New transfer has ‘raised the level of play’ in Michigan’s linebacker room

Michigan spring game 2023

Michigan linebacker Ernest Hausmann warms up during the spring game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, April 1, 2023.Neil Blake |


ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The challenge was made loud and clear to Ernest Hausmann back in the spring: Go try and take someone’s job.

The new Michigan linebacker heeded those words after a highly successful freshman season at Nebraska, impressing in the program’s April spring game with a team-high eight tackles.

That has reportedly continued in preseason camp, where the 6-foot-2, 237-pound sophomore has earned the praise of the coaching staff. Second-year coordinator Jesse Minter called Hausmann a quick learner and “film junkie” earlier this month, suggesting that a regular role may be in the works for the fall.

“He has raised the level of play in that room,” Minter said. “By him coming in with his mentality and the way he approaches it, all of a sudden Mike (Barrett) is playing at a really high level. Junior (Colson) is playing a really higher level. Competition is what breeds guys having to get better.”

How or when that role comes is unclear. Michigan returns all-Big Ten linebacker Junior Colson and sixth-year player Michael Barrett, two players familiar with the style of play and scheme. Colson, healthy after an injury-riddled sophomore season (101 tackles, two sacks), is a potential All-American prospect while Barrett came into his own and shined during the second half of the 2022 season.

Which begs the question: How will the Wolverines utilize Hausmann, who wears the No. 15 jersey, on the field?

More: Whoa! Junior Colson played through a foot injury in 2022

“When I was at Nebraska as a true freshman, obviously you’re coming in at the bottom of the depth chart and working your way up there,” said Hausmann, who totaled 54 tackles (two for a loss), a sack and a fumble recovery last season, said. “I had the same mentality when I came here to Michigan — I was going to be at the bottom of the depth chart and work by way up there. I truly love that.”

In all reality, Hausmann — who had 10 tackles and a sack against the Wolverines last November — didn’t have a ton of competition. Michigan is rather light and inexperienced at middle linebacker, giving him a quick runway to the field and the coaching staff a problem to sort out.

When the Wolverines deploy a 4-2-5 alignment this fall, it’s likely going to leave a linebacker out. But when they go to a 3-4 front, with three down linemen and four stand-up backers, often a combination of edge rushers and linebackers, we could see Barrett, Colson and Hausmann on the field at the same time.

“With this defense, there’s a lot of different things that we’re able to do with personnel and different calls,” Hausmann said. “Each player has their strengths and weaknesses that they (bring) to the table. And with that, it’s not necessarily our job to choose when and where we go out there on the field, but it is our job to stay ready when our name is called.”

That has been Hausmann’s focus, he says, knowing his assignment and being ready to play when needed. Colson hinted that a rotation was likely coming to the linebacker room back in spring, when he welcomed Hausmann and the added depth to the room after he played 727 snaps last year, second-most on the defense.

Hausmann said there were several reasons for choosing Ann Arbor, but the biggest was Michigan’s ability “to maximize my potential.”

“I knew there was going to be a battle there. I love it, because we make each other better,” Hausmann said. “What makes this room so special and unique is we’re all looking to help each other. There’s no conflict on why we’re battling; we’re all in there together — because at the end of the day, our ultimate goal is to win each and every game we step onto the field (for).”

And those early returns?

“I just feel like he’s raised the level of play in that whole room,” Minter said a second time. “And I’m excited he’s here.”

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