If there is any area on the Michigan Wolverines defense that could improve, it would be the defensive line.
The secondary was one of the best in college football and returns solid pieces in Thomas Gordon and Raymon Taylor. The linebacker corps is young and has talent all over the place. However, the defensive line was the weak spot a year ago, struggled to generate pressure and has questions at defensive tackle as we enter the spring.
Quinton Washington is holding down his position quite nicely and could soon become that dominant man in the middle. Ondre Pipkins needs to be that reliable player on the other side and help create a tandem to build around up front.
I think he will.
Pipkins saw limited playing time last year as a true-freshman. In just enough time to barely get his feet wet, he finished the year with only seven tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss. It wasn't exactly the debut Michigan fans were hoping to see from arguably the top recruit of the 2012 class, but this is somebody you shouldn't give up on just yet.
The reason is because Pipkins was mentored his first year on campus by Will Campbell. While that may not be a good thing as far as defensive production is concerned, the younger defensive tackle actually learned a few things from him that he could use wisely to better his career.
One of the main things that Pipkins took to heart was his weight. Much like Campbell struggled with his size during his career, Pipkins wasn't exactly a swimsuit model either, weighing in at nearly 350 pounds at one point. However, according to Kyle Meinke of Mlive.com, he has trimmed down to 315 pounds and should be a completely new player on the field this year.
That was part of discipline and part of knowing every day what you need to do to accomplish that common goal. Pipkins told MGoBlue during a signing day webcast Wednesday, I still got a lot of learning to do, still got a long way to go, but I’m ready to step up and help this team win and help them win the Big Ten championship.
Already putting in the work to burn off several of those Chips Ahoy! Cookies, it shows us two things: One, that he is committed to being a productive player throughout his career, and that he is doing what is in the best interest of the team by shedding the pounds. Another thing that losing the weight will do is help him take advantage of that athleticism.
Pipkins was a highly recruited player coming out of high school because of his explosion off the football. Although he had this massive frame coming out of high school, he was able to shed blocks consistently and used his combination of size and strength to make plays in the backfield. He was a man-child at the high school level who had the high motor and the look of a prototypical run stuffer that every great line needs.
All of that stuff doesn't go away overnight and with him being probably in even better shape than he was in high school, Michigan fans should expect to see a productive player in the middle this spring.
With a year of being in the system and an open spot to earn a starting position, Pipkins will impress many and begin to live up to those expectations that were set coming out of the 2012 recruiting class.