Parris Campbell can pinpoint the exact moment it happened.
“Walking off the field after that Clemson game,” he said Monday afternoon.
From that point forward, after Ohio State was embarrassed in a 31-0 loss to the Tigers, there’s been a shift in Campbell’s approach to the game. Something had to change.
“I just think something kind of clicked in me,” he said. “I’ve been here, this is going to be my fourth year here and third season actually playing. I just think something kind of clicked in me like, ‘It’s time to go. You’ve been here for a while and gotta 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 and I have a totally different mindset this year.”
A different mindset and a different position, too. After spending the last season seasons playing outside receiver, Campbell moved to Urban Meyer’s famed H-back spot in the Ohio State offense this spring.
Early reports indicate he is thriving.
“Parris is really talented,” Buckeyes wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. “He can play all three [receiver spots] and he has played all three. He definitely has some of those skill sets because he played it in high school. He’s a big, tough kid, smart kid that’s electric. He can really go.”
“I’m going in this spring and next season looking to have a big year. That doesn’t come without work and 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.”– Parris Campbell
Campbell has arguably been the most hyped Ohio State offensive player this spring by coaches and teammates. In limited viewings of open portions of practice, he’s flashed a bunch while lined up in the slot matched up against safeties and, at times, linebackers. He looks more comfortable than he did when he was playing on the outside going one-on-one against opposing cornerbacks.
That’s because Campbell said he is more comfortable, that playing the hybrid inside receiver/running back role that is the Ohio State H-back is a more natural feel. As a former high school running back who spent his college career to this point playing receiver, Campbell’s skill set fits the job description almost perfectly.
“For me, I think I always had them just from high school playing running back. Here, the H-back is like a premier position. It takes being a complete receiver but also having running back tendencies. That’s what it is.”
“I like getting handoffs, end-arounds. That’s what I did in high school and that’s what I grew up doing,” he continued. “It just feels a little bit better making those plays.”
Added Smith: “It's just where I think he needed to be. It's where he bests suits this offense and it's a way to be involved in the run game and in the pass game. Our offense has always worked best where we've had kind of a hybrid guy in the slot. That's who I saw moving into that position, for sure.”
Campbell has some big shoes to fill at the spot and he knows it, too. After all, Curtis Samuel registered the most successful season any player ever had from the H-back spot under Meyer as he had 865 receiving yards, 771 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns in 2016.
Samuel’s historic season created a new standard for the position, one Campbell hopes to replicate as best he can.
“I’m going in this spring and next season looking to have a big year,” Campbell said. “That doesn’t come without work and 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, the same exact quality. If not, then we lose. It just comes with time and an enormous amount of work.”
That all started right after Campbell and his teammates walked off the field on New Year’s Eve. The results are showing this spring and now the hope is that it carries over into the fall as Ohio State looks to get back to the College Football Playoff for the third time in four seasons.
It took a bit of time, but Campbell finally feels at home and in his natural position.
“I just come out here with the mentality to be the best,” Campbell said. “That’s my personal goal, to be the best at everything I do and I feel like I have those tendencies and I feel like I’ve been showing it this spring so that’s where I’m at with it.”