Barnum getting reacclimated

Ricky Barnum started three games at left guard last season. Leon Halip/Getty Images

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Before every game last season, David Molk would sprint up to freshman Jack Miller, grab his shoulder pads and head butt him.

Molk explained that it was his way of preparing himself mentally for the game. And, for him, it worked -- Molk controlled the line and finished the season as the Rimington Award winner.

But that might very well be the only place where the Wolverines (or Miller, rather) are happy to see Molk gone.

He was an integral part of the offenses' success last year, but this season, senior Ricky Barnum is hoping to fill the void Molk left. But Barnum doesn't feel extra pressure to perform to Molk's level. He just needs to perform to Michigan's level.

"I don't see it as pretty big shoes to fill, because this is Michigan, and when a class graduates, everybody has to step up, not just one person," Barnum said.

Barnum first played center as a freshman in high school before transitioning first to guard, then to tackle before his senior season. But as a freshman at Michigan under former coach Rich Rodriguez, Barnum was back to center and took snaps with quarterback Denard Robinson. Eventually, he was moved to the left guard spot.

Now, in his senior year, he's back at center, and he's excited to be there. He said the hardest part of the center spot is learning how the defenses rotate. But for him, it's less about learning the position so much as stepping back into a place where he was very comfortable at one point in time.

"It's not really a transition, it's just, 'Get back in the groove of things,' " Barnum said. "I don't see it as a transition."

What Barnum's biggest difficulty this season actually could be is staying on the field. In the past, he has struggled with ankle injuries, due to not moving his feet enough and standing up in the hole. Barnum was out most of last season with injuries to both ankles.

He said he is working every day with the weight training staff, specifically focusing on making his ankles stronger.

Additionally, Barnum is hoping to gain 5-10 pounds over the summer, commenting he'd like to look "300 pounds healthy, not 300 pounds sloppy," though he currently weighs in at 297.

And according to coaches and players, Barnum is stepping up as a leader on the field and in the weight room, which was another huge attribute of Molk, who was a team captain in his final year.

"Obviously this team plays for our seniors," left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "The coaches coach for our seniors. But I think a lot of guys have been stepping up as leaders, doing a great job -- obviously you're going to ask me about Ricky Barnum. Ricky Barnum's doing a phenomenal job."