time games under my belt now, I know that I’m part of the leaders in the room, being able to show younger guys I can play, helping out the younger guys but also helping out the older guys as well. Everybody just feeds off one another in the room and everyone wants to get better.”
Barnhart and Trente Jones battled for the starting right tackle job for virtually the entire offseason, with Jones barely edging out Barnhart late in fall camp. After Jones suffered a multi-game leg injury midway through the season, Barnhart took the starting gig and never looked back by starting the final eight games of the season.
The competition between Barnhart and Jones hasn’t only fueled their own development. For Braiden McGregor and the other edges on defense, it’s had tangible effects as they prepare to step into expanded roles.
“The two I’ve gone up against this spring are Karsen and Trente,” McGregor said. “I think they’re both really strong, they definitely helped us a lot last year being back to back Joe Moore winners. It’s awesome going against them cause they’re the best o-line in the country. Especially with the position I play, I get moved inside depending on certain plays, so going up against (Trevor Keegan) or anyone like that, they’re really good.”
For McGregor, the battles in spring camp carry extra personal weight as he is roommates with a few offensive linemen — with daily lessons coming even after practice.
“It’s awesome to go against them cause I live with them,” McGregor said. “It’s like, alright, we can talk when we get back to the house. So it’s awesome.”
With Michigan looking to make its third straight College Football Playoff, there’s little question the old adage “iron sharpening iron” is hard at work in the trenches.