Michigan football LB Jaishawn Barham fit Wink Martindale defense

New Michigan transfer linebacker Jaishawn Barham might know the future, or just be really lucky.

Either way, the kid has landed in the perfect spot after transferring from Maryland. See, when Barham committed to Michigan he had no way of knowing that Jesse Minter would be leaving and instead Wink Martindale would be joining the Wolverines and calling the defense. In the grand scheme of things, the difference between Minter and Martindale isn’t extreme. They both run the same basic system, but Martindale blitzes the absolute snot out of his linebackers while Minter is a tad more conservative. That is where Barnham fits in like the last piece of a puzzle. Barham was a top 120 recruit in the 2022 cycle heralded for his size (listed at 6-foot-4, 233 pounds at Maryland) and ability to play outside or inside. At Maryland, Barham played mostly as a traditional middle linebacker but also utilized heavily as a blitzer and even lined up as an edge defender on occasion. He’s no Micah Parsons, but with seven sacks to his name through two seasons of football, he understands how to get to the quarterback.

Martindale is famous for a particular defensive front that involves using three defensive linemen to cover up both guards and the center while sitting two edge defenders just outside of the tackles. Barham’s versatility as an edge-linebacker hybrid means that Michigan can run this front without substituting from their base personnel. Kenneth Grant will hulk over the center, Mason Graham and Derrick Moore will work the guards, and Josaiah Stewart and Barham will be the edge defenders. This would leave Ernest Hausmann as the lone linebacker, but he is more than capable of shifting through traffic and making a tackle in a crowd.

Being able to shift into this formation without substituting is a huge tactical advantage. As many Wolverine fans are aware, Ohio State invested a lot of resources into the run game this offseason and will likely be attacking on the ground more effectively than in seasons past. If they start to move the ball against the traditional 4-2-5 package, Michigan can adjust to their run-stopping front without needing to hustle any players off the field. That plays as a terrific counter to what is usually an advantage in the offense’s favor.


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