When redshirt junior outside linebacker Jake Ryan tore his ACL in spring practice, the Wolverines needed to fine an answer at the SAM spot.
Junior Brennen Beyer, who played rush end and SAM linebacker alternately in his first two years, stepped up. And, in the absence of Ryan, he excelled at the position.
But now Ryan is back. He and fifth-year senior Cam Gordon are Michigan's one-two options at the SAM.
"Cam Gordon played a really good football game the other day, too, at the SAM," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Having him and Jake in the sub packages, both those guys, I think it's really good for us. I think Brennen has always been a guy that can wear a lot of hats. Smart, tough, good technician."
Beyer is now listed as the Wolverines' starting five-technique defensive end, above redshirt freshman Chris Wormley and redshirt sophomore Keith Heitzman.
"It's a little different than what I have done in the past," Beyer said. "It has been fun to get my hand in the dirt and start banging up against some of the big guys again. I'm with [defensive coordinator Greg] Mattison, and he's coaching me up really good."
The switch is working out so far.
Beyer will most likely start Saturday against the Cornhuskers, Hoke said Wednesday, with Wormley and possibly Heitzman - who has been seen in a hand cast and did not make the trip to East Lansing - coming off the bench.
"Brennen is playing really hard," junior rush end Frank Clark said. "He came down from playing SAM linebacker. He's an athlete, and having him come down and play opposite me is a good thing. You have a lot of speed and athleticism at the position."
Beyer has been a bit of a journeyman on Michigan's roster. Now in his third season with the Wolverines, he has seen playing time at rush defensive end, both outside linebacker spots and now five-technique defensive end.
Some players get frustrated by position switches - especially one that is plopped on them in the middle of a year. But Beyer is excited for the new challenge - and he is ready to help out.
"I was wondering if they would move me or not," he said. "But this is great, playing the five-technique. I'm on the field, and it's all about whatever the team needs. We needed another guy there, and I can fit that role.
"I get to learn a whole new position and work with another coach. I love it. And if that's what the team needs, then that's exactly what I want to do."
Ryan returned to the lineup for spot duty at Penn State and has increasingly been worked into the rotation since then, as he gets back into the swing of things and looks more and more like the dynamic linebacker of the last two seasons.
Now that he has proven he is capable of playing at a high level for an entire game, Ryan is getting more duty.
And Beyer is right there on the field with him.
"It's cool," Beyer said. "To see him right on my edge, it's fun to play next to each other, definitely."
Beyer's move to SAM was made out of necessity. The Wolverines were thin at the position. Now, he is being asked to do the same.
"He brings more depth," Gordon said. "With Jake coming back, you can have Brennen down on the line of scrimmage. With him being able to play SAM and on the defensive line, that's incredible."
But that's not to say the coaches are not happy with the talent they already have at the position.
"Chris Wormley continues to improve," Mattison said. "He still needs to turn it loose more. There are times when you see him and you go, 'Wow.' That's just what you're looking for. And then there's other times when you say, 'Turn it loose!'
"It's just got to be consistent. I don't care how many plays it is. It's just got to be consistent no matter who it is. Every guy has to be accountable each and every play."