Michael Barrett, a former high school quarterback from Georgia who distinguished himself last season at Michigan executing two faked punts, appears to be the heir apparent at the viper position in coordinator Don Brown’s defense.
Khaleke Hudson, the starter at viper the last three seasons who led Michigan with 101 tackles last year, has moved on to the NFL leaving open a position he had made his own.
“I’ve seen enough out of Michael Barrett to be excited,” Brown said Thursday in a video conference call with reporters. “Runs 4.51 — that’s fast — at 220 pounds. That’s a good place to start. He’s had a tremendous role model in Khaleke Hudson that showed him the way.
“He’s worked extremely hard and has a close relationship with (linebackers) Cam McGrone, in particular, and Josh Ross. That chemistry, that camaraderie you search for that allows some groups to be exceptional I think is there.”
Earlier this year at the NFL combine, Hudson singled out Barrett and Anthony Solomon and said they learned from playing behind him last season.
“Michigan is going to get great players with them guys,” Hudson said at the combine. “They work hard every single day.”
This isn’t the first time Brown has mentioned Barrett. Before the Citrus Bowl, he said Barrett, Solomon and freshman William Mohan would be strong candidates to replace Hudson. Brown said then that Barrett would “get first dibs."
“The nice thing is we have guys behind him that we could give them jobs in different packages to help develop confidence as they’re going through the learning curve of the viper position,” Brown said before the bowl game.
Mohan enrolled early, but didn’t get to take any reps this spring because practice was canceled more than two months ago in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don't want to put undue pressure on William Mohan,” Brown said. “I think he'll be a very good player. We call him ‘Apache’ but he's a true freshman and he has that kind of ability.
“We have a number guys at the safety position that it would be smooth as silk to drop them into the viper position if need be. The viper might be, even though there’s a lot of jobs there, I think that might be a little bit easier for guys to grasp than the rover free safety position that we utilize on the back end.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh last year described the ideal player to man the viper position. Based on how Barrett played last season, he seems to be a strong fit.
“That's a guy that's a really good safety, but he could also have the versatility to be a really good nickel kind of cover guy, but also the abilities of a linebacker and even a pass rusher off the edge,” Harbaugh said last year. “It’s that kinda Swiss Army-knife, Jim-Thorpe-type of player that can do all those different things that are really high level. (They’re) smart because they have to come from different angles, different gaps and can come from anywhere. I think a Troy Polamalu-type player, that kind of mold.”
Barrett successfully ran two fake punts last season.
Against Army, Barrett connected with freshman Daxton Hill for a 25-yard pass for a first down on a fake punt. The Wolverines eventually would score that drive. More recently at Maryland, Barrett rushed 14 yards on the fake punt on 4th and 1. Michigan would score on that drive.