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DT Campbell running out of chances

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- He's down to his last chance. For three seasons, defensive tackle Will Campbell has oozed potential and possibility. From the acclaim he came in with from Cass Tech in Detroit to his massive size, everything about him appeared to be can't miss.

Except so far, Campbell has.

The 6-foot-5, 322-pound senior played the better part of his first three seasons on the fringe of productivity with Michigan football among all of his struggles. There was a brief shift from the defensive line to the offensive line before moving back to defense.

And through it all, Campbell showed flickers. There'd be rumors of a big practice, or he'd make a big play in a game only to disappear after. And all of that promise has boiled down to this.

One more shot.

"It's big," second-year Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "But I think he's made great progress. What he's done from a physical standpoint when you look at him and all those things and leadership and that part of it."

To be fair, Campbell was behind Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen -- two potential NFL players -- for part of his career. Both are gone now, and while Jibreel Black is also moving into the tackle slot, for the first time in his career the spot is Campbell's to lose.

And he has two spots at which to compete. Besides being looked at in the defensive tackle slot, Michigan will see how he does at the nose tackle spot occupied by Martin last season.

The biggest thing Campbell needs to show this spring is his ability to turn those flashes into consistent play -- something that could be a challenge for a player who has 19 career tackles, 3.5 career tackles for loss and two career sacks.

This, though, is Campbell's charge. If he can show he is a reliable option for Michigan by the end of spring practice that will help the Wolverines solidify part of a defensive line going through a massive overhaul with the graduation of Martin, Van Bergen and Will Heininger.

The Wolverines will have three new starters on the line regardless and potentially three players playing new positions with Black's move inside and Craig Roh's shift to strongside defensive end. Doing this means Campbell's ability to produce with regularity becomes even more important to a Michigan team whose first opponent is defending national champion Alabama.

"Consistency," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "We need to see him, play in and play out, playing at a high level. He's had one good play and then he has to put two together and three together.

"That's it in a nutshell. He has shown he has what you're looking for for a play here, a play there. But now, he has to do it consistently every play."

Campbell knows all of this. He has known it his entire career.

"I always think I'm in the position to have to prove something," Campbell told WolverineNation after the Allstate Sugar Bowl. "Just because of where I come from, how I was raised. I was raised like that.

"Just to be a dominant player and to play like a defensive lineman."

If he finally shows that dominance that has been close to there for three seasons, Michigan will be set at one of its critical positions to fill this fall. And Campbell finally will prove all those expectations set three years ago correct.