PASADENA, Calif. - Willis Barringer lost his spot as a backup in Michigan's talented secondary this season, but he didn't sit and pout.
He didn't complain.
He just kept working hard.
And it has paid off.
Barringer, a 6-foot, 197-pound sophomore from Scott High School, recently was named the Wolverines' co-special teams player of the year, sharing the award with Brian Thompson.
So the season wasn't a complete washout for Barringer, a two-year letterman who will play in his second consecutive Rose Bowl game tomorrow when No. 13 Michigan takes on No. 6 Texas.
"That was the goal this year - to play in the Rose Bowl again," Barringer said yesterday. "Normally for most people, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl. For me, it's now a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I feel very blessed."
Barringer started five games at safety a year ago for the Wolverines and registered 23 tackles, but he was beaten out for the starting free safety job this fall by sophomore Ryan Mundy and for the backup job by redshirt freshman Brandent Englemon.
And freshman Jamar Adams earned the backup role at strong safety behind first-team All-American Ernest Shazor.
"Willis was one of our special teams' players of the year, so it's not like he disappeared," defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann said. "I mean, Willis is a very, very big part of this team. But, in any given sport, like football, there's competition.
"He's going to get anotheropportunity this spring to go back out and compete to get his job back [in the secondary]. That's the thing I love about football. You can't stand still because you'll get passed up."
Barringer played sparingly at safety this season, with most of his playing time coming on the special teams. He is on the kickoff, kickoff return and punt return teams. He finished with five tackles in 10 games and recovered an onside kick against Minnesota.
He missed only the regular-season finale against rival Ohio State due to a left knee injury he suffered the previous week against Northwestern.
"I was a little disappointed maybe at myself that I didn't play more [on defense], but I just tried to do what I could to help the team," Barringer said. "I have two years left, so I knew I had time to improve and get better.
"I really believe our special teams are special when I'm on them."
Barringer is treating this Rose Bowl trip much differently than he did a year ago, when he saw action at safety and on special teams and had two tackles in Michigan's 28-14 loss to No. 1 Southern California.
"I learned a lot from last year on how to approach the game and everything," he said. "I was going around to places in California last year and having fun and taking the game a little bit for granted.
"That approach didn't work, so I'm working a little bit more and a little harder this year. I'm watching more film and trying to become focused on helping us get a Rose Bowl win."
Mundy said he has been impressed with Barringer's work ethic, despite his lack of playing time in the secondary.
"Willis is a great person," Mundy said. "He's the type of athlete that you like. He's a hard worker. He didn't take the secondary situation as a big negative. He continues to work hard.
"I like his attitude. I like everything about him. He's a great player. He's a great athlete."