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Posted on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan's Will Campbell has been praised before, but Brady Hoke explains why this year is different

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan defensive tackle Will Campbell has yet to live up to expectations, but likely will be counted on to start this year. Can the senior salvage his career?

File photo

Will Campbell has been called a lot of things since he first strapped on a winged helmet: Underachieving. Fat. Lazy. Confused.


Campbell has yet to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed upon him coming out of Detroit Cass Tech, where he developed into a five-star recruit who was among the most sought-after players in the country.

Now a senior defensive tackle for the Michigan football team, Campbell's numbers remain pedestrian: one career start, 19 career tackles, two career sacks.

But he's already being penciled into the starting lineup for this season, and the descriptors that for so long defined him have flipped 180 degrees with less than a week before the start of fall camp.

Why is this year different than last year, when he received similar praise? It starts with his weight.

Will Campbell: 'Model'
Campbell began his Michigan career a robust 356 pounds -- and his foot speed and agility reflected it. He's since acknowledged to being "lazy" and "overweight."

But he's slimming down.


Join Michigan beat writers Kyle Meinke and Nick Baumgardner on Thursday for a pre-fall camp live chat. Come with questions about preseason camp, season expectations, and any other burning Michigan football topic. The chat will begin at noon.
Campbell played last season at 322 pounds, then reported to this year's spring camp at 315. This summer, he's trimmed out to a tidy 308 pounds.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke says he would like to see Campbell play next season at about 312 to 314 pounds, which means he actually has to gain weight -- a true testament to how far he's come this offseason.

"I think he started losing all that weight and he thinks he looks handsome or something -- thinks he’s going to model," Hoke said last week.

Will Campbell: 'Gazelle'
As the pounds rolled off, Campbell's athleticism picked up.

Campbell has been sharply criticized for his footwork and technique -- specifically, for standing up too straight -- but his weight loss has helped to correct some of those issues.

Especially the footwork.


Will Campbell has recorded 19 tackles in his career. He will be expected to provide more production this year as a starter at defensive tackle.

Melanie Maxwell |

"He’s unreal," junior left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "He's just unbelievable. Coming in at a sloppy 350, and now he’s just a toned-down 308 kind of guy.

"His conditioning shows it. You should seem him run -- it’s like a gazelle. Unreal."

Hoke said the conditioning also has bolstered Campbell's endurance, an important step for a player who is going from role player to full-time starter for the first time in his career -- and whose backup will lack experience, not matter who wins that job.

Can he hold up taking sustained snaps for the first time since high school? This is an important step.

Will Campbell: 'Point guard'
The juxtaposition between a guy such as Campbell -- a highly touted recruit with few results -- and safety Jordan Kovacs -- a former walk-on who became a four-year starter -- could not be more stark.

But Kovacs says Campbell understood this offseason he has only one more run at it, and then his career is over. He embraced that pressure during rigorous offseason workouts.

"He lost too much weight," Kovacs said. "I think he thinks he’s a point guard now."

Not bad for a guy who used to look more like a bowler than anything else. And while Kovacs meant it in terms of Campbell's physique, it might as well have applied to his attitude as well.

Hoke said Campbell is among the players who has visited his office the most this offseason. Kovacs said he's turned into a weight room warrior, and that he's even taken to shepherding the young guys to help them avoid the arduous path he created for himself.

He's hosted film sessions with the defensive linemen, and organized workouts.

In the end, that leadership appears to be the biggest difference in Campbell.

The lineman was praised at last year's Big Ten media days, too, for getting his weight in order, for turning a corner in the offseason -- but when the season rolled around, he remained a reserve player who rarely had an impact on Saturdays.

When asked why this year is different, Kovacs said "he’s been our most vocal leader in practices and the weight room, and I think that’s been a pleasant surprise. I think he’s really bought into the program."

Hoke cited a lot of reasons for why Campbell has failed to live up to his billing, notably his move from defense to offense, then back to defense, and a revolving door of position coaches and coordinators.

Summed up in word, though, Hoke says it comes down to maturity -- and Campbell is finding it.

Why is this year different?

"Sometimes when you have someone playing in front of ya who’s pretty good, you don’t see where you're going to have an opportunity," Hoke said, referring to Campbell playing behind All-Big Ten tackle Mike Martin.

"Well, that opportunity is how many days away now -- 35?"

Thirty-two, and Michigan's fortunes that day against Alabama will be in part a function of whether Campbell is ready to finally anchor the Wolverines defensive line.

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



Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 1:58 a.m.

What else can say about him but something positive, I mean he is running out of time.....he may look great, but he still has to play......


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

Spartan stadium.. there is gonna be a lot of tears, in Mich alum beers.. when Alabama, puts them, in the trash can.. Alabama 42- Mich 17.........


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

Eh Rocky, I guess you know how it feels to be stomped like a baby by Alabama. I can tell by your tears that Alabama put a whipping on you that you won't soon forget. That game just proved Mich. State will never be in the same league with the big boys which Mich. will be returning to shortly. You, Mich. State will never catch up because you are Mich. State. Michigan can always catch up and play and beat the Big boys because they are Mich. and can draw the greatest recruits in the country. Mich. State cannot. Law of averages, Mich. will be back to slapping, "Little Brother" around soon enough. Rocky enjoy your little win streak, you deserve but remember you got it beating one of the worst teams for 3 years in Mich. history. Last year the comeback began and it's going to return to prominence within 2 years. I say to you Rocky, enjoy but you will soon be back in your rightful place in the BTN, in the middle of the pack.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

Another strikeout Rocky, always your specialty.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

Spartan Stadium,,, This guy dont cut it..... Michigan, has no depth in either line... they dont play 8 games at home this year.. last year they were 3-2 on the road... Michigan just is not good enough.. State only lost 2 good defensive players... State has tons of depth... Robinson cant throw,, Green, is gonna bring the Heat.. let him try to throw his wobblly ducks!! There is a new KING KONG!! in town!! His name is Anthoney Rashad White!!!


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

WIlliam Golston, is 5 star now.. this guy is a baby, chump.. 19 tackles in 3 years.. none behind of scrimmage.. good luck.. is this all ya got?? no redshirts... nebraska is gonna take baby blue down.. Go Huskers!!!!!!!

spartan stadium

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

Will Campbell can only wish he was as good as Will Gholston...

spartan stadium

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

He'll do what he did his first 3 year against MSU and OSU, NOTHING. 19 tackles in 3 years for a 5 star recruit, now this year he's just gonna turn it on? NOPE


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

You are still 4 in the last ten, soon to be 4 in the last eleven and next year 4 in the last twelve. You deserve credit for a 4 win streak, but that does not change the history of the matchup.

spartan stadium

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.

little bro is laying the wood down on big bro, i still thank mike fart for saying that, 4 in a row and counting.....


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

keep dreaming lil bro.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

He was in great shape that night he got drunk and tried to tackle a car. About the only thing he has hit in aa over 4 years. Now he has lost too much weight? Poor Will.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

receder: lol...Haven't you used this line at least ten times now? If so, how about finding yourself a new writer?


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Dr. Seuss taught us that it doesn't matter how many 'stars you have upon thars'. We need Mr. Campbell to have a breakout season, here's hoping all that off-season work pays off. Hail!


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

He is the most important person on the team this year IMO. Given the awful lack of depth and experience on the middle of our defensive line, if Will is poor, our defense will be poor. If he can play at the level of a good B1G player, our defense has a chance to be great.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

@7718 Mattison was busy teaching the starters the defense and had no time to give playing time to younger players. That is an option this season, not last season. There are only so many snaps in a season. When you are able to take the 108th defense to the 17th defense (6th against scoring) in a single season, then you can correct the decisions that Mattison made last year.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 12:35 a.m.

Mattison should have given some playing time last year to the younger guys to give them experience. He chose not to, so he'll have to deal with the choice he made. Hoke and Mattison are considered the best coaches in the nation by many who visit this site, if it's true then there should be absolutely no problems on defense.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

Great work, Will ! We are rooting for you !


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

He needs proper pad level.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

We all know what you are not writing Kyle. Any player that can indent a car has to bode well for Brady's defensive line!! Just imagine what he'll do to Spartans, Tide, and Bucknuts. That's gotta get Brady Hoke excited. (That, and he'll slip some good stuff in Big Will's gatorade)!!! :)


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

Watching Campbell last year, his biggest problem seemed to be leverage and getting down low enough. Now that he's slimmed down he doesn't look like the prototypical immovable DT. Gazelle's don't play DT. Most all great DT's are short and stout. Waren Sapp. Mike Martin., Jerel Worthy (who killed us last year) -all 6-2 or shorter. At 6'5 Campbell is just too tall. It's pure physics- suomo wrestling. Take two guys the same weight and strength, the shorter guy wins every time. Glad to see we have shorter guys like Henry and Pipkins coming in next year. Hope they've stopped growing (up). Godin at 6'6 is already way too tall to play DT in the BIG10.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

You presume the two guy have the same quality of technique. Technique is the key, if BWC can demonstrate exceptional technique he can over come the issues related to his height. Gazelles don't stand 6'5 and weight 310 lbs either. Speed, stamina, and technique are Campbell's keys.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

I am really interested to see how big will turns out under Mattison and Hoke, especially since Hoke spent a lot of his career as a defensive line coach. I suspect if they can't flip the switch with him that no one can.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

Tear it up Big Will!


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Those who stay will be champions. That line was written for Will. Go big man.