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Posted on Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.

Michigan defensive tackle Will Campbell receives more praise for his improving play, growing role

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan junior defensive lineman Will Campbell high fives fans in the Michigan Stadium tunnel

Melanie Maxwell |

After a play that seemed three years in the making, Will Campbell laid on the ground for an extra beat, savoring the moment.

Oh, and there was a quarterback flattened beneath him.

The junior defensive tackle who has struggled with weight, conditioning and expectations for much of his career had, in one play, provided a snapshot of what that ponderous body can do.

Campbell bull-rushed Minnesota center Ryan Winn, thrusting him flat on his back, and then rumbled toward quarterback Max Shortell.

He got to Shortell as he was delivering the ball, picked him up and drove him straight into the ground with that 6-foot-5, 322-pound frame -- Campbell's latest and most definitive step in his emergence as a reliable option for Michigan's defensive line.

It was a punishing blow in a 58-0 blowout that improved the 12th-ranked Michigan football team's record to 5-0.

"If (Campbell) keeps coming along like that, it's going to be scary, because he just tossed that kid, and that quarterback did not want to get up," senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said. "(Shortell) sat there for a good while -- and I wouldn't get up, either. He's 330 pounds. That's dangerous."

Campbell has been the Wolverines' most enigmatic player since the day he stepped foot onto campus as a five-star recruit. He failed to deliver on that billing his first two years in Ann Arbor, as he battled to even see the field.

He recorded five tackles in that span, and was relegated mostly to special teams.

This year, though, Campbell is starting to find a consistency that has expanded his role and playing time up front. He now is a mainstay in the rotation, with most of his snaps coming at the three-tech spot.

He now has four tackles, one off that career total entering the season. He also has recovered a fumble.

"He's been making progress," Van Bergen said. "We've been waiting for him to kind of have his coming out party, because he has put together practices where he's just played really well — and he's slowly starting to come out on Saturdays and put some production down.

"That's one of the plays we've seen him make time and time again in practice. We're just waiting for it to transfer."

Campbell is not the star he was expected to be, but he also no longer is the bust some feared he would become. He has provided productive stints while subbing for Van Bergen and nose tackle Mike Martin.

"The more reps he gets, the production I think you'll see from him," Van Bergen said.

Penalties not an issue
Of all the improvements the Wolverines have made in the past year, one that has received less attention is their drop in penalties.

But it's been significant.

Michigan currently is averaging 30.6 penalty yards per game, which is eighth nationally. If the Wolverines maintain that pace, it would mark their least-penalized season since at least 1996.

Lewan_Taylor_2010J (811).JPG

Taylor Lewan

The biggest turnaround has come from left tackle Taylor Lewan, who averaged a penalty per game during last year's regular season, committed three personal fouls and was benched multiple times for losing his composure.

This year, the promising redshirt sophomore has no penalties through five games.

“I don’t know what he did in the past, but I think we understand that we have to play the game with fundamentals, technique and discpline, and have great poise and composure to how you play,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

What's up with Roundtree?
Roy Roundtree, who led Michigan in receiving last year, has only two catches in three games and five for the year. Is there something wrong with him?

“Nothing," Hoke said. "Just the way games have played out.”

Johnson not moving up depth chart
Sophomore safety Carvin Johnson, buried on the depth chart this year, has seen more snaps during blowouts the past two weeks.

Hoke said that does not mean he's closer to cracking the regular rotation.

“I don’t think I can say that yet," he said. "I can say he’s improving. I think the competition there is always pretty good. There’s signs that he’s doing things maybe more complete.”

One play Hoke singled out was an overthrow that Johnson tried to intercept -- but instead of jumping for the ball at its highest point, he tried to catch it on the run. An offensive player was able to knock it away.

"We talked about it on the field," Hoke said. "Play it at its highest point. I think he realizes that.”


Brady Hoke doesn't eat before games -- including night games -- but joked that he clearly doesn't miss many other meals.

Angela J. Cesere |

Hoke's eating habits
Reports over the weekend suggested Hoke doesn't eat before games. He was grilled about the issue during his weekly roundtable session with reporters.

Question: You don’t eat on game days?
Answer: “No.”
Question: All day?
Answer: "Obviously, I eat. Let's all be settled on that. But, no.”
Question: You don’t get light-headed on the sideline?
Answer: “I’m usually light-headed."

Odds and ends

  • Hoke was please with the way sophomore Michael Schofield played against Minnesota for injured starting left tackle Ricky Barnum (ankle). "He did pretty good — he hung in there pretty well," Hoke said. Barnum is day-to-day.
  • Hoke said punter Will Hagerup was "OK" in his return to the lineup. The sophomore was suspended the first four games of the season due to a violation of team rules. He returned against the Gophers, but punted only twice -- a line-drive 47-yarder and a short 28-yarder. The stiff wind was a factor, Hoke said.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

i'm glad they have been running Rich Rodriguez's offense the last 2 games, it has been working beautifully...


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Have you even been watching the games? Seriously? They've been running the spread since game one. I swear folks, you actually have to WATCH the games in order to make credible commentary.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

does campbell get a extra year because he did not play first two?


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

congrats BIGWILL. . . i new once you got your weight down and got yourself into better shape that things would start happening for you! you have the potential to be one of the great ones! looking forward to seeing your play improving every week. . . GO BLUE!!!


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

"It must be very frustrating for Rich Rodriguez to see the new coaching staff reaping the benefits of his 3 years of hard work in building the program to the point that it could be successful." If by "building the program" you mean: * he took a team that averaged 9-10 wins per year since 1969 and turned it into a team that averaged 5 wins per year * he took a team that averaged a 6-2 record or better in the B1G for decades and turned it into a team that averaged 2 wins per year in the B1G * he took a team that typically had an average national rating for the D of # 10 or better and turned it into a # 110 defense * he took a team that had a winning record against OSU, MSU, PSU, Iowa, & Wiscy, and turned it into a team that was 1-13 against these teams * he took a team that usually had solid special teams and turned it into a team that was a joke on special teams * he took a team known for it's toughness and sound fundamentals and turned it into a team that folded up like a cheap suit every year If that's what you meant by "building the program" then you are spot on.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

TBone, I thought you were being serious when you made your comment ... if you were being sarcastic, then I misread what you were saying. heartbreakM, you're right, what is most "impressive" is that it didn't really take RR very long to "accomplish" so much.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

Mission: We should be "impressed" with the former coach. He accomplished a lot in such a short time. It usually takes years!!! for coaches to accomplish all that. :)


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

You caught my meaning exactly, but I don't think it's what RichRod meant when he said, &quot;we went through three years of the tough stuff with a young team and teaching them our way and getting ready to enjoy it the next couple of years, with the whole team coming back this year and Denard Robinson having two more years, and we don't get to enjoy it. It's almost like you got to bake the cookies, but you didn't get to eat them. And that was the most frustrating part, like, 'Golly, we went through three years of stuff just to get it to this point, and we don't get to see the finished product'. From The Detroit News: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>'s-not-still-coaching-Denard-Robinson-at-U-M#ixzz1ZpyoF6Oc What a maroon.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

Regarding Will Campbell; Success breed success. Will can improve on his own momentum. Any athelete in any sport will succeed on confidence. Will always had the skills. Yes, coaching has a lot to do with it and Will is benefiting from the new regime. Still in his Juniou year, let's hope to see much more from Big Will Campbell. This coaching staff is greatly impacting each and every player on the roster in a very positive way. Add up the sum of it's parts and you get a 5-0 Michigan team with a lot more potential. The next two weeks will tell us a lot. GO BLUE!!!


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

It must be very frustrating for Rich Rodriguez to see the new coaching staff reaping the benefits of his 3 years of hard work in building the program to the point that it could be successful.

Michael Woody

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 4 p.m.

If RR, or his d-coordinator, could have coached a defensive scheme he would likely still be there. The fact is the defense was worse each successive year under his coaching stint. Hoke and staff are doing what RR could never do - organize a defensive game plan and execute it. Brady Hoke is leading this team back to greatness - they are not great yet but we are seeing glimpses of what they will be one day.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Sadly, that's the argument he and his supporters make -- &quot;It's my foundation, they just stepped into it.&quot; That reasoning is suitable for the borderline delusional, but anyone with a foot in reality knows that RR this year with this team would be the same as last year -- all Robinson, no defense, no special teams, and poised to lose the next 7.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

Tbone come on!!! It has to be frustrating for RR to see what this team is capable of with good coaching. He has to be sitting at the CBS college studios thinking &quot;man I wish I would have thought of Defense as being important&quot;! RR destroyed the Michigan program and it has taken a lot of coaching to build these players back up to a respectable level. The good thing is the coaching wont stop at the fifth win, it will continue on until the end of the season. Mich. under RR would be 3-2 right now and have the 100th ranked scoring Defense in the nation not the 2nd best! Wait I get it, you are being facetious! Good humor, I like your style!


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

The focus and intensity is something that I have not seen since 97' (not comparing the teams talent just intensity). It is like the only thing that really matters is the task at hand and if these guys are not going 110% with everything they have it is not good enough. I do not expect this team to take any games off because they are not good enough too and they know it! The mental mistakes are dropping off very quickly which is great. I think the Northwestern game is going to be a statement game for Michigan. There is 1 team I would not want to be right now, Northwestern. Their D is not good and they will have trouble scoring if Persa is not 100% (which he is not). Also, michigan will have a big chip on their shoulder from all the people saying they are overrated and have not played anyone and its no different than last year! At this point I do not believe this team can go undefeated, I think that they are going to struggle against Iowa and Illinois if they do not continue to improve, but if they continue to improve like they have over the last 5 weeks then I do think they can beat every team on their schedule and most likely play Wisc in Indy (which is a whole different can of worms because they are at a whole different level compared to any other big ten team right now). Go Blue Prediction: Sam &quot;Ace&quot; Rothstein is obviously not making these spreads or overunders. Take Michigan at 6 this weekend, the home field advantage wont be worth 3 points!!!


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 10:38 a.m.

We have grownups in the coaching offices. Oh the things they're going to do to this program over the next few years. And recruits will take notice. Michigan is now the 800 pound gorilla in the midwest that can't be ignored.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 7:01 a.m.

1st Down, you are so right my friend, look at the huge improvement in these uber critical areas. 8th nationally in penalties committed, that is stupendous, not only have we not committed many turnovers but we're plus 7 in that category after being minus 32 the previous 3 years combined. People were hoping we could improve to the top 60/70 Defense, well try #2 in scoring Defense, NUMBER TWO! We tackle way better and swarm to the ball w/multiple players on every play, guys are in the right positions to make plays. I and many others could go on and on giving examples like these, that is why we get angry when people bring up whatshisname and claim he would have led us to 9 victories this year had he been retained, yeah right. This is why people should start buying into this team, it's for real and deserves its ranking, we will improve even more, not regress, believe in what you're seeing, it's not a mirage, it's an oasis, Go Blue!!! One more thing, what a great time to be a Detroit and M Sports Fan, I'm loving it!!!


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

Glad to see Will Campbell maturing into the program. Seems to me that his defensive coaching is much better this year and he is responding much better and improving. And to think he was almost moved to offensive line. I continue to really root for him.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

I wouldn't want to be regarded as &quot;Okay&quot; by this staff. But that's a better grade than I'd have given Hagerup. I'm not convinced he's the best punter on the team. Go Blue!

1st Down

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 12:19 a.m.

Penalties Down? Turnovers Down? Blown assignments Down? Making plays on Defense? Highly ranked recruits finally starting to produce? One word to explain all of that: Coaching


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

Hey Scott, why don't you let it go, your constant defending of the worse coach in M football history, WCIMFH Every time I read one of your comments, you seem to defend him while making snide remarks to a lot of us, what gives?


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 10:01 a.m.

Experience....recruiting.... maybe it's time to let it go????