The excitement was obvious on the face of redshirt freshman offensive lineman David Dawson when asked to preview his second fall camp in a Michigan uniform. After turning in a strong spring he is now in the mix for a starting spot.
“I am competing with Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson at both of the tackle spots," the 6-4, 296-pounder told GoBlueWolverine. "Those are two really good guys. So we are going to go into camp and work hard for those positions."
Dawson also figures in the the equation at left guard. According to offensive line coach Darrell Funk the former Cass Tech star is one of his most versatile plyers.
"The wildcard in this thing who at times looks like he could be a starter at three different positions is David Dawson," Funk told GoBlueWolverine prior to fall camp. "David played left tackle in the spring and played left guard in the spring. He just stayed on that side. He had played right tackle last year. He’s the one that I’m looking for a nice summer out of, a nice jump in terms of... he’s as smart a kid as I have in the room as far as picking up the system and calls and other things. He is very intelligent that way. I think he just needs to jump his level up a notch this summer camp and play with more consistency and he could be in the day one lineup, no question... and at a couple of positions. That gives you a little flexibility there."
Dawson insists he has made that jump and that his intensity is now on another level.
“My competitive juices were high last year, but they are really high this year now that I am in the mix for a starting spot," he said. "I just want to go out there and compete and do my thing in camp, and learn from those guys as well as my coaches."
The comfort that comes from having been on campus for a year has allowed Dawson to be much more focused. That was clear during the spring and summer when he noticed himself soaking up the more of the lessons Funk was imparting. He made great progress, but knows there is still more work to do.
“I have picked up on just playing through the whistle, holding blocks," Dawson said. "That is something that I am getting better at, and once I get that down I will be better for it."
Dawson is certain that improvement will come. He is confident that the same will happen for his linemates. That's why they've all made it a point to tune out all of the doubters that question their ability to improve upon last year's performance.
“Right now we are not listening to anyone," said Dawson. "We are paying attention to what Coach Funk has to say. He is a great coach. We will go through his drills and just listen to what he is telling us to do out there... just go out and have a good camp."
Those outside the program might not believe it to be possible, but Dawson believes the entire offense will have a strong camp. The defense won't just push their younger counterparts around.
“Coach Nussimeier has really brought a spark to us," he said. "He brings a fire to the whole team and not just the offensive line. He brings that competitive spirit to the team -- it has been that way since day one. He is just a really cool cat, real competitive."
If all goes according to plan his will offense will be too.
Sam Webb contributed to this report.