Michigan Football: Uncertainty on Defensive Line Spells Trouble Against Alabama

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterAugust 27, 2012

Where will we see Will Campbell line up in Week 1?
Where will we see Will Campbell line up in Week 1?Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Hands up if you saw this one coming: Michigan's defensive line is in for a shakeup already. Most hands are probably still up. That's to be expected; there were position changes all over for the Wolverines coming into this season.

Ah, but did you see this coming? According to Tom Dienhart at the Big Ten Network, Michigan's starting defensive front includes junior Quinton Washington:

Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery told me massive tackle Will Campbell looks dialed in and ready for a big senior season. For a man of his girth, he moves well and can get up the field quickly. But Montgomery said Campbell still can be dogged by inconsistency but seems primed for a big senior season.


Depth at end doesn’t look great. I asked Montgomery who would be his starting line if they had a game today, and he said it would be Roh, Campbell, Black and Quinton Washington.

If you don't know who Washington is, that's to be expected. He's a converted offensive lineman who saw minimal action in 2010 and 2011, racking up all of three tackles over those two years. He was effectively a nonentity even over the spring, and he didn't exactly get a lot of publicity as a potential starter over the spring and fall.

And just to make matters more interesting, according to Brian Cook's practice report at mgoblog, Washington's taking over Campbell's position:

This is tentative, but the first DL set they ran out there was Roh-Washington-Campbell-Black. (IE: Washington at the nose, Campbell at the three-tech.) Beyer also showed up at WDE; Brink was the backup SDE.)

Now, look. For as much as Montgomery can praise Will Campbell, if Campbell can't even hang onto his spot at the one-technique, it says he's still not developing nearly well enough as a player (just as we feared).

And if Campbell can't beat out Washington for the nose tackle position, how can he be expected to be a leader on the defensive front for the Wolverines?

Make no mistake: Shuffling along either the offensive or defensive lines this close to the start of the season is a bad sign. It shows uncertainty, which is to say it shows the lack of clear-cut, starting-quality players. 

Also, let's not forget that Michigan's going up against the vaunted Alabama offensive line this season. All-American Barrett Jones has switched to center in order to make room for 2011 5-star offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio at guard, so whoever's starting at nose tackle has arguably the toughest matchup at center in the entire nation.

So if Michigan's response to the challenge of Barrett Jones at center is to move Campbell away from nose tackle, that says plenty about Campbell—and it ain't good.