Gophers' linebacking duo settle in as leaders on defense

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 11, 2014 - 6:41 AM

De’Vondre Campbell gained weight, Damien Wilson lost some, and each is Big Ten-sized now.

They are two of the Gophers’ most indispensable players, yet at this time last year, they were both somewhat overwhelmed. Damien Wilson and De’Vondre Campbell had transferred from junior colleges and quickly realized the complexities of playing linebacker in the Big Ten.

Their learning curves were steep, and their bodies were works in progress. The 6-2 Wilson was too heavy. The 6-5 Campbell was too thin.

Now both weigh about 240 pounds. Wilson shed 15 pounds to get there, and Campbell added about 20.

“You just watch practice, and they move around a lot faster [than last year],” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “There’s no hesitation in them. They know what they’re doing. Those are two of the better linebackers in the Big Ten, in my opinion.”

The Gophers are counting on Wilson and Campbell to be difference-makers for a defense that ranked 25th nationally last year in points allowed (22.2 per game) and expects to improve. The secondary remains strong, but defensive line depth is a question mark, and the linebackers must be better, especially against the run.

No longer timid

With his tall frame and long hair flapping from his helmet, a la MarQueis Gray, Campbell remains one of the roster’s most compelling players. He made 41 tackles last year as a sophomore, sharing time at outside linebacker with then-senior James Manuel.

“I think the Iowa game is when I realized I needed to gain at least about another 15 or 20 pounds, because those are some big boys,” said Campbell, who hails from Fort Myers, Fla.

Physically, Campbell has come a long way from 2011, when the lanky speedster placed seventh in the 200-meter dash at the Florida state high school track meet. He weighed 210 pounds two years ago at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, and about 220 last year.

This offseason, he added 20 pounds of muscle, not fat, and credits his work with strength and conditioning coach Eric Klein, as well as team nutritionist Brittany Francis.

This month, the NCAA began permitting schools to feed athletes unlimited meals and snacks. Campbell wants to cap his weight at 245 pounds and thinks the new rule will help, since the school-provided food is more nutritious than what he was eating on his own.

“I don’t really have to go out and buy too much,” Campbell said. “I can always take some home and eat late night when I get hungry. That can help out a lot because those late-night snacks — that’s where the weight really comes. Eating and sleeping, and then it just sits on you.”

The Gophers used Campbell primarily in passing situations last year, but now it looks like he’ll be an every-down player, like Wilson is at middle linebacker.

“Last year, I was a lot more timid,” Campbell said. “Now that I’ve got my weight up, I can actually play how I want to play, be more of a downhill player, taking on fullbacks, linemen. I just feel a lot more comfortable with the system, knowing the plays.”

Wilson’s last stand

Campbell still has two years of eligibility remaining, but Wilson is a senior, so this is it.

A native of Gloster, Miss., Wilson took a long route getting to Minnesota. First he hopped from Alcorn State to Jones County (Miss.) Community College, where he won a 2012 national defensive player of the year award.

Wilson started 12 games for the Gophers last year and made 78 tackles. He filled a crucial hole at middle linebacker, but the team hopes he takes another step.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 67 4th Qtr 9:05
LA Clippers 75
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close