Michigan entered 2012 spring practice with a huge question mark at center following Rimington Award winning center David Molk's departure. Fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum's emergence has alleviated concerns - for now.
Both Barnum and redshirt freshman Jack Miller have shown they're capable this spring, and they did again at Saturday's spring scrimmage (minus an errant snap or two for each). Embracing the role was the first step toward Barnum's success.
"It was very exciting," Barnum recalled of being asked to make the move. "I enjoy playing center. It was very different at first, but it's something I kept working on. Eventually I got better at, but I really like it.
"I'm enjoying the position. The coaches say I'm a natural at it, but I've just got to keep working at it, harder and harder than everybody else. You're making the calls, picking up blitzes and being in charge."
It's taken some time, Barnum added.
"At first the snaps weren't good," he admitted. "Today there were still two bad snaps. Other than that in spring ball, things have been going well. I think I'm doing good."
He's been challenged by defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's defense. Though Mattison went easy on the offense Saturday, showing only a handful of different looks, he brought plenty of heat throughout the spring.
Picking up the different blitzes was the toughest part of the last month, Barnum added.
"You don't see it right away, then right in the middle of the cadence you've got to snap the ball," he noted. "He has been putting a lot of pressure on me - a lot of things that I wasn't used to doing when I was playing guard. He's just trying to get me prepared for the game."
The new linemen are continuing to learn from one another. It won't happen overnight, Barnum said, but they're making progress.
"We have to keep jelling," he said. "We have a long way to go, and we've got to keep working for the Alabama game [in September]. But me, Taylor [Lewan] and Patrick [Omameh] have been around each other for four years. We've just got to keep working at it and working at it, but I do think we have gotten better as spring ball went on."
Walk-on Joey Burzynski, who surprised by running with the first group Saturday, has made the most of his opportunity playing Barnum's former spot.
"He has been awesome, the most consistent of the bunch," Barnum said. "He's been giving his all. He's a hard worker and he comes out and competes every day, just like the rest of us. Since last year, Joey has always been a hard worker. He's always pushing the next person in front of him."
A year with the coaching staff - including strength coach Aaron Wellman - has raised expectations for the line.
"There's a much higher expectation," Barnum said. "We've been in the system for two years, so they expect more out of us. We ll have to step up, not just one, get a lot more physical and a lot stronger.
"Coach Wellman and his staff do a great job. They come in every day and bring more energy than we do working out."