August 10, 2011

Coach: Pipkins can get even better

Coach Greg Reynolds didn't know much about Ondre Pipkins when he transferred to Park Hill High School midway through his sophomore year. But it didn't take him long to figure out Michigan's newest commitment was a monster talent ...

"He came to us in January of his sophomore year, and then he went to a camp at Missouri in June and they were so impressed by him they went to offer him right then, and I hadn't even seen him in pads yet," Reynolds said, with a laugh. "This kid almost got an offer from a major Division I program before he even played a varsity game so that should tell you something."

Pipkins, ranked a four-star prospect and the No. 246 recruit nationally, grew up in Saginaw, Mich., lived in Atlanta and St. Louis and spent his first two football seasons at Rochester Adams High School in Rochester, Mich. In his first year with Reynolds' Trojans in 2010, he played offensive tackle and nose guard (in a 3-5 alignment), though he didn't impact along the defensive side of the ball until late in the year.

"We needed an offensive lineman more than a defensive lineman so he saw more snaps on offense, but then throughout the year we started putting him on both sides of the football more consistently," Reynolds said.

"Here in Missouri we decide who gets in the playoffs with some district games in week eight, nine and 10 so we got him in good enough shape so that he could play significantly on both sides of the football.

"We had a bye in the playoffs and then the first game he had a knee injury and we played him on defense only, and he really stood out in that game. Just the amount he was able to go 100 percent more often - he was pretty devastating."

The 6-3, 325-pound, Kansas City native did not have it easy against Staley High School, which rushed for 400 yards on 45 carries (8.9 yards per rush) in a 28-6 victory that ended Park Hill's season, forced to fight through two or three blockers on every play.

"We play a 3-5 defense, which basically means you play a nose and two ends over their tackles, and what they were doing was putting two or three guys on him on every play, which is not uncommon if you have a really good nose tackle," Reynolds said. "You need to have really, really good defensive ends to be able to combat that and sometimes they weren't really worried about our defensive ends.

"Even with all that attention, he was getting off the football and causing disruption a lot. Staley had a good rushing game against us but it had nothing to do with Ondre's play.

"This season we're going to move him around a little bit just because we're limited on the playmakers we have and we can't sit him at nose guard and let three guys block him every play. We're going to try to move him around so there are only two guys double-teaming him."

Though he appears a goliath when he steps on the field, Pipkins is not size and power only.

"Right now his biggest strength is his quickness off the football," Reynolds said. "You add that into 320 pounds and that becomes a pretty valuable thing.

"He's also got a good motor. A couple games where he was playing both ways and he knew what was on the line for us, he really turned it up a notch. In the fourth quarter especially he came up with the big plays for our defense even though he was being triple-teamed.

"He has a pretty good pass rush. He has to work on some moves, but as a nose guard that's not something that has been a high priority for him. Just the strength he has right now against some of the guys he's going against, he's able to use some club moves to knock people off-balance. But he's going to have to add a new arsenal in college because everyone will be bigger and stronger."

Though Pipkins is, inarguably, Park Hill's best player, he's not a finished product yet. Like most big men, the game comes a little too easy for him, which has allowed Pipkins to get by without putting maximum effort into every play.

"He's pretty good right now but he has a long way to go," Reynolds said. "When he came to us, he did not like to be uncomfortable, and in football you don't have a choice. Any time it got hot, he wanted a water break. Any time it got hard, he wanted to ease up, and he eventually worked through that.

"He has to be able to play 100 percent every snap because you can't take plays off at that level. He's a lot better at that now and he'll continue to get better. One of the best things that will happen to him is getting in the weight room, being around all those athletes and coaches at Michigan that will motivate him to reach his potential.

"And his potential is enormous. He could do some really big things and he has that opportunity now to be that big-time player."

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