"They tell me you are a man with true grit."
When you're a walk-on, it's pretty easy to get lost in the shuffle. It's a thankless job, kind of like being an unpaid intern for four straight years with no chance of promotion to a regular position except in the case of extreme circumstances (people quitting, getting fired, not being good at their jobs, desperate executives/coaches, etc.). You wake up for practice every day and never complain even though the only time you'll ever see the field is against FCS schools and senior day. You do it because you love Michigan and you'll never have the chance to wear that helmet and stand on the sidelines ever again in life.
The life of the walk-on is not very glamorous, you see. Usually, it takes the failure of many other many talented folks to even have the faintest glimmer of an opportunity come to the average walk-on. Here, we of course refer to Will Campbell, who, after a summer of encouragement and supposed strides in the weight department (going from fat guy to slightly less fat guy), has apparently been knocked down the depth chart, with Nathan Brink, pictured above, taking his place on the line (forcing an RVB move to the inside, with Brink playing the 5-tech). Many are focusing on the negative news re: Campbell, but Brink's ascension as just as important; in fact, it's probably of greater importance, given that he will actually ostensibly be on the field. So, who is this so called Nathan Brink fellow and what can we expect of him?
According to his official bio:
- Brink, a RS Sophomore, is from Holland, MI, where he was a two-year varsity performer.
- He was co-captain of a state championship team his senior year.
- Brink stands at 6-3 263.
- He also lettered in basketball...he was all-conference honorable mention his junior year and all-conference and all-area his senior year.
- Useless fact of the day: he was a high school teammate of Seth Broekhuizen. So there's that.
- In probably the most important stat of the offseason for Brink, he has added approximately 17 pounds, upping his weight from 250 to 267...which is still small, but can be mitigated by technique and heart and GRIT. Besides, not like we have any other attractive options.
According to Brady Hoke in yesterday's presser:
"If we play tomorrow, he'd be the starting 5-technique defensive end. You feel him a lot out on the field."
Obviously, we're not playing tomorrow. Like I said yesterday, I'm still holding out hope that all of this is just a motivational ploy for Campbell. It might be, but, then again, it might not be. Wishful thinking is wishful thinking.
Holland Christian assistant coach Josh Rumpsa:
“The thing I remember most about Nate is that he loved to hit people. Whether he was playing offensive tackle or defensive end for us, he just loved to reek havoc."
Hoke in the same article from the Holland Sentinel:
“(Brink is) one we may not have seen earlier,” Hoke said. “Coming out of spring, we thought he could help us some, but I think he’ll probably help us more.”
Greg Mattison don't care who you are:
“It doesn’t matter to me if a guy’s a walk-on or a fifth-year senior,” Mattison said Tuesday. “They’re all Michigan football players, and they’re all supposed to play that way.”
“I hate to talk about a young man because, when I do, he goes down the tubes. But, this guy has come out every day as tough as he possibly can,” Mattison said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “Michigan people are going to be happy about him."
A small positive according to Brian at MGoBlog:
Brink appears to have beaten out a healthy, senior Will Heininger, so he's got that going for him.
Heininger, also a walk-on (albeit a walk-on that people actually knew about), was slated to log seriously time last season before injury cut his 2010 short before it began.
The Toledo Blade refers to his bio as "bland":
Brink's biography listed on the school's Web site is bland. He prepped at Holland Christian in Michigan where he was a two-year varsity player, earning a couple of modest postseason awards. Brink redshirted his first year on campus in 2009 and made his college debut last season in a blowout win over Bowling Green. He never played again.
As the Blade article notes, being a starter at this point (or any point, really) for Mattison's defense means very little, and is probably a nominal designation at best.
Brink is a walk-on, and as such he will certainly be gritty and try really hard at all times. This sounds like I'm being sarcastic or facetious, but I'm not. Trying hard is something that many people are not capable of in this world, and it has been that way since people have been on this planet. With that said, as Brian jokes, odds are we do not have the next JJ Watt on our hands, but that's okay. With RVB moving to the inside and Brink manning the 5-tech, you have to wonder if teams won't just run right at that side with zero hesitation. If that ends up being the case, you're liking at a line of Roh (?)/Black, Martin, Van Bergen, and Brink from right to left, with weights of 269/260, 304, 288, and 267, respectively. Now, you wouldn't call any of these guys small to their face, but I have some concerns that, despite all the grit certain to come from Brink's play, we will have trouble holding up against some of the better rushing teams.
In short, I think Brink is a plug in the dam until Campbell gets it together and the coaching staff has enough confidence that he will go out there and not get blown up on your standard straight ahead run. He's a starter, for now, but a lot can happen between now and September 3rd. I wouldn't even be surprised to see Brink start the Western game, only to rotate out fairly often, giving Campbell a chance (perhaps his last?) to get out of the dog house. Thankfully, Michigan won't face any rushing attacks that keep me up at night in the first half of the season. San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman is a good player, but we should be able to do enough things to limit that attack.
In any case, the plan is to hope that Campbell can do whatever it takes to figure out...he'll certainly get the chance to do that in Mattison's rotation-heavy defense. If that doesn't happen, we just need to hope all of the aforementioned coachspeak is genuine praise; I don't doubt that some of it is, and I don't doubt that he's as gritty as he seems to be. Unfortunately, that often isn't enough to get the job done in major college football.