Coach Campbell catching on to life at Iowa

March 27, 2008

Thursday, March 27, Photo Gallery

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The biggest off-season catch for the University of Iowa football program is now responsible for making sure there are plenty of on-field catches by Hawkeyes in the fall.

Erik Campbell, 42, was introduced as wide receivers and tight ends coach for the UI on Feb. 19. Thirty-six days later he was instructing spring drills at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility.

“The biggest thing is learning the system and trying to get the players ready for the first practice,” Campbell said during the second day of spring training. “It’s been a good transition so far. Everyone’s been very helpful and it’s a great staff with great people.”

Although new to the UI, Campbell is no stranger to the Big Ten Conference. He was a four-year letterwinner at the University of Michigan (1984-87), where he started on both sides of the ball, but was primarily a defensive back. For the past 13 years Campbell coached Wolverine wide receivers. He had a 1,000-yard receiver an NCAA-record eight straight seasons (1998-2005) and 10 of his former pupils went on to the NFL.

Campbell has been impressed with the Hawkeye receivers he has inherited. Off the 199 pass completions a year ago, receivers who hauled in 128 of those tosses (64.3 percent) are on the UI spring roster. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos caught a team-high 38 passes for 482 yards and two touchdowns.

“They’re very sharp young men,” Campbell said. “They’re very smart guys who have talent and can catch the ball. We don’t believe in balls on the ground. We don’t want balls dropped. We want every ball caught and you have to make every play. I believe these guys can do it.”

Also returning are tight ends Brandon Myers (21-208-5), Tony Moeaki (14-170-3) and Allen Reisner (2-31-0) and wide-outs Paul Chaney, Jr. (19-210-1), Trey Stross (16-272-4), Andy Brodell (13-96-0) and Colin Sandeman (4-55-0). Moeaki, Stross, Brodell and Sandeman saw considerable action last fall when healthy, but also missed time because of injury.

During his playing career, Campbell and Michigan had a 2-2 record against the Hawkeyes, losing 26-0 (1984) and 12-10 (1985) in Kinnick Stadium and winning 20-17 (1986) and 37-10 (1987) in Ann Arbor. He sees many similarities between the atmosphere created at Michigan under coaches Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr and the one at Iowa under head coach Kirk Ferentz.

“One of the reasons I came here was the family atmosphere,” Campbell said. “There’s a great leader at the top with Kirk Ferentz — also at the same time a great community. Iowa has some of the best fans in the country. When you come into Kinnick Stadium, you know these fans are going to rock and roll.”

Campbell is not only an outstanding football coach, but he has also recruited some of the most athletic and finest student-athletes in the nation. Recruiting is another enjoyable aspect of the job for Campbell.

“I enjoy going out and meeting new kids and new families,” Campbell said. “It’s an opportunity to impact a young man’s life and make a difference in that young man’s life. It’s giving them an opportunity to go to a great university and get a great college education. I want to get great players here to help us win, that’s the biggest thing. I don’t care where they come from or who they are. I just want to do what we can to get players here to help us win.”

“Coach Ferentz is a very smart coach. He’s respected throughout the country for his knowledge of the game and also his great leadership. You know that right away and also every time you played Iowa you knew that team was always well-prepared to play you.”
UI receivers coach
Erik Campbell

Campbell, a native of Gary, Ind., cracks a quick and wide smile when asked why — when he primarily played defense in college — he thrives on coaching receivers.

“It’s fun, it’s fun,” Campbell said. “The pressure’s on you. You’re a guy that can break a game open right away and make things happen fast and bring excitement to the crowd.”

The hiring of Campbell has brought excitement to many Hawkeye fans who remember his days as a Wolverine player and acknowledge the success he has had as an assistant coach at Michigan. Campbell said he has been oblivious to the buzz his hiring might have created.

“I’ve been so busy right here in the football office getting prepared,” Campbell said. “I’m not worried what happens in the outside world. My biggest focus right now is on the kids, getting them ready to play and having the best spring ball we could have and get ready for the season. My focus right now is on football.”

Much of the pre-spring emphasis for Campbell has been fine-tuning the technique of the receiving corps.

“My biggest thing right now is route technique and really getting the guys honed in and focused on the knowledge of playing wide receiver,” Campbell said. “All aspects of the game.”

Ferentz was impressed not only by Campbell’s resume, but also by several intangibles.

“The No. 1 requisite was somebody who really had great character and great quality,” Ferentz said in February. “That’s the first thing I’ll say about Erik. He’s demonstrated excellence at every step of his career. He’s worked hard at his trade and nothing was handed to him. Thirteen years (at Michigan) indicated stability, which spoke volumes.”

Ferentz knew what he was getting in Campbell, and likewise, Campbell was well aware of the type of coach he was going to work for in Iowa City.

“Coach Ferentz is a very smart coach,” Campbell said. “He’s respected throughout the country for his knowledge of the game and also his great leadership. You know that right away and also every time you played Iowa you knew that team was always well-prepared to play you.”

Iowa will celebrate the start of another college football season at historic Kinnick Stadium Friday, April 18 – the day before the Hawkeyes’ annual spring game – with the staging of the first annual Blackberry Gridiron Bash featuring two-time Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson, Iowa Hawkeyes past and present, former Iowa Golden Girl and the current Miss Iowa, Diana Reed, and much more. Click HERE to learn more about the Bash and how you can help the UI win as much as $1 million for its general scholarship fund in the USA Today Bash for Cash competition.

The Hawkeyes’ spring practice will begin shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday. Details about that special annual event will be announced in early April.

Spring Practice Exclusives

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