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There’s no place like home for L-E lineman Campbell

Demons’ offensive tackle commits to Gamecocks

Posted: June 15, 2017 3:48 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of goflashwin.com/

LUGOFF-ELGIN’S WYATT CAMPBELL (77) became the eighth commitment for USC’s 2018 recruiting class when he gave his verbal pledge to Gamecocks’ head coach Will Muschamp Thursday.

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Within the past 10 days, Wyatt Campbell added scholarship offers from Arizona State and Colorado State to bring his total to 18. A trip to either Tempe or Fort Collins would have made for a nice out-of-town weekend for the Lugoff-Elgin rising senior offensive tackle.

Someone else can have those plane tickets, now.

Early Thursday afternoon, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Campbell placed a phone call to University of South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp informing him that he was ready to become a Gamecock. The second-year USC coach accepted Campbell’s pledge as the three-year Demon starter became the eighth commitment in the school’s 2018 football recruiting class.

Campbell chose the Gamecocks over 17 other suitors including Louisville, Virginia Tech, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia and N.C. State, among others.

“It’s top of the line football and I get home support,” he said of his decision. “They have what I want to major in … it’s just something in my gut that whenever I visited there it told me it was the spot. Their facilities are awesome. They’re top of the line.”

“I was ready to end (the recruiting process.) Of course, I wanted to take whatever fit best for me. I felt like Carolina was the spot and it felt like I was home.”

Being close to home was important to Campbell who made several unofficial visits to schools much closer than Arizona State and Colorado State. He was in no hurry to hop on a plane west and had little to no idea as to why either school offered him a place with their football program.

“I didn’t have a clue where they came from. They’ve never seen me … nothing. I guess they just wanted to offer. I’ll take them, though,” he said with a grin before giving his reason for not wanting to go to a school too far from the West Wateree.

“We went to LSU (in Baton Rouge, La.) and that was long enough. I’m not going to go across the country.”

The Gamecock coaching staff offered the 3-star offensive tackle at an on-campus camp last Friday. Campbell thought about accepting the offer on the spot but decided to wait a little longer before pulling the trigger with his acceptance. On Wednesday, he attended a camp at Clemson.

Campbell, who said he expects to be redshirted for the 2018 USC season, becomes the second member of his family in as many years to accept a football scholarship. His brother and 2017 L-E graduate Elliott will be a freshman tight end at Wofford this fall after having signed with the Terriers in February.

A fun-loving 16-year-old, Wyatt Campbell laughed when asked the role which his older brother played in helping with his own recruitment.

“He gave me tips on what to say and what not to say and how to handle myself on a visit,” he said of the advice he received from Elliott.  “If I went there and acted like myself, I probably wouldn’t have gotten some of the (offers) I got.”

Wyatt Campbell will become the first major Division I signee from L-E in more than two decades. His head coach, Matt Campbell, and his offensive line and strength and conditioning coach, Dr. Mike Armstrong, are both USC graduates who played their collegiate football for the Gamecocks. He said neither man tried to steer him down I-20 to USC’s Columbia campus.

“They helped me out, of course,” Wyatt Campbell said, “but it wasn’t their decision for me to go to South Carolina. Of course, they’re happy because they’re both alums. Coach Campbell got me on the chart as far as recruiting and I am thankful for them.”

Matt Campbell, no relation to Wyatt, was happy on two counts for the Gamecock-in-waiting.

“As an alum, I’m very excited,” said the third-year Demon head coach. “I know how he can play; I know what he can do and what he brings to the table. As a coach and, I guess, his mentor, and trying to help him through his decision, we had to find the right fit for Wyatt and make sure we got him in the right place.

“My allegiance does lie to Carolina but my allegiance lies with these kids first.”

Wyatt Campbell’s first scholarship offer came in January when Eastern Kentucky put in a bid for his services. A few days later, an offer came from Wofford. His first FCS offer came on Feb. 22 when the University of Virginia liked what they saw and heard from the then-L-E junior. After that, the offers and interest took off.

In the age of social media, once the offers were made public the calls from sportswriters along with recruiting website hosts and bloggers started pouring in for Campbell, who is ranked as the 21st top senior high school prospect in South Carolina by one rating service. He said now that the stress of choosing a school is behind him, he can get on with his life.

“I’m kind of happy that I got it done with. Now, I can focus on playing football and get stronger but first to help my team here (at L-E) and then get ready for college football,” he said.

Campbell said he expects to enroll at USC in January which will allow him to get a head start as a college student not to mention his being able to participate in the Gamecocks’ 2018 spring practice. That, said his head coach, will play a large role in Campbell’s development.

“It’s going to be huge if he enrolls in January. It’s like a year and a half redshirt,” Matt Campbell said. “He’s going to have a year and half in that system, in that weight room, at the training table and in the classroom. He’s going to be settled in and will be able to get comfortable with the people around him.”

One person Wyatt Campbell has already familiarized himself with is USC offensive line coach Eric Wolford who returned to Columbia this past winter after having spent the previous two years with the San Francisco 49ers as the team’s assistant offensive line coach.

It was Wolford who was in charge of Campbell’s recruitment and who evaluated him and on whose recommendation the scholarship was offered. Campbell said his next offensive line coach is a shoot from the hip type of guy.

“He’s very energetic. He’s a great coach who knows what he’s talking about,” Campbell said of Wolford. “The main thing about him is that he’s not going to blow smoke up your butt. He’s going to tell you if you do something wrong; you’re going to know you did something wrong. I like that about him.

“He’s going to tell you the truth. It was just like he told me when he was recruiting me, he said ‘We’re going to do our part and evaluate you and it should only take a couple weeks.’ He said, ‘I’m a man of my word’ and they offered me.”

One area of his game which Campbell said he knows needs work is pass protection. It is one thing, he said, being able to overpower a smaller lineman in high school. It’s another to keep a quarterback’s jersey clean when facing an SEC defensive end, tackle or linebacker.

 “I like to go at people and just try to kill them. Now, I’m going to have to learn to sit back and wait on them, throw my hands right, don’t turn my shoulders and stuff like that … just work on not getting beat.”

Matt Campbell played tight end at USC before moving to guard in an eight-year NFL career. He said there is a major jump which offensive linemen make in going from high school to, arguably, the best college football conference in the nation.

“Technique-wise,” he said, “there really isn’t much difference from high school. The difference is who is lining up across from you. You’re talking the SEC. You’re going to have upper-echelon defensive ends who are going to be fast, they’re going to be athletic and they’re going to be strong. They’re going to have all the immeasurables, too. There are no weeks off in the SEC.”

As for Wyatt Campbell’s take on playing at USC, he said he will continue doing what has brought him to this point in his football career. That includes listening to what his current and future coaches tell him to do. “They told me I’m going to have to come in, work hard and earn my spot. After that, whatever happens happens.”

For Matt Campbell and Lugoff-Elgin High School and the West Wateree community, in general, this is a big deal as Wyatt Campbell is the first Demon football player to head to a Power 5 program since lineman Michael Johnson signed with Wake Forest in the 1990s.

“I think it’s great for the community,” said Matt Campbell. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a player play at this level from our school, much less Kershaw County. We’ve had some kids go play college football but this is SEC football. This is the crème de la crème of college football.

“They should have pride in being from here and bringing notoriety to our community.”

 

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