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In this month's issue, GBW did exclusive interviews with each position coach on the defense, and talked about each of the key members of the Wolverine defense.
On the defensive line, no returning player is the source of more questions and no returning player has as much potential for improvement as tackle William Campbell. Campbell himself admitted that his inability meet the lofty expectations placed on him has been the result of not applying himself as much as he should. Getting into the best shape of his life during the offseason is a sign that he is committed to making his mark in the winged helmet before he can no longer wear one.
"He is working harder than he's ever worked," defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said. "He's putting the time and effort in. He's slim and he looks good. His body fat is down and he still is a big man. He's put forth the effort and he wants to be good. He wants to have a great year and he knows what's expected of him. He made some steps forward in spring ball. Now it's time for him to do it in the fall and put it all together."
The middle of the defense could be bolstered, not just by Campbell's emergence, but with the addition of true freshman Ondre Pipkins, a touted recruit who may be the most likely member of the 2011 class to see immediate time.
"He has a great opportunity to come in and compete for a job," said Montgomery regarding the youngster affectionately known as Pee-Wee. "Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison will be the first ones to tell you that the best player is going to play. We'll find out this fall. If he's good enough to be in the two-deep, he's going to play. He has all the ability in the world. Big guys that are athletic like that are hard to find. If you go back and watch that All-American game he was chasing down athletic quarterbacks; he was making hits on the sideline; he was playing with that effort. Plus he's a great kid. He has great character. I should have said that first. He's just a great kid. He's done everything we've asked him to do as far as academics… just everything… so I'm excited about that more than anything."
If Pipkins can do what Blake Countess did as a true freshman, then the Wolverines should be just fine up front. Countess worked his way into the lineup, won a starting job at cornerback, and never looked back. Now in year two, he just needs to build upon that season and avoid a sophomore slump.
"Blake has shown where, he really is starting to improve and mature," defensive backs coach Curt Mallory said. "He came in the most ready of the freshmen and then got out there against Michigan State and ran with them. Even earlier, he showed signs against San Diego State of being a great player. Unfortunately, didn't have a great game against Ohio State, but you have to have a short term memory back there. He plays with confidence, and he's playing bigger and stronger than he was in the fall, taking on blocks, tackling and being more physical. Those were things he needed to improve on in the offseason and he showed signs of doing that in the spring. We're real pleased with the way he's come along his freshman year."
For entire position previews, a story on impact defensive freshmen, non conference opponent previews, and more, check out this month's issue of GoBlueWolverine The Magazine.