- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
Over the next two weeks, WolverineNation will break down the 10 players who need to play to the peak of their abilities for Michigan to have its best possible season, going from 10 all the way to No. 1.
Replacing David Molk is not going to be easy, no matter how much confidence fifth-year senior center Ricky Barnum says he has in himself. Molk was the Rimington Award winner as the nation’s best center last season and was a seventh-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers.
Barnum, meanwhile, has rarely played throughout his career. The fifth-year senior has made three career starts -- all last season -- and none at center. He has played in games at left guard, right guard and briefly left tackle throughout his first three seasons.
The biggest question for Barnum -- and where he has to play at least to his potential as someone on the fringe of the starting lineup the past two seasons -- is how he handles making most, if not all, of the calls for the offensive line. Part of what makes offensive coordinator Al Borges’ offense run smoothly is how much the center can absorb and how comfortable he feels making the proper adjustments and calls on the line, sometimes on the fly with just seconds to decide.
Molk was a master at that. Barnum, in game situations, will be a novice no matter how good he may be at it during Michigan’s practices.
The other issue is quarterback-center exchanges. Whenever anyone other than Molk has played center during Denard Robinson’s career at Michigan, the snap has not gone well. When Molk missed the first series of the Sugar Bowl, backup Rocko Khoury had two botched snaps. When Molk was injured at other times in his career, it took a while for the shotgun snap to go well. Barnum has had an entire spring and fall camp -- along with voluntary summer workouts -- to make sure his chemistry with Robinson is crisp.
Michigan had better hope the neophyte center has a sharp learning curve if it wants success this season.
5dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
6dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
7dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman