Michigan freshman DT Ondre Pipkins returns to practice after neck injury

With their season opener against defending national champion Alabama now only 12 days away, the Michigan Wolverines need all the good news they can get. And it's hard to imagine any better news than they got Monday concerning freshman defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins.

Pipkins left the practice field last Friday in an ambulance, having suffered a frightening neck injury that resulted in a brief, precautionary hospitalization.

But Pipkins came back that same afternoon to watch his teammates practice, and the Detroit News reported through a school spokesman Monday that he was already able to rejoin them on the practice field for morning drills.

Assuming no further setbacks, it appears Pipkins should be ready to face the Tide Sept. 1 in Dallas. He took to Twitter Friday to express his gratitude for Michigan fans' concerns and explain his quick recovery:

The injury was initially seemed serious enough that Wolverine coach Brady Hoke issued a statement clairifying that Pipkins had movement in his extremities. For a defensive line already missing several key 2011 contributors, the potential loss of a five-star, 6-4, 340-pound rotation member loomed large.

As dynamic a presence as Pipkins promises to be in the future, it still won't be easy for any true freshman against an Alabama offensive line that could be (and likely should be) the best in the nation. (Senior Will Campbell and junior Jibreel Black are expected to get the starts in the center of Greg Mattison's 4-3.) But every little bit helps--and at Pipkins' size, it seems fair to assume he represents more than a "little bit."

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