2009 Recruiting: Will Campbell Comment Count

Brian March 13th, 2009 at 3:05 PM

Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, and LB Brandin Hawthorne.

Detroit, Michigan - 6'5" 317
campbellthor_thumb4 Scout 5*, #6 DT, #35 overall
Rivals 5*, #5 DT, #26 overall
ESPN 79, #21 OT
Others --
Other Suitors Miami, LSU, Alabama, Florida
YMRMFSPA Gabe Watson
Previously On
Chaos. Otters. Hello.
Notes Early enrollee. Cass Tech.

Will Campbell is an extremely large, extremely nerve-wracking person in an extremely silly getup above. (He's "Thor"; there was some photoshoot with Michigan high school players themed to be comic book heroes. Which, guy who came up with that idea: thank you.) Here is a silly dance:


That is the Will Campbell commit dance, which he only executed after arriving at the Army All-American game and declaring Michigan to be off his list and LSU his leader. Let's just get it out of the way: yes, it is a little annoying that Campbell decided he needed to give me and a lot of other people a heart attack for purposes of self-glorification. Kids these days, lawn, baggy pants and the goo-goo eyeball glasses drinking their milkshakes and bler bler bler. If it makes you feel any better, Campbell seems like a lighthearted giant a la Terrance Taylor, not a raging narcissist. Or at least no more of a raging narcissist than the average enormous muscle-bound 18-year-old who is 100% sure he's going to the NFL.

Also something that should make you feel better are salivating reports like so from the Army All-American game:

6-0/310, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech
He is a full grown man out on the gridiron even when compared to some of the nation's best offensive and defensive linemen. Most of the centers really struggled with the snap for two reasons - one they are new at it and two Campbell was bringing the most powerful bull rush they have ever seen. Just ask Nick Alajajian what it feels like to keep this future college star from getting into the backfield.

Campbell actually played both ways in that game:

"He's enormous, he's explosive and he's really athletic for a big guy," Smith said. "He's a fast learner. He's a fun-spirited kid who loves the game and that's why we're able to move him on both sides of the ball because he can pick it up. He just enjoys playing the game."

Though he avoided some things:

Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.

"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."

When it was over, Rivals named him the second-strongest DT in the country and the top run-stuffer. It's hard for defensive tackles to make a big impact at the Army game itself, but Campbell did swallow a couple guys whole. More from his Army AA coach:

"Campbell is a true Warren Sapp kind of athlete," Smith said. "I saw him out there catching punts, catching passes and then he's making all those tackles on the defensive line. He's fast, he's strong, athletic and he's big."

Ok, scouts and a particular high school coach think he's a beast. That's nice. Now add the rest of college football to the list:

DT William Campbell, Detroit Cass Tech: LSU and Miami are getting official visits, but USC seemingly has this one right. The Trojans aren't pushing hard for Campbell despite his talent because they seem to be hearing what I am hearing: Campbell will end up at Michigan in the end.

A stat update from halfway through the season has some eyepopping numbers:

The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder anchors both lines for the Technicians and has proven unbeatable in one-on-one situations. That's why teams have consistently double-, and at times triple-teamed him. Despite all of that attention, he has managed to rack up 25 tackles, including 12 for loss and nine sacks, while also forcing two fumbles. He has been the engine for a defense that has pitched three shutouts in five games and given up only 13 points all year.

Campbell ended up tacking on officials to Florida and Alabama. Let's play Jeopardy(!). LSU, Florida, Miami, USC, and Alabama. What are five schools that desperately wanted to add Campbell to their class? Correct. We would also have accepted "a short list of the top five recruiting schools in the country." Everyone wanted the guy. (Perhaps the scariest mind-juju yet in USC recruiting was their decision to avoid Campbell simply because they didn't think there was much chance to land him. 1) Prescient. 2) Who does that? USC does.)

It is worth noting the dissenting vote from ESPN, which said he was a pretty good prospect but not the budding superstar the other two sites did:

We recognize he has plenty of talent, but he fell short of a 150 grade at this time. We also feel he is not a defensive lineman at the college level -- he will be a better fit on offense. He reminds us of former Cass Tech prospect Joseph Barksdale, a defensive tackle prospect who will be playing offensive tackle this year for LSU. Campbell may enter college as a defensive tackle, but we think, much like Barksdale, he will end up on offense. Campbell is a big, but raw prospect who needs to keep developing his game.

I've said this before, but a recap: the difference between Barksdale and Campbell is that a lot of colleges, including Michigan, were recruiting Barksdale as a tackle—that was part of the rift between he and Michigan—while Campbell was recruited almost exclusively as a defensive tackle. Also, while ESPN ended up right about Barksdale's collegiate position they were still wrong to rank him so low: Barksdale became LSU's starting right tackle as a true sophomore and is on track to be an excellent three-year starter.

Also detrimental to ESPN's cause here is their directive to totally ignore the Army game (which also them to underrate Justin Turner after his dynamite performance there). Campbell showed and impressed, as noted above, and justified his position high atop the Scout and Rivals lists.

Ironically, it was ESPN that provided the picture that had everyone thinking "schwing" or "oh god if he goes to LSU I'm going to shoot myself"; let it stand as Will Campbell's image until such time as it's replaced by one with a winged helmet:


Okay, so: five-star recruit with offers from everyone at a position where there is one obvious starter—sophomore Mike Martin—and then a Canadian who didn't see much time at all last year and people switching positions from defensive end or even fullback. Also the above picture. Initiate the Thor era now?

Eh… sort of. As is often the case with enormous manbeasts that you could slice open with a light saber and use as an emergency tent without them so much as noticing, Campbell has some weight issues. And running issues:

"The hardest part is the running," he said. "The first day, we ran like eight gassers and like eight 40's. That just killed me. That was the hardest."

Campbell, who is listed by Michigan at 6 feet, 5 inches and 317 pounds, said he actually weighs 335 pounds, thanks to too much eating and inactivity before arriving in Ann Arbor. Besides shedding 20 pounds, Campbell wants to put himself in position to be a starter this season.

But he's gon' work:

"I'm going to work hard, there's no doubt about that," Campbell said. "If I work hard enough, most likely I will be starting."

Concerns about raw technique are almost definitely legit, as Campbell could throw anyone in the PSL into the ballcarrier without learning about leverage. His early enrollment will help with both that and his conditioning; chances are he is not NFL ready just yet. A year of promise beckons; it's just too bad there's no one in front of him to take the tough minutes.

Etc.: He wants #73 and knows who Zoltan is.

Why Gabe Watson? Watson was an in-state man-mountain rated about where Campbell is; Watson also had some weight issues and nice-guy issues, and a lot of people thought he didn't quite live up to his rating, which is a little silly since he was two-time all Big Ten and is an NFL starter. Also, Campbell appears to be an enormous two-gap space-eater, who's not going to get after the passer much, which makes him more in the Watson mold than the Branch mold.

Guru Reliability: Well, outside of ESPN: high. All-star game and multiple combine appearances, and offers up the wazoo.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Ratings + offers = very high likelihood to be a multi-year starter and NFL draft pick.
Projection: Immediately into the defensive tackle rotation, probably behind Sagesse to start. Potentially works his way into a starting job by the end of the year; sophomore through senior year he should be somewhere between Watson and what Watson could have been if he was mean.



March 13th, 2009 at 4:08 PM ^

I think there is a difference in temperament between Watson and Campbell; while Watson was admittedly a "nice guy" (I remember reading a freep article that stated as much when he was at Southfield), Campbell sounds more like a goofy kid than a pushover. I would be more concerned about his conditioning (expected for manbeasts who are 17) and his technique than his "softness" at this point.


March 13th, 2009 at 4:10 PM ^

somebody question his maturity level based upon The Dance and question whether or not he's a "Michigan Man". This must happen as much as the sun must rise in the East.


March 13th, 2009 at 4:34 PM ^

stuff because there is no such thing as a one gap guy or a two gap guy. You can have a two gap responsibility on one play and not on another and there is no atypical two gap player. If you want to put him in the zero and crush centers all day, then I would tend to agree that he would be good for that, but DL is probably the most misunderstood position group on the field. It's funny some people question a guys motor because he doesn't run all over the place chasing the play down, even when it goes away from him. Most of the time that guy has the backside contain. Also, guys like TT, Gabe, and now WC are so important on the line if they can create havoc in the middle of the line. If you need two bodies on him a lot of times, then you've either got to a numbers issue and are going to leave guys like BG and MM single blocked.

The issue you're going to have with a guy like WC is conditioning first and foremost because it can be tough for big guys to go 4 quarters, even after Barwisizing him. Also, I wouldn't worry about technique as much as some people will because if he can work on his hands and his footwork in the spring and summer, he should be good to go in the fall insomuch as when you talk about technique for an interior lineman, it's not quite the same as the amount and type of techniques a LT has to learn and get proficient at before they get a QB killed.

Be very confident if this guy goes through the spring and can handle our own lineman, not in sacks or TFLs, but just watch and see who gets rocked back on the initial contact at the snap. If WC brings the blow to the C/G and their heads go back and he stands them up, then he's won and for a true freshman that's no small feat. If he's contantly getting knocked back and fighting to regain his leverage, then he has more work to do before he sees extensive PT. When it comes to evaluating DTs, I always look for the getoff, the visciousness of the contact, and who rocks who, all that other shit is tertiary to a guy having the skills to play DT. You give me a week or two and I can teach that crazy homeless guy on the corner some technique.


March 14th, 2009 at 11:17 AM ^

Here's somebody who watched - and paid attention to - GSimmons' tutorial.

I don't know that I agree that "the issue" we'll have with Campbell is his conditioning. Any 330-pound defensive tackle isn't going to be able to go 100% for 70 snaps a game. It's a non-issue. If you play defensive tackle, you're going to need to be part of a rotation.

Defense is different than offense (duh, right?), in that as a productive defensive player, you need to go 100% for the entirety of the play. A wide receiver can half-ass a stalk block or an offensive lineman can stop blocking as soon as the ball is thrown or the running back breaks downfield. Not only does it take more energy for a defensive player to change directions and react to different stimuli, but they have to chase the ball for the entire play. So you can have a 330-pound offensive tackle play every single snap, but not a 330-pound DT (or any defensive linemen, really).


March 14th, 2009 at 2:37 PM ^

but who will be the 330lb center squasher when he's getting his rest. Sorry, I wrote that as if expected him to go every snap, but what I was reading was that he still needed to work on his conditioning in the sense that he still needed to get his wind up to go the whole game even with rotation. If he can go 30-40 snaps, then he'd be in for half the game if were seeing the same defense as last year. You need him to be fresh in the 4th quarter, so I do think he needs to get his conditioning up to D1 levels.

J. Lichty

March 13th, 2009 at 5:16 PM ^

be starting by the end of the season. Although he wont have the protection that Martin had last year with TT, Jameson and Johnson. Graham and Martin alone should provide him with enough cushion to ease his way into the lineup.

His conditioning will be fine. Since his senior season, he will have gone through the AA game workouts, Barwis winter workouts, spring practice, summer workouts and fall camp before the season. That is plenty of time to build strength and stamina.

Regarding his personality. From what I have read, although he is a lighthearted kid, he apparently has a high drive. Barwis early on praised his work ethic and he does not appear to have played soft. He may not be the killer that Hawthorne is ... yet, but he does take football seriously.

Between he and Turner, I think we have two solid contributors next year and stars by end of sophmore year.

By 2010-2011 this should be a really good defense.


March 13th, 2009 at 7:04 PM ^

is not gabe watson. he's much quicker and has much better feet*. they're actually not even similar players.**

*MGoObes is no scout but i read a lot, my reading has led me to believe this.
**see above

Durham Blue

March 14th, 2009 at 1:36 AM ^

means a lot but a solid work ethic is very important. It sounds like Will wants to work hard to get even better. I can't wait to see him wear the winged helmet!