COLUMBUS: Just two weeks ago, Parris Campbell received perhaps the biggest compliment of his life.
It came from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer when he took his first question at the Buckeyes’ media day.
Meyer compared the 6-foot-1, 208-pound receiver from St. Vincent-St. Mary to Evan Spencer, the former receiver Meyer always called the team MVP. Meyer said OSU would not have won the 2014 national title without Spencer, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Just about as selfless a guy. Him and Terry McLaurin have those kind of qualities,” Meyer said of McLaurin, like Campbell a redshirt sophomore. “They’re very good players, and I expect this will be the first year they will be major contributors. But I can see that in blocking and special teams.
“You have to have a guy like that or you’re not going to be very good. You should have multiple guys like that.”
That’s lofty praise since Campbell has yet to catch a pass for the Buckeyes. ESPN’s Robert Smith, the former OSU running back, tagged Campbell as the player to watch going into last year’s season opener at Virginia Tech, which Campbell started. But a mid-season injury kept the speedster out of five games and when he returned, Campbell recorded seven tackles on special teams in the final four games.
In the spring game before a crowd of 100,000, Campbell served notice he’s ready for a breakout season with receptions of 40 and 55 yards.
“I’ve been making plays. I’m definitely ready to be a key contributor to the team,” Campbell said on Aug. 14. “I’m looking forward to going out there and establishing a name for myself.”
Campbell admitted it was a tough adjustment when he arrived, competing against talented freshmen who all expected to play. He’s different now.
“I’m really confident,” he said. “That was my downfall when I first got here — I wasn’t really confident in myself. Now I’m confident that I can make plays, that I know what I’m doing at all times. It feels so much better.
“It’s kind of a reality check when you first get here. It’s not high school any more. Everyone’s fast, everyone’s athletic, everyone can play ball.”
Junior linebacker Dante Booker, a likely starter, has been covering Campbell since their days together at St. V-M. He knows what kind of threat Campbell can be.
“He’s looking good. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about him,” Booker said. “I asked coach the other day and he said he’s doing great. I can’t wait to watch him.
“I’ve got a little experience chasing him, so I know the angles on him, but sometimes the other guys don’t. It’s kind of interesting to see him run along with his speed. It’s something else. Something unique. He’s a different athlete.”
Another Akron product, senior receiver Corey Smith of Buchtel High School, expects big things from Campbell, too.
“Parris looks good, real good. Definitely coming along,” Smith said. “He’s so fast, a good blocker, [coach] loves him. Parris handles his business. A lot of stuff is going to come his way.”
On July 26 during Big Ten Media Days, Meyer considered the inexperienced receivers’ effort in the spring game and said, “Parris Campbell had an incredible catch, did some things that I hadn’t seen.”
Campbell said in the first four practices of fall camp he worked at H-back, then was switched to the “X” receiver spot. After the New York Jets selected Devin Smith in the second round of the 2015 draft, the Buckeyes lacked a deep threat last season. Also a high school track standout who led St. V-M to the 2013 Division II state outdoor title, Campbell believes he can fill that void.
“I feel like I can be that Devin Smith guy on the team. I’ve got a lot of speed and I know how to use it,” Campbell said.
Waiting two years to show his talents on offense has made Campbell hungry.
“I’ve never been more hungry. I want this so bad,” he said. “I’ve been here for a while. [You] see the elite guys come through and go to the next level, [and] that’s one of my dreams. I’m definitely hungry for that.
“It just comes down to me with my work ethic and going hard all the time. As long as I’m working hard, I feel like I’ll get to my dreams.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.