Ondre Pipkins' injury injects further uncertainty into uncertain Michigan defensive line
Michigan freshman Ondre Pipkins suffered a neck injury Friday morning during practice, which first prompts concerns for his health as a human being. Depth charts can wait.
Breathe easy: Pipkins was out of the hospital in time to stroll around practice Friday afternoon, and did so without a neck brace. All promising signs.
It seems the 18-year-old has dodged some of the most serious concerns related to such injuries.
With that said, there's this: Pipkins is expected to play some this season for the Wolverines, so let's pause for a moment to talk a bit of football.
Pipkins plays on Michigan's defensive line, a position that has been decimated by turnover. It lost strong-side end Ryan Van Bergen, as well as tackles Mike Martin and Will Heininger.
This year's projected lineup features four players who combine for one career start at their current positions.
Michigan capably addressed Van Bergen's exit by sliding weak-side end Craig Roh to the strong side. The senior is a fourth-year starter, which allays concerns about his move.
Inside, though, Michigan is replacing Martin -- an All-Big Ten performer and third-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans -- and Heininger with the underwhelming Will Campbell and underweight Jibreel Black.
Black has yet to play a down at tackle. Campbell has yet to play his downs consistently.
That's where Pipkins is expected to step in.
Campbell, a senior, is an unproven commodity who reportedly has turned a corner this offseason. Even if he hadn't, though, he might still have been forced into action because Michigan has no other real options at tackle.
Coaches have said nice things about reserves Richard Ash and Quintion Washington, but fact is, those players have about as much game experience as Pipkins.
And Pipkins -- all 6-foot-3, 340 pounds of him -- comes loaded with potential, as Michigan's most highly rated recruit in a 2012 class loaded with highly rated recruits.
Early returns, according to Roh and Campbell and others, indicate Pipkins is a force.
It seems, worst-case scenario, he is destined to play a reserve role behind Campbell.
Again, there has been no word on whether Pipkins' injury will affect him one day, one year or anywhere in between. Coach Brady Hoke won't address the media until Tuesday, and it's likely little will be known before then.
But Pipkins' situation injects further uncertainty into a position brimming with it.
Already this fall camp, another freshman defensive lineman -- end Chris Wormley -- tore his ACL and is out for the season. Another end, sophomore Frank Clark, was suspended following an offseason arrest for second-degree home invasion and his status for the Alabama game is unknown.
He, like Pipkins, was expected to make the two-deep roster.
At tackle, there's no question Michigan could use a healthy Pipkins against Alabama, which features what Hoke has called one of the best offensive lines he's ever seen.
It remains to be seen what happens with Pipkins. He may play, he may not. But that's part of the problem.
Camp was supposed to answer questions.
Halfway through, there's more than ever.