Like his mentor LaMarr Woodley, Michigan football recruit Ondre Pipkins could play right away
The Michigan football team graduates three of its four starting defensive linemen, which means a lot could be put on the young shoulders of incoming freshman Ondre Pipkins.
Some already are penciling the defensive tackle into the lineup, with starters Mike Martin and Will Heininger departing. He's hearing the same thing.
Including from his future boss, Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
"Talked to Coach Mattison today, he said I could come in and start right away," Pipkins said in an interview last week. "He said I'm going to play right away. I’m hearing that a lot."
The only returning starter on the defensive line is weak-side end Craig Roh. The top candidates to play tackle will be the inconsistent Will Campbell and inexperienced Quinton Washington. Coaches are high on both, but neither has yet proven he can be a full-time starter.
Coaches can't comment on recruits until they sign letters of intent, but it's clear Pipkins will challenge Campbell and Washington for snaps. At 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, he's considered one of the most college-ready recruits in Michigan's 2012 recruiting class, and he plays a position that has been decimated by turnover.
It seems Pipkins will get a crack at matching his mentor, former Michigan great LaMarr Woodley, who played each game his freshman season and started two. He was named to the Big Ten's all-freshman team and went on to become one of the school's all-time best defensive lineman.
Pipkins preps in Kansas City, but, like Woodley, originally hails from Saginaw. His father, Al Pipkins, coached Woodley and former Michigan linebacker Roy Manning at Saginaw High.
"They’re like family to me," Pipkins said.
Woodley, whom Pipkins first met when he was 3, went on become an All-American at Michigan and is an all-pro defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pipkins hopes to have a similar career arc, but adds, with characteristic bravado, that he also won't settle for simply being as good as the second-leading tackler in team history.
"My goal is to be better," Pipkins said. "That’s what I’m aiming for."
Pipkins remains close to Woodley and Manning, who was an offensive graduate assistant coach for the Wolverines this season. They offered him guidance during the recruiting process.
"I can call (Woodley) and ask him questions on anything," Pipkins said. "He’s just an awesome guy, and I’m glad to have him in my circle.
"Same thing with Roy Manning. I can call him any hours of the night. If I have a problem, I can call him and we just talk for hours. He’s there for me."
It's no surprise, then, that Pipkins grew up a Michigan fan. Factor in his connections to the school and state (his father still lives in Saginaw), and it's little wonder the Wolverines were able to snag the burgeoning recruit, despite an impressive offer sheet that included schools such as Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
It's a good break for Michigan, as Pipkins is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the country. Ranked by Scout as the No. 188 overall recruit in April, Pipkins shot up to No. 65 in the latest player rankings released last week.
He was one of six players to earn a fifth star in Rivals' final player rankings, which were released Monday.
Pipkins is pegged as the No. 7 defensive tackle in the country, and was named a captain of the West team for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl earlier this month.
Pipkins showed off his personality in this video with GoBlueWolverine.com's Sam Webb at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.