As the Ohio State players, dressed in blazers and ties, passed one by one on the Ohio Stadium field to gain their customary hug from coach Urban Meyer some two hours before kickoff Saturday against Tulane, Meyer’s embrace with Parris Campbell was the longest.
And from Campbell’s point of view, that hug was a long time coming, especially with Meyer coming off of a three-game suspension.
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“It meant a lot to me just seeing him back in the ’Shoe, back in the game atmosphere. We didn’t shake hands with coach Day coming into the stadium,” Campbell said, referring to offensive coordinator Ryan Day, who was acting head coach the first three games. “That was a special moment for me. I kind of got chills from that.
“I love coach Meyer, he loves me — he loves the entire team. And I’m sure in that moment he got chills just as I did.”
The whole experience was special, Meyer said, but being a football coach, he probably was more jacked up by the play of quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and the passing game in general, and the improvement of Campbell in particular.
A week after a 63-yard touchdown reception that spurred a third-quarter spurt against TCU, the senior hybrid back led the Buckeyes with eight catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-6 romp over Tulane.
There was no doubt about his favorite catch.
“Catching that deep ball from Dwayne,” Campbell said.
He did it in the end zone at the end of a pause-then-takeoff route down the sideline for the Buckeyes’ third touchdown, a 37-yard play. He drew a bead on the lob from Haskins, and though he bobbled it at first, he grabbed it before running out of room.
“In the past, that’s been my weakness,” Campbell said. “I’ve been working on that all offseason. Today was testimony.”
Haskins and Meyer agreed.
“Parris has always been a dynamic receiver,” Haskins said. “He put a lot of effort into working on his hands and catching every pass that gets thrown to him. He makes a lot of plays with his feet, so being able to get the ball into the hands of the receiver, he’s dangerous.”
Meyer recalled how Campbell, with his elite speed, contemplated leaving Ohio State for the NFL after last season. But he knew Campbell wasn’t a complete receiver yet.
“I think he’s a top first-round draft pick at some point, but he had to improve his ball skills, especially downfield,” Meyer said. “He’s improved the crossing routes and bubbles (screens) and those types of things. The execution on that pause route was perfect. He’s really playing well.”