Joe Licata says his job is easy because he can play eeny, meeny, miny, moe and select a playmaker, but that usually leaves players like Devin Campbell lost in the shuffle.
But among the offensive weapons at Licata’s disposal, Campbell may be the most versatile of the bunch. The 5-foot-11 sophomore from Youngstown, Ohio, finished with 160 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns — more than half of it coming from a 96-yard kickoff return in the first half – during the University at Buffalo’s 42-14 romp over Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
“He catches the ball, runs the ball, blocks, he’s a tremendous athlete,” Quinn said. “High character kid, high achiever … just comes ready every single day, and he has a passion for football. That’s what I saw and loved about the young man, he’s an intense kid. It’s just nice to see those kinds of players really step up because that’s what we try and recruit here.”
Campbell played tailback where he rushed three times for 7 yards, including a 1-yard TD rush in the third quarter that gave the Bulls a 35-7 lead. He had three receptions for 26 and returned two kicks for a total of 127 yards. He didn’t attempt a pass although he could have when he was lined up for a direct snap in the Wildcat formation that netted five yards.
Players have to share and share alike at UB. Seven players ran the ball on Saturday for 228 yards and four touchdowns and seven players registered receptions for 224 yards and one touchdown.
“When you got a lot of ‘em,” Quinn said, “play ‘em all.”
Right now, Campbell is comfortable playing the sidekick to the likes of Branden Oliver, Alex Neutz and Fred Lee.
“I’m happy with whatever as long as I’m playing and helping out,” Campbell said. “I’m happy running the ball but I’m more than happy blocking. I take whatever I can get because I really want to play and I really want to be on the field with these guys because they’re great players and great guys.”
So which position does Campbell play? Scan the Bulls’ two-deep and he’s not found at either tailback or wideout, although he is listed as the top kick returner. The official roster, nevertheless, has Campbell at tailback where he emerged as one of the top true freshmen in the Mid-American Conference a year ago with 502 yards rushing. But don’t discount his 176 yards receiving. The verdict?
“I played a lot of slot in high school so it comes a little more natural,” Campbell said. “I had to get used to playing running back last year. I like them both. I love them both. I love having the ball in my hands and contributing.”
Maybe he’s a star kick returner. Kickoff returns for touchdowns are rare at UB and Campbell’s 96-yard run was the team’s first since 2008 when Ernest Jackson returned a kick 97 yards against Missouri. And it almost didn’t happen.
On the play before, Campbell caught the ball at UB’s 11 and his knee was down but Eastern Michigan’s Quan Pace was called for offsides so the Bulls decided to take a re-kick.
“I was kind of hoping that they reviewed it because I knew my knee was down,” Campbell said. “I saw the flag so I was like, ‘I think that’s offsides on them. I hope they review it because we get another shot.’ ”
He did and thanks to a key block by Okoye Houston, no one laid a finger on Campbell until he was celebrating in the end zone.
“I give it all to the guys up front who did it,” Campbell said. “I just ran straight, I didn’t even get touched. Right before the kick everybody just looked like they wanted to do it and I said, ‘You know what, it’s not up to me, it’s up to everyone else. I said, ‘I’m behind you guys doing what I need to do.’ ”