Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #28 Ondre Pipkins

Ondre Pipkins
Name: Ondre Pipkins
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 306 lbs.
High school: Kansas City (MO) Park Hill
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #56
Last year: I ranked Pipkins #31 and said he would be the backup nose tackle. He made 7 tackles as a backup nose tackle before tearing his ACL.

Last year was a tough year for Pipkins, who was a 5-star to ESPN coming out of high school. In what perhaps should have been a breakout second year, he tore his ACL in early October against Minnesota. Even up to that point, he was not living up to that 5-star status and was playing behind fifth year senior Quinton Washington, who was also underperforming a bit. Between those two guys, the nose tackle position was somewhat underwhelming, and the coaching staff at times had to resort to walk-on Ryan Glasgow and the undersized Jibreel Black, a DE-turned-DT. Nose tackles typically don't put up great numbers, but the difference between someone like Mike Martin - who graduated after the 2011 season - and last year's rotation was stark.

Pipkins should be ready to go for the opener on August 30th, but ACL injuries are tricky, especially for big guys. Ideally, the centerpiece of the defense would be able to be ranked higher than #28 in this sort of thing, but the position is a huge question mark right now. Michigan had a lackluster run defense last season, often seeming soft in the middle. They have moved outside linebacker Jake Ryan to the middle, but both projected starting defensive tackles (Pipkins and Chris Wormley) have had ACL tears within the last two years, and nobody on the interior defensive line has proven himself as a legitimate starter in the Big Ten. The hope is that Pipkins can hold his ground in the middle, but I am not confident that his burst - which was perhaps his most impressive trait coming out of high school - can return ten months after that kind of knee injury. He will probably be the first one on the field, but there will be plenty of rotation with the likes of Glasgow, redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, Jr., redshirt sophomore Willie Henry, Glasgow, and freshman Bryan Mone. The Wolverines have plenty of bodies, but production is lacking.

Prediction: Starting nose tackle; 20 tackles, 1 sack


  1. I hope Peppers brings a end to the " 5* Under Impressing Curse" we seem to have going. As you said, I would settle for an average Nose Tackle who held at the point of attack to allow others to make the plays. Lets hope either Pipkins or any of the others you mention can at least be serviceable and not a liability.

    1. calling it a curse is being a bit over-dramatic, don't you think: kevin grady, demar dorsey, ryan mallet (disappointing while at UM at least), dymonte thomas (so far), ondre pipkins, derrick green (so far), kyle kalis, will campbell, marques slocum... ok yeah its definitely a curse

      Since 2005, the only 5star guys who were even above-average big10 players were donovan warren, steven schilling, mario manningham, and brandon graham

  2. What curse? Rivals 5 stars in the last little over a decade:

    Henne - lived up to it
    Grady - bust
    Schilling - lived up to it
    Graham - lived up to it
    Mallet - lived up to it, albeit for another team
    Warren - lived up to it more or less, though he made a mistake in going pro early
    Campbell - disappointing, but ended up a starter

    I would say that about meets expectations and if anything, I'd actually say Michigan has been better off than most in avoiding many flat-out busts and ending up with some all-american caliber players in Graham and Henne plus every-year starters that filled big needs in Schilling and Warren.

  3. There are questions here, particularly if you expect his 5-star ranking to translate into dominance right away. With the injury and the unexceptional play through his first 14 months on campus, people seem disappointed. I won't argue that his star has dimmed a bit. Expectations should be lowered a bit - but that's not cause for panic.

    Here's the thing - he still has most of that potential. Some DLmen come in right away but others take time. Martin, Branch, Graham - none of these guys were what they ultimately became during their first or second years, they only showed flashes. And Pipkins second season was cut short by injury.

    The fact is the coaches have played Pipkins above all his other classmates, including Henry. What we see on the field is a fraction of what they see in practice. They make mistakes, but I don't think Ondre is going to be Wally Pip(kins). That he played a lot is a testament to his ability, and shouldn't be disregarded. That he wasn't an instant-star is not an the indictment many seem to think.

    No one (other than Mone) can offer Pipkins' size. He's a potential impact player in way that Henry, Wormley, Glasgow, Hurst, etc. can't be. And while he hasn't proved he can deliver on that YET, he's critical to this teams success. Our best bet for making a leap to an elite defense is Pipkins turning into an above-average starter and Henry can rotate with him as a sort-of lightning/thunder at NT. The DBs, LBs, DEs are, more or less, the same veteran ones we had. DT is where we have room to grow.

    Somme people are valuable because they are proven players. Others are valuable because of their potential - and what it means to the team if they don't reach it. I believe Pipkins is like many of our OLmen - we need him. If not, it's going to be a hodge-podge of smaller players which will result in more of what you saw last year - getting out-muscled inside and wearing down late in games.

    I view Pipkins as a top 10 player for Michigan this year. Go get it.

  4. Good write-up. I actually thought that Pipkins looked better as a freshman than a sophomore - similar deal with Ojemudia. It was nice to see that Pip was participating in position drills during spring practice. I see the three natural NT's in the base defense as Pip, Glasgow, and Mone. Henry and Hurst may be better suited for 3-tech, but they will likely see NT snaps anyway - especially with UM playing a lot of spread offenses this year. Pip needs to get his burst back if he wants snaps because UM will have a lot more options on the interior DL this year.

  5. I tend to agree with you Thunder and a lot of my optimism for Pipkins is diminished. Initially I thougtht he would be a 4 year impact player, but unfortunately I think his injury will set him back big time. He didn't get a redshirt for last year, so essentially last year and I am projecting some of this year will be a flop. As you said it is harder for big men to recover from this type of injury just because of the weight they carry. Also I agree with you that it will be difficult for him to regain his explosiveness, eventually I think it will come back but I think coming off injury it will be gradual. I think this is a good place to rank him.

  6. Mone is going to emerge as the guy at nose. Pip may play alongside him at the three at times.