Parris Campbell is entering his fourth season as a Buckeye. He’s been a regular since he opened the 2015 season as a starter at receiver as a redshirt freshman. He started three games that season and nine last season. Despite the playing time, he has as many career tackles to his credit as he does receptions (13).
That is all about to change in a big way this year, however.
Following the 2016 season, Campbell was moved from an outside receiver to H-back. That’s where he spent his offseason and that’s where he had a tremendous spring. The H-back in Urban Meyer’s offense is a premier position, and it looked to be in pretty good hands this spring.
“He’s one of my favorite players just because he is so unselfish and he goes so hard,” Urban Meyer said during camp. “He deserves a great year. He’s one of our best playmakers right now.”
Campbell moving to H-back wasn’t a surprise. It was actually a likelihood based on his time as a running back in high school. Everything that he is asked to do at H-back, he already did as a high schooler. The position agreed with him this spring, as he often proved to be too much for safeties in coverage.
Curtis Samuel showed what the potential of the H-back can be at Ohio State, and Parris Campbell believes he has found a home at his new position.
“Yeah,” he said this spring. “When I first got here, I was there a little bit, but then I got moved outside. But I’m back there and I’m feeling great and playing well. For me, I think I always had the (skill sets) just from high school and playing running back. Because you know here the H-back is like a premier position. It combines being a complete receiver and also having running back tendencies.”
What’s his favorite part of the new position?
“I like getting hand-offs. I like getting end arounds, because that’s what I did in high school. That’s what I grew up doing. It just feels a little bit better getting those plays.”
The decision to move Campbell was Zach Smith’s. As Ohio State’s receivers coach, he was tasked with finding Curtis Samuel’s replacement. Turning to Campbell was only natural.
“It wasn’t like a masterminded, calculated plan,” Smith said. “It was just the natural transition with guys like Terry (McLaurin) and Ben (Victor) and Austin (Mack) and Johnnie (Dixon) coming along and expecting them to develop. I know Parris can play outside, and tomorrow I can move him back outside and he can play. So it was the natural transition to move him inside so we could utilize the personnel a little better.”
The move is intended to make the entire unit better, but it was also done to find a way to better utilize Campbell’s skill set. Despite the playing time, the production never really materialized outside. Inside, however, there is no place to hide. Campbell will either produce quickly or be passed by. He’s ready for the challenge and the opportunity.
“I just think something kind of clicked in my like it was time to go,” he said. “I’ve been here for a while, I’ve got to make an impact now. I haven’t had the career I’ve wanted to so far and I think that’s what kind of clicked in me. I have a totally different mindset this year.”
When exactly did it click?
“Walking off the field after Clemson.”
Smith looks back at that time as one of growth for Campbell, and it continues to this day.
“He took this offseason – he wasn’t happy with the season he had last year, though he didn’t play bad necessarily, he just wanted to be a better player,” he explained. “So I gave him a plan when we got back from the bowl game and he killed it, so he’s playing at another level right now. He’s got a lot more confidence and he’s really having fun.”
Campbell was one of the Buckeyes’ best players this spring, which buoyed his confidence and the confidence of everyone around him — including his coaches. They saw enough to believe that they can put the pressure of being Ohio State’s H-back on him and he will respond positively.
There will never be another Curtis Samuel. But just as Samuel found a home at H-back and blossomed last year, Campbell believes 2017 is his turn to do the same.
“I’m going in this season looking to have a big year, but that doesn’t come without work,” he said. “I’ve been putting in an enormous amount of work and an enormous amount of time. I’m just looking to have a great season. Curtis left, but we have to have a guy that’s — if not better — then the same exact qualities and tendencies. Because if not, then we lose. It just comes with an enormous amount of time and work.”