Barnum to center highlights position switches

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The move was always anticipated but Michigan second-year coach Brady Hoke made it official Friday afternoon.

Fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum is making the move to center.

Barnum had been on the precipice of playing for a couple seasons, even winning the starting left guard job out of fall camp last season. But an ankle injury sent him to the sidelines, Michael Schofield into the starting lineup and Michigan kept rolling to an 11-2 record.

So now, Barnum is making a move in his final season and will be competing with redshirt freshman Jack Miller to win the spot. Hoke, though, wouldn’t say if the move was because of how impressed the coaching staff is with Barnum or the concerns they had over who else was at the position.

“There’s some unknowns there,” Hoke said. “That’s the best way to put it.”

Barnum’s shift to center meant more changing all across the line. Schofield, who started in Barnum’s place at guard last season, is going to move to right tackle leaving Chris Bryant and Elliott Mealer as the main players competing to start at left guard this fall.

The move actually began happening last season, when Barnum started to recover from his ankle injury. When he returned, offensive coordinator Al Borges and offensive line coach Darrell Funk began to have Barnum work on snapping the ball as well as his normal guard duties in case there had been an injury.

Snapping, especially out of the shotgun, is going to be the biggest difference for Barnum this year.

“At the end of the day, the best five guys are going to play, however that rotation works out,” Hoke said. “But snapping the ball in the shotgun snaps, centers you like to be able to see snap and step at the same time and as an old D-line coach, that’s important.”

Initially, this looked like it would be a three-man competition this spring, but Rocko Khoury decided to graduate and not return to Michigan for a fifth season. Khoury was one of four players along with running back Michael Cox, wide receiver Terrence Robinson and offensive lineman George Morales to do so.

Hoke said Friday that Barnum’s move to center came before Khoury decided to leave the team so this move wasn’t brought on by Khoury’s departure. But now that he has left, Barnum’s shift becomes a spot of need for Michigan entering the spring as only he and Miller are on scholarship at the position.

Barnum’s shift was one of many for Michigan. Besides the offensive line maneuvering, Craig Roh is moving from weak side to strong side defensive end and Jibreel Black is moving from defensive end inside to compete at defensive tackle.

“They’ve really embraced it,” Hoke said. “When we discussed it with Craig, staff-wise, it was like ‘OK, I get to eat a little more. If someone said I could eat, I’d be happy.

“But he really has embraced it and I think both he and Jibreel both are real excited about it.”