COLUMBUS – Parris Campbell doesn’t consider himself to be a Curtis Samuel clone, but he is embracing the opportunity to take over Samuel’s role in Ohio State’s offense.
"On the field, I’m Parris Campbell," Campbell said Thursday. "I’m not Curtis Samuel. But I’m definitely the H-back of the offense."
After taking over the H-back role in Ohio State’s offense last year, Samuel had a breakout year, leading the Buckeyes with 74 receptions for 865 yards and seven touchdowns while also running the ball 97 times for an additional 771 yards and eight touchdowns.
That enabled Samuel to declare early and be a second-round pick in the NFL draft, opening the door for Campbell to slide into his H-back role.
While Campbell doesn’t want to directly compare himself to Samuel, he does have his sights set on having a breakout year of his own.
"I’m just looking to have a great year," Campbell said. "In whichever way that comes, it’s going to come."
Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith says it’s Campbell’s "time to go be that guy."
"He’s always been a role player, always been a really good player, but he’s never had to be the guy," Smith said. "You had a Mike Thomas, you had a Curtis Samuel. Now it’s Parris’ turn to be the guy. Every year we’ve had one receiver that is kind of your dude. And I’d like it to be more than that, I think it’s got a chance to be more than that, but it’s Parris’ time to go be the guy on offense."
Fellow fourth-year junior wide receiver Terry McLaurin said Campbell "looks really comfortable" in his new role.
"I think he’s going to emerge in that role," McLaurin said. "If you need him to be outside, he can be outside too, but I feel like at H, that’s really his home and he’s really owned that spot this year."
Despite starting nine games and playing in all 13 for Ohio State last year, Campbell only caught 13 passes for 121 yards, with no receiving touchdowns. He was the Buckeyes’ primary kickoff returner last season and ran the ball four times for 54 yards and a touchdown, but Ohio State is looking for his production to increase drastically this season.
Campbell has always been regarded as a hard worker, and he believes the hard work he’s put in over the last three years will finally lead to consistent offensive production this year.
"I’ve put in an enormous amount of time, an enormous amount of work into this program," Campbell said. "To finally be in the position that I am right now, just reflecting on my past this year, I didn’t put in all that work for nothing. So it’s definitely time."
Going into this season, which begins when the Buckeyes play Indiana on the final day of the month, Campbell believes he has elevated his game to a different level.
"I’m very confident going into the season. I’m comfortable where I’m at," Campbell said. "I’ve developed so much over the past years, and I’m excited for the season, excited for the year, excited for Aug. 31."
"I’m ready," Campbell added. "I’m so ready. More ready than I’ve ever been."
Smith says Campbell’s improvement from the end of last season to now has been "night and day."
"He’s everything you want (in an H-back)," Smith said. "He can run, he’s an unbelievable athlete, his ball skills have went from A to Z – I mean improved dramatically, just everything. Owning the position, understanding the position, understanding the offense, being a guy that can be multiple and do different things – he’s done everything. This has got to be his year. He’s committed to it and he’s done it since the year started."
“I'm ready. I’m so ready. More ready than I’ve ever been.”– Parris Campbell
While Campbell’s new role will have him lining up as both a receiver on the line of scrimmage and as a runner in the backfield, Campbell still reports exclusively to Smith and the wide receivers room for positional meetings.
As one of the veterans of that room, along with fellow fourth-year junior wide receivers McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon, Campbell is also embracing the opportunity to be a leader for his position group.
"It’s huge, just knowing where I came from," Campbell said. "I was a young guy at one point, sitting in the back of the room, and just over my years here, the development that I went through, everything that I’ve put in, it’s definitely an honor to be in the front of the room."
Looking around that room, Campbell said, is what motivates him to work hard every day.
"I look at every guy in my meeting room every single day, I look at my coach, and that is my family," Campbell said. "At the end of the day, no one wants to let their family down. So I just come out here with a mindset every day of them, and that this is who I play for and this is who I do it for. With that mindset, I can’t let them down."
Campbell says he’s had that mindset since he’s arrived at Ohio State, but what has changed is his ability to step up and be a team leader.
"Nothing’s really different about me. I’ve always kind of had the same attitude, same mindset. I just think it took a little more just because I was a young guy at the time," Campbell said. "So I really couldn’t take over the unit like I wanted to, like I even should have. But now like I’ve developed as a player, I’ve developed as a leader and my attitude and my effort, everything that I’ve put into this program, it’s starting to surface."