The Wolverine

May 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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W BY MICHAEL SPATH 322 pounds he is the second-heaviest player on the team — Campbell has grown up this spring, emerging as an important leader for the Maize and Blue while potentially becoming the player he was, seemingly, projected to be when he earned a five-star recruit- ing ranking from in 2009. descended the slope of the Michigan Stadium tunnel, finding company with many of his classmates while U-M prepared to take the field for its April 14 spring game. But then, he felt a push. A clamor from his teammates to lead them onto the turf, in front of 25,000 maize-and-blue-clad fans. Though always a giant — at 6-5, ill Campbell heard the call of his coaches for the seniors to move toward the front of the pack. He proved play is critical to the vitality of the line, and the defense overall. "We need him to be a football player," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "We need him to not just knock people around, but tackle the football. Will and I have had talked long and hard about that — that the ball is the issue, not how many lumps you can put on that guard or center. Will is getting it, and he's a key, a big key, because you're only strong as you are down the middle." Campbell still has much to prove, Michigan's Coaches Are Confident In The Front Four's Potential Following Spring Practice fensive end Craig Roh said. "He is always ready to work, always ready to motivate the guys. I think this sea- son is one that he can really come out and be the guy for us. "I see the way he works, and see- "His attitude is great," senior de- ing the kind of player he wants to be, it gets me excited he can do what people always expected of him." Campbell has never started a game for the Wolverines and, until his ju- nior campaign, he was an enigma, a promising talent with outstanding physical ability that lacked the men- tal discipline to become the factor he potentially could be. A top backup last fall, he began turning the cor- ner, and has raised his game to an even higher level this spring. His im- Senior defensive tackle Will Campbell will be counted on to make a major impact up front this season, and he appears ready to take on a leadership role. CONVINCING ARGUMENT so it was perhaps fitting that his posi- tion group had substantial question marks heading into the spring. The Wolverines embarked on their four weeks of practice needing to fill three holes with the departures of defen- sive line starters Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger. ball player at strongside end, because he plays with such a high motor and he's so prideful about his technique. And now when he gets stronger, I think we'll have a good five-tech- nique. "Jibreel Black, the key to him is how strong he gets this summer. He did some good things this spring, and at times he showed why you can't play at 270 pounds in there if you don't have great technique. "And the combination of Brennen Beyer and [classmate] Frank Clark gives us a lot more athleticism on the edge. So all three of those things, in that switch, have been very beneficial for us." Campbell and Roh led the entire defensive line this spring in posi- tional drills, focusing far more on technique than just running and lift- ing weights, in an effort to boost the impact of the front four even greater. As a result, the defensive line may just turn out to be one of the Wolver- ines' biggest strengths. "There is a lot of pressure on them and they hear a lot of people talk- ing about them," redshirt junior free safety Thomas Gordon said. "They are hungry and ready to prove themselves." junior Jibreel Black and sophomore Brennen Beyer to change positions in an attempt to shore up Michigan's glaring weaknesses. All three agreed, with Roh moving from the weakside end, where he started 13 games in 2011, to strongside end; Black giving up his apprenticeship under Roh at weakside to play inside, at the three- technique tackle post; and Beyer put- ting his hand on the ground as a rush end after spending his rookie cam- paign as a second-string strongside linebacker. Those three players made signifi- In January, Mattison asked Roh, PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN cant gains during spring ball, pro- viding glimpses of the starting front four's capabilities this fall. "I feel very comfortable with the moves. Very comfortable," Mattison said. "That might have been one of the bright spots of the spring. "Craig Roh showed to me that he has a chance to be a pretty good foot- perplexing conundrum last season at the linebacker position. The coaches wanted to give Mike linebacker Kenny Demens and Sam linebacker Jake Ryan rest, but they didn't feel their backups were up to par — the drop-off from starter to reserve so significant they were hesitant to ever take those two off the field. That shouldn't be the case this fall THERE WILL BE COMPETITION Michigan's coaching staff faced a thanks to the development of so many linebackers during spring practice. "There is competition at every po- sition, but the linebacker position there will be great competition," Mattison said. Redshirt junior Cam Gordon, who had won the starting strongside line- backer position out of fall camp a year ago before succumbing to injury, had a productive spring and will be a viable alternative to Ryan when the redshirt sophomore needs a breather. "Cam is very physical, and if some- thing doesn't work, he knows why it didn't work and what he has to get better at," Mattison said. "I think he MAY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 29

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