- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 19, 2009

Maryland’s Bruce Campbell will enter the NFL Draft after the physically gifted left tackle endured an injury-riddled junior season, the school announced Friday.

The decision came as little surprise for a player whose combination of strength and speed makes him a prime candidate to emerge as a workout warrior - a Maryland specialty in recent years - at the draft combine.

The school said Campbell arrived at the decision Thursday. Maryland, which went 2-10 this season, was in exams this week.

“I felt like it was the right time for me to enter the draft,” Campbell said in a statement. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I feel like I’m ready to compete at the highest level.”

In the release, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he was supportive of Campbell’s decision. It is the eighth straight year the program has lost a player early to the NFL Draft or the league’s supplemental draft.

Campbell played nine games this fall, all starts at left tackle. He missed two games in September with a turf toe injury aggravated in the season opener at California and another game in October with a sprained MCL. He was never fully healthy at any point this season.

Listed at 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds, Campbell looked the part of a future star from the moment he arrived in College Park. That was delayed a year; he signed in 2006 but needed to attend Hargrave Military Academy to get his academics in order.

He quickly earned nicknames such as “Zeus” and “Swoll” for his physique, and he played some in the second half of 2007 after injuries piled up on Maryland’s offensive line.

Campbell started the last seven games of his sophomore year after a midseason lineup adjustment. With the bulk of a veteran line departing, Campbell (with senior center Phil Costa) was expected to hold together an inexperienced band of replacements.

But the year turned out to be bumpy. Campbell missed parts of the spring to concentrate on academics, and his early-season injury left the Terps scrambling to find an ideal lineup.

It never really happened - Maryland used seven starting line combinations in the first nine games. By the time a consistent starting five was found, the Terps already had been assured of a losing season.

Nonetheless, Campbell retains the physical tools that could make him an appealing pro candidate. He bench-pressed 490 pounds over the summer, and one of the preseason’s more memorable moments came when he picked up a fumble and nearly ran for a score while dragging several defenders.

Dwight Galt, Maryland’s director of strength and conditioning, said in the preseason he had never seen an offensive lineman built like Campbell. Galt called him “a big Vernon” in reference to former Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, another impressive athlete who was a top-10 selection in 2006.

His departure leaves a hole in a unit that will enter 2010 with nearly as many questions as last year. Senior Paul Pinegar, who started three games at left tackle, and sophomore Justin Gilbert would be logical preliminary candidates to take over the position.

R.J. Dill, who started on the right side last season, is the only other tackle with experience in the program. Freshmen Pete DeSouza and Nick Klemm redshirted this season but could factor in at the position on either side of the line.

• Patrick Stevens can be reached at pstevens@washingtontimes.com.

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