6’5” 243 lbs - Junior
2019: 5 tackles
2020: 29 tackles / 4.5 TFL / 1 sack / 1 INT / 3 PBU / 1 FF
Campbell missed the first three games of 2020 due to illness, but his return marked an immediate impact. Campbell split time as an interior linebacker in 2020 but is an expected starter in 2021. What makes Campbell a potentially special player is his unique size, built like a defensive end, and remarkable range.
From the interior, Jack Campbell is able to make plays between the tackles as well as defend the perimeter. Guys his size shouldn’t be able to make this play.
His ability to get to the sideline is only enhanced by his ability to filter what is in front of him. From the Minnesota Rewatch:
“You would use the following clip to teach linebackers how to play against an RPO scheme. On the snap, Campbell comes forward to the line of scrimmage and traces the running back’s path parallel to offensive line. Once he reads the quarterback keeping the ball, he quickly flips his hips and begins his back pedal to his coverage depth. While reading the quarterback’s eyes, he recognizes the running back releasing to the flat and once again changes direction. On the tackle, notice how Campbell, a tall player, drops his weight and target window to make an excellent open field tackle on Ibrahim. “
Once again, he shows what makes him special with his combination of athletic and academic ability (add 2020 Academic All-Big Ten to his resume as well). From the Wisconsin Rewatch:
“Not only does Campbell possess incredible physical skills, but his mental awareness shines as well. With four and a half minutes remaining, Wisconsin is on the doorstep to making it a one score game. Wisconsin’s top receiving target is tight end Jake Ferguson. He’s lined up to the near side across from Golston. He initial engages Golston before attempting to break into his route following the play action fake. Golston alertly stays with Ferguson, but it would not have mattered as Phil Parker was not going to let their top option beat him near the goal line. Iowa used Wade and Jack Koerner to double Ferguson. With the double team, there is a vulnerability to backside crossing routes. Campbell is able to slide under the backside route and interception the late pass.”
Campbell doesn’t just possess great size and explosiveness, but he uses it to finish the play at the point of attack. He navigates space better than others his size and avoids blockers in open space with ease.
“I don’t know how to describe the next event other than to say there is the closest thing to a freight train on the field. Jack Campbell shoots the gap before the pulling center has any clue he’s there and destroys the play well behind the line of scrimmage. I’ve said it before, but guys who are 6’5” should not move like that. Each week, Campbell does something that leaves me audibly laughing as I rewind to watch it again. He’s special and he is just scratching the surface as to what he will eventually become.”
These were weekly occurrences from Campbell as shown here from the Nebraska rewatch:
“He starts as in interior linebacker on the opposite side of the field to where the zone read play is headed. Once he sees the play, his instincts take over as he shoots the seam and finishes off the tackle for loss. The speed at which he closes from the opposite side of the field is truly a rare ability. It is comical watching the right tackle try to make a block on him but he isn’t able to get within six feet of Campbell.”
One of defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s main philosophies is to always avoid giving up the big play. Campbell is the type of player who, despite all perfect offensive call, can turn a possible big play in the opposite direction.
“Nebraska has a well time screen pass, and everything is looking like a big play as the ball is released. The issue is that Campbell is just too quick and the right guard, yes him again, whiffs on his block. Instead of a big play for the Huskers, it is a two yard loss to set up 2nd and 22.”
Campbell is listed as a starting interior linebacker next to Seth Benson for 2021. It is hard to imagine that Campbell is already a junior, but he returns as a focal point of Phil Parker’s defense.
Given his size and ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, I would not be surprised to see him utilized as an end pass rusher in Iowa’s Raider package. Coach Parker has all kinds of ways to deploy his skills to make defenses account for #31 every play.