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Posted on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ricky Barnum, the Michigan football team's newest center, developing rhythm with QB Denard Robinson

By Kyle Meinke


Ricky Barnum (52), shown at last year's media day with David Molk and Taylor Lewan, is the center of attention during the Michigan football team's spring practice.

Melanie Maxwell |

Ricky Barnum snapping a football to Denard Robinson is novel to the free world. It is not to Ricky Barnum and Denard Robinson.

Turns out, they've been doing it since Robinson first joined the Michigan football team in 2009. The pair developed a rapport the Wolverines hope will expedite Barnum's spring transition from guard to center.

“Ricky’s one of the guys from Florida, so we can relate to each other," Robinson said. "When he makes a mistake, I’m right on him and telling him, ‘Let’s go. I’m right behind you 100 percent.’"

Barnum, from Lakeland, also speaks "Florida," Robinson's fast-paced Southern accent that made it difficult for Northern teammates to decipher play calls early in his career.

“He helps me a lot in the huddle," said Robinson, who hails from Deerfield Beach. "Sometimes, he tells the other offensive linemen what the play is. When (center David) Molk and (guard) Patrick (Omameh) used to get on me all the time, Ricky would help me out.”

The snap is the most fundamental play in football, and one that was a given for Michigan the past four years with Rimington Award-winning Molk anchoring its line.

Molk started for the better part of the past four seasons, except for stretches of an injury-plagued 2009, and became an All-American last year. His loss will be difficult, if not impossible, to fully replace this fall.

This is the first time Robinson has changed centers in his career.

Complicating matters is Michigan faces defending national champion Alabama in its season opener. The Crimson Tide return two-thirds of a fearsome defensive line that was one of the country's finest last year.

“He’s doing OK," coach Brady Hoke said of Barnum last week. "We did so much with him a year ago. ... I couldn’t count the number for you, but I think he’s doing OK.”

Hoke has been optimistic about Barnum's transition, but his measured praise is a nod to the difficulties inherent to picking up the blocking schemes and subtleties of the position.

Barnum has ideal size for center at 6-foot-3, 292 pounds, but he's never played the position in nine career games. Each of his three starts came at left guard, and he's also appeared at tackle.

"Once a kid plays center for a while, they usually prefer it because they know exactly when the ball is coming up," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "But center is a different animal than tackle or guard because our center quarterbacks the offensive line -- he puts them all on the same page with regard to targeting fronts, whether it's pass protecting or running.

"I could go into all the nuances, but it's endless what that kid has to do. It's not an easy position to play."

There is other movement on the offensive line, with left guard Michael Schofield sliding to right tackle. Fifth-year senior Elliott Mealer and redshirt freshman Chris Bryant are battling for the left guard spot.

Those three combine for zero starts at those positions.

The offensive line's overall depth also is a pressing issue after losing two starters from last year's mix of eight scholarship players.

Still, the Wolverines' overarching concern remains Barnum's assimilation to center.

"We’ve got some growing to do," Robinson said.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Steve McQueen

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

Two things: 1) Ricky Barnum will do just fine at center this year. It is a great move for him and will also improve his NFL prospects. 2) "fans" that come here complaining and refusing to recognize the 11-2 season last year where the offense was BETTER than the RR error offenses in nearly every category and the defense was finally a good one after 3 years of horriffic defense... i wonder about you people...what is your motivation? are you truly Michigan fans, or trolls? or maybe you are just miserable people in general...think about it "T".

Terry Star21

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 1:14 a.m.

Miserable, frustrated trolls they are...people hate Michigan because we're the best, they attempt to knock our coaches, our defense/offense and the only thing proven is their intelligent levels...


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 11 p.m.

With Hoke/Borges now fully entrenched this year I was expecting lots of punts on 3rd down. After reading this nonsense, I've changed my mind. We'll be punting on 2nd down. We'll elect to kick-off in BOTH halves. We'll never call a time-out (too risky). We'll only use 9 or 10 guys on offensive plays because 11 is too flashy. O come back, King. O King, come back. To win The Crystal, we must attack. Bring back Barwis, bring back Magee. Our hopes for Crystal, doth rest in Thee. This IS NOT Michigan. Bo was always running the option. 12 of the last 14 Crystal Bowl winners had defenses ranked 70th or lower. It was their OFFENSES that brought them all the glory. Thanks for your attention.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

theo or is it ted? i have to agree with matt. . . i really don't think you are even a MICHIGAN fan! GO BLUE!!!!!!

Terry Star21

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

This is great news, fantastic to see the two get along so well - chemistry is very important. And don't be surprised if Ricky puts together a 'Molk type' or better year, because this is Michigan of course. We'll push the walmart spartan thugs and the ohio pawn and tattoo'ers back down the field. "We will be as physical as we can possibly be".....B. Hoke MgoBlueForTiM........WwBaPaWcPb, taking care of business

Wally the Wolverine

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Molk looks tiny next to him.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

I agree. Take a look around, getting to 300lbs seems pretty easy for the modern American Male. I don't know why these guys have so much trouble gaining weight.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 4:31 p.m. there is probably a difference between "Strong-Strong" and "Fat-Strong".


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Lol it's cause the average 300lb American male isn't an 18-22yr old athlete. And only burns calories walking to and from the kitchen.

Matt Patercsak

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

I think the O-line will be better in 2012 simply because of size. I don't care what offense you run, spread or pro, an o-line that averages 295lbs is unacceptable. Mississippi State's spread offense uses o-lineman that are massive. there's no reason that omameh, and schofield shouldnt be over 300lbs this fall. Mealer is 310ish Bryant is 340. Barnum has good size for center.

Terry Star21

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

I agree Matt...but the big difference will be another year of the great coaching they will receive and with that talent, a few pounds won't matter. They got out bullied a couple times last year, but watch them to be much tougher - pushing back the D-line from such as the walmart spartan thugs up in east losing and the other teams they face this year.

Wally the Wolverine

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

I love the optimism, but let's not underestimate the amount of work it takes for a new O-line to develop timing and execution (what we all refer to as "gelling") MSU retooled their O-line with some big guys last year and while they were good with pass blocking, it took them about half the season to establish any semblence of a run game. Remember how Youngstown state shut them down?