UM's Barnum confident he can replace Molk

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- On paper, Ricky Barnum has one of the toughest jobs for Michigan this spring.

Barnum is stepping into the shoes vacated by David Molk, who won the Rimington Trophy last season as the nation's top center. Add in the fact that Barnum has never played center in a game, and that he missed most of last season with injuries, and that sounds like a tall order.

But the fifth-year senior is confident that the Wolverines won't miss a beat with him snapping the ball this season.

"It's not an easy task, because David Molk was a very talented player," he says. "But I have come a long way.

"I really like playing center a lot, and it's something I can see me doing strongly. I can be very good at it."

Barnum snapped to Denard Robinson as a backup when he was a freshman before eventually playing some at tackle and staring at guard. Some rust could have been expected when he moved back to center this offseason, especially in a Michigan offense that often puts Robinson in the shotgun. Yet Barnum proudly says he's had no bad snaps all spring.

Moving to center also brings far more leadership responsibilities than playing guard, as the center makes the calls for the entire line. Barnum says the rest of the line has supported him in that role.

"They all have a trust and faith in me," he said. "They all believe I'll make the right call. And if I do make the wrong call, they just go with it. But I haven't made too many. I haven't had anybody get on me and say, 'Ricky, you made the wrong call.' It's all been, 'Thanks, you made the right call.'"

Barnum has natural size for the position at 6-foot-3 and a large sub sandwich away from 300 pounds. He has good mobility when healthy, which he wasn't last year because of problems in both ankles.

He said Molk has given him pointers, mainly telling him to stay aggressive and showing him how push out with his non-snapping hand. Barnum is putting those ideas in practice this spring for a rebuilt offensive line that is coming along.

"He's working at it," Robinson said. "Ricky's getting better."

It's likely unrealistic to expect Barnum to match Molk's level of play. But he sure seems to have Molk's confidence.

"I see center as a great fit for me because I like to learn and I like to compete," Barnum said.