The Ballad of Will Campbell

William Campbell was welcomed into the class of 2009 with wide open arms. The 5-star high school defensive lineman from Detroit's Cass Tech was a huge pick-up for Rodriguez, and was widely expected to make a splash immediately on the D-line depth chart. He was a 3-year starter in HS, was the teams kicker and punter, ran a 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds, and registered 15 reps of 315 pounds, and stood 6'5", 315 high school.

At Michigan, he played immediately. Before the season he slimmed down from well over 315 pounds to near 300. Played all 12 games in 2009 on the FG/PAT unit. Played defensive tackle in 9 games, but only registered 4 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.

Clearly, either Campbell was just a freshman experiencing some growing pains getting accustomed to the college game, or something didn't connect. Some would suggest that losing a lot of weight and getting smaller actually hurt Campbell, who was the kind of player who used his overwhelming weight to his advantage. A guy like him coming into college with all the hype he had should have experienced more success.

Fast forward to fall camp 2010. Campbell is singled out for showing up to camp overweight and not prepared. For whatever reason, he did not put in the effort during the off-season to stay in shape. He easily tipped the scales at over 330 pounds.

So far in 2010, he's played in all 7 games so far on the FG/PAT unit, and sparingly as a 3rd/4th string DT. He's accounted for only 1 tackle and 1 pass breakup so far this year. Obviously, something needed to be done. So Campbell, not happy with just floundering away at the DT position, saw an opportunity to contribute...on the offensive line.

And Rodriguez agreed. Michigan's lack of depth on the defense line spurred this agreement. Red-shirt freshman OL Quinton Washington was moved to the defensive line during the off-week last week, and was essentially traded for Will Campbell. According to Campbell's teammates, the move seemed like a natural fit. [ story]
Rodriguez made the switches during off-week practices. Although he cautioned they’re not yet permanent, he anticipated the two players would stick with the changes for the foreseeable future.
At 6-foot-5, 333 pounds, Campbell immediately became the team’s biggest offensive lineman.

“He actually approached us about trying it over there,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a pretty smart football player. His head will be spinning for a while, but I think he’ll be a natural at guard.”

Stephen Schilling, the Wolverines’ most experienced guard and an Outland Trophy candidate, is excited about welcoming Campbell to the position.

“I always thought he liked to finish us in practice instead of making tackles,” Schilling said. “It was exciting to see him play. He could be a really good offensive lineman.”

Craig Roh had a similar instinct about Washington, a 6-4, 315-pound redshirt freshman.

“I thought that Quinton should be playing defense about a month ago,” Roh said. “He’s got that aggressive manner that’s really good for defense. To a certain extent, he’s learning from scratch, and it’s going to take him a while to really become comfortable there.”

It's going to take time for a move like this to pay off, but it sounds like Campbell could be much more valuable on the offensive side of the ball. And when Schilling leaves after this season, we're going to need some depth at guard.

It's safe to say that Will Campbell is a special player, but has just had a tough time finding his way so far at Michigan. I can tell you from seeing this guy on the field up close, he's a very large and intimidating player, and this was just passing him by after a game...I can't imagine what a guy like this can be like if he's focusing his 330+ pounds directly at you. We'll be watching closely to see what's next for Campbell, but I think that once it all clicks for him, it won't be hard to notice.

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