When Urban Meyer meets the media during Ohio State’s spring football practices, his demeanor often reflects what he has just seen on the practice field.
On Tuesday, it was obvious the coach was upbeat about the Buckeyes’ offense after watching a short scrimmage at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day having had six spring practices to work in some new things, Meyer said he saw the Buckeyes’ act coming together, particularly in the quest for a more up-tempo attack.
“Today was a big push for that. Today was our best day offensively,” Meyer said.
In that pursuit, Meyer said, it has helped that several receivers have stepped up their game, particularly Parris Campbell.
As a group, the receivers’ play was inconsistent last season, and downright poor in a 31-0 loss to Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal. Campbell seems to be leading that group’s charge back to respectability.
“He’s standing out big-time,” Meyer said of the fourth-year junior from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. “He’s one of my favorite players just because he’s so unselfish and he goes so hard. He deserves a great year. He’s one of our best playmakers right now.”
Meyer said similar things about Curtis Samuel before the 2016 season. Samuel, playing hybrid back as a runner/receiver, went on to lead the team in receptions and was the third-leading rusher before declaring for the NFL draft.
Samuel’s departure means the hybrid spot is open, and Campbell is making a bid that could land him in that spot.
It’s obvious he has the tools. He was a star running back in high school who switched to receiver when he showed up at Ohio State as a 17-year-old with weight and muscle to gain. Campbell was a project at receiver for two seasons, though he was an occasional starter based more on his blocking ability than his pass-catching prowess.
He had 13 catches for 121 yards last season, and four carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. He was the team’s primary kickoff returner in 2016, bringing back 21 for a 27.8-yard average.
This spring he has been more aggressive to the ball and more consistent with his catching, reminiscent of the way Michael Thomas bloomed in 2014 and ’15 before going on to a strong rookie NFL season for New Orleans.
As Meyer discussed who is standing out from the receiver corps on Tuesday, he said, “I’d put Parris No. 1.”
K.J. Hill and Terry McLaurin would be next on the chart, Meyer said, followed by sophomore Binjimen Victor, who “is as talented as any I’ve ever coached.”
“I’m overall somewhat impressed with where we’re at,” Meyer said.