Bruce Campbell scanned the BCS rankings Sunday night as team after team scrolled across the bottom of his television.
There were plenty of familiar names for the left tackle: North Carolina, Georgia Tech, California and Florida State. And then there was Maryland at No. 23, a sight so sublime that it sent Campbell scurrying to call girlfriend Lauren Minor with the news.
“I said, ‘We’re ranked. I’m actually proud because I’m part of this team. I did something with this team to get ranked,’” Campbell said. “I was so happy.”
And thanks in large part to Campbell, so are the Terrapins (6-2, 3-1 ACC) entering Thursday’s visit to Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2).
The improvement of Maryland’s offensive line is a vital component in the team’s two-game winning streak. With right tackle Dane Randolph ailing and the unit seeking a jolt of athleticism, coaches decided to shift Scott Burley from left tackle to the right side and slide Campbell into Burley’s old spot.
The Terps would be hard-pressed to find anyone with the combination of speed and strength as the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Campbell. Part technician and part power blocker, Campbell possesses the physical aspects to dominate. When units competed in sprints last week at the end of a practice, the offensive line sent Campbell out in hopes his virtually assured victory would excuse the rest of them from running.
Their scheme didn’t work, but the point was made: The ripped sophomore is a bit different than his fellow linemen.
“He’s a freak, to be honest,” quarterback Chris Turner said.
He’s also a safe bet to remain the Terps’ left tackle for the foreseeable future, even if Campbell is surprised at his own ascent. It’s already a longer starting stint than last fall, when injuries thrust Campbell into a starting spot for a week.
Yet Maryland’s running game is unquestionably better since his addition to the lineup this season. The Terps’ tailbacks averaged 55.7 yards in the three games before the switch - and 157 yards in the two games since.
“He’s just extremely gifted, and it’s starting to really come together for him right now,” offensive coordinator James Franklin said. “He’s playing really well, and I think that’s probably been as big a part of our turnaround as anything.”
Campbell’s emergence is a glimmer of the near-future for the Terps, who will lose three starters and two top reserves after this season. Campbell has no plans to disappoint and is actually a little taken aback at how his first few weeks as a starter unfolded. Campbell heard rumors after the Virginia loss of a possible switch, then expected to be hounded in practice to put forth maximum effort.
Instead, he’s the one creating headaches during games.
”I don’t want the person in front of me making me look bad at all,” Campbell said. “I have too much pride. If he does, it’s going to be that very next play or from there on out that he’s going to be miserable. I’m going to be on his case. I’m going to be in his cleats. I might as well be him.”
There is, however, a slight difference in Campbell’s approach since he earned a starting gig. Offensive line coach Tom Brattan notices his gargantuan tackle investing more time in film work, in part to avoid humbling moments when it counts.