Michigan DB Zeke Berry: 'I'm going to run with this opportunity'

clayton-sayfieby:Clayton Sayfie04/12/24


LaMar Morgan speaks highly of Zeke Berry

Michigan Wolverines football junior defensive back Zeke Berry has more opportunity now than he ever has as a college football player. There are snaps up for grabs at safety, after senior Rod Moore went down with a leg injury, and nickel, following Mike Sainristil‘s departure to the NFL. Berry — a 5-foot-11, 192-pound Pittsburg, Calif., native — has the chance to make an impact at both positions.

“I’m getting a little bit of reps at each spot right now,” Berry explained. “I don’t really have a preference on where I like to play. I can play at nickel or at safety. I don’t really mind where I play; I just want to be on the field.”

He’s taking advantage of the spot he’s in.

“It’s given me a shot to get on the field a lot more than I have before, with [safety] Keon [Sabb] leaving [for Alabama] and then Rod [getting injured],” Berry said. “But I’m going to run with this opportunity and not let it go to waste.”

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Michigan defensive backs coach LaMar Morgan said this week that he’s a potential Sainristil replacement, and Berry was pleased to hear the comment.

“It felt good finally hearing my name get talked about more,” the Michigan defender said. “I put a lot of work in this offseason and now in this spring, so hearing that from one of the coaches makes me feel a lot better about myself.”

Sainristil, a two-time captain, was one of Michigan’s top leaders on its national championship-winning squad last season. Berry is still trying to find his leadership style, but he’s being more vocal.

“The kind of mindset [required to be a nickel back] is to try to be a leader like Mike was last year,” Berry said. “Try to be a leader on the field, know where everybody’s spot is on the field, know what everybody’s doing. And then you gotta be fast, you gotta have good ball skills and the other things that come with it.”

Added Berry, of what he took away from playing with Sainristil: “Being loud, being a dominant player and being a leader, just like he was for the whole defense. It’s kinda tough to be able to replicate what he did, but I’m trying to follow in the footsteps.

“I try to take some things that he’s done. I want to be a leader, just like how he was, but make it in my style. So, if we had a bad practice or something like that, he’d bring up the whole defense and say, ‘We gotta get it going,’ and things like that. So I just take things and how he did things and try to put my own style on it.”

After playing mostly on special teams last season, Berry has emerged on the defense. He said he’s improved with his formation recognition and the ins and outs of being a defensive back at Michigan.

“I feel like I’m getting a lot better at it now, just seeing the whole big picture of the formations and what guys are lined up in certain spots and be able to target, like, this guy might like this route in this formation or this might happen if the formation is condensed and things like that,” Berry explained. “Over the years, getting with Rod and the older guys helping me out, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”

His new position coach, Morgan, is helping, too. Berry has enjoyed playing for the former Louisiana defensive coordinator.

“I like him,” Berry noted. “He’s been good so far. I like the way he coaches. Whenever we’re out in practice, he’s firm, he’s getting to business. But then out of practice, when we get outside, he’s just a cool guy you can have a conversation with.”

Michigan will hit The Big House field for its annual spring game April 20.

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