During the previous two college football seasons, Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell was often talked about in glowing terms by head coach Urban Meyer. Campbell was a standout high school running back at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, the same high school that gained fame as the launching pad for NBA superstar LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After redshirting in 2014, Campbell was moved from running back to wide receiver, and earned a starting role in three games during the ’15 season. Considering that Ohio State offense featured current NFL players Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller, the praise from Meyer seemed justified.
The reality is in both 2015 and ’16, Campbell's play on the field did not seem to reflect or measure up the rave reviews offered by the coaching staff. Campbell would often drop passes, and seemed best suited as a special teams weapon, as he led the Big Ten in kickoff returns last season. Heading into the 2017 season, Campbell had only caught 13 passes and had only scored a single touchdown.
The frustration from the fans only grew during the first game of this season when Campbell dropped a sure touchdown pass from J.T. Barrett against Indiana. The Buckeyes were in a Big Ten dogfight on the road, and fans were left wondering what it was Meyer and other coaches kept seeing that they did not.
Then, with Ohio State trailing 21-20, Campbell caught a short pass from Barrett, and exploded down the sideline for a touchdown, giving the Buckeyes the lead they would not relinquish. Finally, Ohio State fans got to witness for themselves the player that Meyer had been touting for so long. Campbell would finish the game with six catches for 136 yards.
Campbell added nine more receptions in the games against Oklahoma and Army West Point, and ran the ball twice for 26 yards in the win over the Black Knights.
Campbell's brilliance also was on display early against UNLV, scoring the first of seven Ohio State touchdowns on a 69-yard catch and run. He could have had another score, but he fumbled the ball after being hit as he was approaching the end zone.
As was referenced earlier, Campbell's reputation was primarily based upon his skills as a return specialist. Against UNLV, Campbell fielded a kickoff and went 82 yards before being tackled at the Rebels' eight-yard line. Even though he's yet to score, Campbell is leading the nation in kickoff return yardage, averaging a whopping 45.6 yards per return.
While the frustrations were there for Ohio State fans over the past two seasons, Campbell is showing them and everyone else who tunes in why the coaching staff never wavered in their support. The all-purpose dynamo is turning into one of the Buckeyes’ most explosive and exciting players showing he’s capable of a big play whenever he touches the ball. If Ohio State is to challenge for the Big Ten title and potentially get back into the College Football Playoff conversation, Campbell figures to be one of the big reasons why.