Skip to content

2012 Michigan Preview – Defensive Line

August 30, 2012

Defensive Line

Starters: Defensive End – Craig Roh (Sr.); Defensive Tackle – Will Campbell (Sr.); Defensive Tackle – Quinton Washington (Sr.); Defensive End – Jibreel Black (Jr.)

In the Rotation: Defensive Ends – Frank Clark (So.); Brennen Beyer (So.); Mario Ojemudia (Fr.); Nathan Brink (Sr.); Defensive Tackles – Ondre Pipkins (Fr.); Richard Ash (Jr.) 

With the departure of Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen, Michigan has some literal and figurative big holes to fill on the defensive line. While the potential appears to be there, this unit is still a big question mark in a lot of areas.  Perhaps the biggest question mark still not completely answered is who will play where.  It was widely assumed that Big Will Campbell would step into the role of the 1 technique nose tackle and replace Mike Martin, but this week’s depth chart has Campbell playing the 3 technique (Van Bergen’s old position) with Quinton Washington stepping in as the nose tackle.  This forces Jibreel Black, the expected starter at the 3 technique, outside to the rush end position.  While this alignment may last, it appears to be designed to compete with Alabama’s giant offensive line – as Michigan tries to match it with their own gigantic defensive line, who with the inclusion of Craig Roh average 292 pounds across the board.  We’ll see if this lineup sticks, but it does create an interesting opportunity for Will Campbell, much maligned for his inability to consistently stay “low” – a must for any nose tackle, gets freed up to roam and make plays at the other defensive tackle spot.  Campbell has all the physical gifts in the world – he just needs to play consistently to be an All Big – Ten Caliber player.

Moving on to the rest of the defensive line – the most experienced player returning is 3 year starter Craig Roh.  Roh has added the necessary weight to play with his hand down and should be a playmaker at defensive end.   He’ll be looked to as the leader of the line for sure and will be counted on to coach up some of the young guys.

Opposite Roh at the other defensive end will be a variety of players, likely depending on the opponent.  When Michigan wants to go “big”, Jibreel Black a junior who has consistently added weight the last couple of years will be the starter. Black has a motor and good instincts, but needs to be more consistent.  The expected starter at defensive end before this lineup change was Brennen Beyer, a sophomore who had a stellar freshman season and spring.  Beyer will be on the field plenty this fall, just maybe not in Dallas.  The other threat to Beyer’s playing time is sophomore Frank Clark.  Clark came on late last year, and had a big game in the Sugar Bowl.  His offseason arrest though has put his season, and certainly his first couple of games in jeopardy.  My guess is that he’ll be back this year at somepoint, but with Beyer and now Black ahead of him, who knows how much he’ll play.  It is important to note that Clark is currently listed 2nd on the depth chart, so perhaps the coaches still have big plans for him.  The other defensive end who may be too talented to keep off of the field is Mario Ojemudia.  The true freshman is just a playmaker apparently, and will certainly see some reps.

Moving back inside – with Washington at the nose tackle, it appears that 5 star recruit Ondre Pipkins isn’t quite ready to make an impact yet.  He’s still listed behind junior Richard Ash on the depth chart.  Michigan has 4 big bodies to rotate among the two tackle spots – and that’s not including Jibreel Black who can move inside to the 3 technique, or former walk-on Nathan Brink who is trying to come back from a broken leg to contribute both at end and tackle.

Unlike the offensive line, there are plenty of options here.  Michigan just has to find the right combination and have the right players step up.


The biggest strength of this defensive line is its versatility.  With guys like Campbell, Black, and Brink able to play multiple positions, Michigan can shift around its alignment depending on the opponent.  Unlike the offensive line, which has a pretty well established starting five but no depth, the defensive line has 10 players who could all see significant playing time at some point.  The player to watch out for is Will Campbell. As Campbell goes, so will this defensive line.  If Big Will can finally make the leap and become the disruptive force forecast by his 5 star rating four years ago, this defense has a chance to be special.


As mentioned, despite the depth, there is no breakout star on this defensive line.  Will Campbell may be the answer, or maybe Beyer or Roh have big years.  Unlike last year, when Martin and Van Bergen were clearly the leaders, this line will need to find its identity.  With 10 guys mixing in however, the “star” may have to be the depth and interchangability (I may have made that word up) of the players.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: