After being sidelined all season with an MCL strain, the big tight end is finally back at practice, and he wants to make an impact on this Terps team.
“I think I can add a changeup. Me and the other tight ends can hopefully get some mismatches with all the attention of [wide receiver] Torrey [Smith] and exploit the defense,” Campbell said. “The defenses are going to roll coverage with Torrey; that’s going to leave us one on one, or leaving us with a small corner or a slow linebacker one on one.”
But its baby steps for Campbell – he has to adjust to practicing full time first. Both his head coach and offensive coordinator, James Franklin, are preaching patience with him.
“I don’t know if he’s 100 percent yet. You just don’t come back and you’re ready to go,” Ralph Friedgen said. “The positive thing is he’s going to be practicing now.”
“[Campbell’s] still kind of working back in. He’s been out for a long time so he’s still rusty and just trying to work back on,” James Franklin said.
Campbell is coming off a rehab in which he’s focused on strengthening his quad muscle and knee, and running to stay in shape – something that he jokes is not exactly the most exciting way to fill up his time but is worth the effort.
“I’m trying to strengthen up the squad because that’s what gets weak with this injury. You got to get your muscles re-firing.”
What’s kept him busy the past few weeks? How about the success of his own team? Campbell said that the offensive display of his teammates became a motivational tool for him during his rehabilitation, and the overall team success keeps him optimistic.
“I think [the team has] been p laying well. I think the first road game [versus West Virginia] was tough on us, but other than that, I think we’ve been playing extremely well. That’s really helped me through my injury, seeing these guys be successful,” Campbell said. “I see us making a lot of strides on offense. I see us growing as an offense, and it made me really positive about my rehab to try and get back and be a part of that.”
But Campbell is more than just anxious to return to the field. He said his time away from the games and practices with his teammates has really taken its toll of him, and he’s excited to rejoin them.
“Words can’t really express [my excitement]. I’ve had to watch all these [Terps] games this season via TV or being there, and every one of them I wanted to be a part of. It’s not until you’re really away from away [the game] until you really appreciate it,” he said. “Anxious is understatement. I kind of wish I could get a robotic knee and get out there tomorrow.”
Before the tight end becomes the Robo-End, he has to practice consistently and earn back his playing time. Against Florida International Saturday, the coaches are unsure of how many snaps Campbell will get.
“Hopefully I can get out there, get a couple of snaps – pretty much get back in the flow of things. It’s been awhile since I’ve been out there,” Campbell said, adding he just wants to get a rhythm with his team and get on the same page as the offense.
One thing’s for sure when it comes to this year’s team – they have not had a full arsenal of tight ends all season. And when Campbell returns to 100 percent, he’s a whole another weapon for defenses to account for.
“He’s a heck of an athlete – he’s very fast and very strong and brings a lot of athleticism to that position,” Friedgen said. “He really has a lot of potential to be a good football player.”
“I think possess some of the natural ability, it’s just if I can bring it to the field,” Campbell said. “[Vernon Davis] was a great player, very gifted – it’s a lot to say I’ll be like him or replace him, or even be in the same conversation with him. But I hope when I leave here, I’m a tight end that comes up in the conversation [with Davis].”
But in the short-term, Campbell is focused on contributing in any way possible to help his team rebound against FIU. Oh, by the way, he predicts his team will do just that.
“I think it’s going to be a tough game, but I think we’re going to win with some flash hopefully. I think beating of them under-the-radar teams that coming in with a lot of weapons and a lot of fire – we’ll be in for a fight, but we’ll come out on top.”