ANN ARBOR Willis Barringer won t be remembered as the best defensive back ever to play for coach Lloyd Carr at the University of Michigan. But Barringer has developed into one of Carr s favorites.
Barringer, a fifth-year senior from Scott High, is the consummate team player.
He has starred on special teams, moved from safety to cornerback, and back to safety again, and even changed his number (from No. 33 to No. 19) to coincide with the position switch.
Barringer, who may or may not start for new defensive coordinator Ron English, said he ll play wherever he s needed. He willingly accepts his role however major or minor it may be with intense pride and a tremendous will to win.
Willis plays with great energy and enthusiasm, Carr said last week at Michigan s media day. A year ago he played extremely well until he hurt his knee, and he never got back to where he was before that. He s a guy that s on top of his academics. He s done a great job here on and off the field. We re counting on him to play an important role on this team.
Barringer started nine games at free safety last season. He recorded a career-best 43 tackles and tacked on two interceptions, three pass breakups, and one forced fumble.
After missing two games in October because of injury, Barringer returned to the lineup as a reserve.
He saved his best performance for the last game of the season, registering a team-high and career-best nine stops against Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl.
Now that the end of his college career is fast approaching, Barringer is taking nothing for granted.
Starter or not, special-teams standout or not, be it as a hard-hitting safety or a clever covering cornerback, Barringer has never been more serious about football and finishing on top.
This is my last year at Michigan. We have a lot of things we want to accomplish, he said.
By the way, you can ask Barringer about a lot of things fulfilling his dream of playing for the Wolverines, whose success he regularly followed as a schoolboy football star growing up in Toledo; his academic progress as a general studies major, or his fluctuating playing time only don t ask him about Michigan s 7-5 record in 2005.
OK, you can ask him just this once.
Our goals are always high. We want to go out there and play football the way Michigan plays football, Barringer said of trying to forget the Wolverines worst season under Carr and first five-loss campaign since 1984.
We want to get back to hitting and tackling and having fun. We just have to learn from the past and what to do in those situations. I don t want to have this feeling again.
Barringer s knee is feeling fine. He s healthy and ready to go.
Of course, the only thing worse than Barringer not playing last year because of injury, would be Barringer not playing this year because of a coach s decision.
Not to worry. English promises that everyone will play in Michigan s new-look defense. And, yes, that definitely includes Barringer, who has appeared in 31 career games and has made 14 starts at safety.
Barringer doesn t worry about his playing time. To him, it s more important to be a team leader and set a good example for his teammates.
The seniors are the leaders of this team, Barringer said. It s up to the seniors where this team is going to go.
Barringer and the Wolverines are going places in 2006. Time will tell just how far.