Walking off the field after Ohio State’s loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, redshirt junior wide receiver Parris Campbell said something clicked in him.
After another disappointing season of limited production for the former four-star recruit from Akron St. Vincent St. Mary High School, he decided his fourth season in the program would be different.
“I think something kind of clicked in me, like, you know, it’s time to go,” Campbell said. “I’ve been here for a while, gotta make an impact now. I haven’t had the career I’ve wanted to thus far, and that’s what kind of clicked in me and I have a total different mindset this year.”
The OSU football team’s No. 1 priority this spring — and in the ensuing days until the first game of the 2017 season — has been, and will be, bolstering the offense to its dominant form when the Buckeyes won the 2014 national championship.
Even with new offensive coordinators Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson, how is the Buckeye offense supposed to improve with the departure of arguably its best player a season ago in H-back Curtis Samuel? Campbell is next up at the position.
“For me, I think that I always had (the skill set), just from high school playing running back,” Campbell said. “Here, the H-back is like a premier position, so I mean it entails being a complete receiver and also having running back tendencies.”
Samuel did everything last season for an OSU team that came a game shy of playing for a national championship. The soon-to-be NFL draft pick was the only player in Division I with at least 700 yards rushing (771) and receiving (865).
Campbell redshirted his first season at OSU and suspensions threw him into the starting lineup in the 2015 season opener, but he hasn’t had the impact that he said he imagined he would have when he arrived in Columbus. So far with OSU, Campbell has 13 catches for 121 yards and four carries for 54 yards and a touchdown.
The H-back position has been the glue of the OSU offense. The production of that position has dictated the flow of the wide-receiver unit. Campbell, however, has yet to show potential stardom on the field, mostly being an impact player on special teams and as a blocker at receiver.
Nonetheless, Campbell said the H-back position is probably where he fits best in coach Urban Meyer’s offensive scheme, given his background as a running back in high school. Wide receivers coach Zach Smith added that Campbell’s ability in the running game and passing game is why he’s the primary option to replace Samuel.
“It’s where I think he needed to be,” Smith said.
Samuel played in his true freshman season, and it didn’t take long to see he had All-American potential. So when the time came, Samuel stepped up as expected. Now the unproven Campbell is thrown into arguably the most important position on an offensive unit that needs improvement after losing its two most influential targets in the passing game.
“Curtis left, but we have to have a guy that is if not better, the same exact qualities and tendencies,” Campbell said. “We always look to the H-(backs) to have big seasons and kind of be that guy.”
His big breakout season starts on Saturday in the spring game, where the development of Campbell and the rest of the receivers will be put to the test. Separation from the defense and execution on the deep ball have been the main points of emphasis for the receivers this spring. Campbell’s improvement in those two areas might be an early indicator for his potential at the position.
“I gave him a plan when we got back from the bowl game, and he killed it,” Smith said. “He’s playing at another level right now.”