Scouting report: Hawkeyes, Cyclones linebacker target Jack Campbell displays keen eye for the ball
CEDAR FALLS, Ia. — Other than Lewis Central quarterback Max Duggan, Cedar Falls linebacker Jack Campbell might be the state of Iowa's most interesting 2019 recruit to follow.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Iowa Eight selection holds offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa, as well as interest from Minnesota. He's a three-star athlete and 247Sports ranks him fourth in his class behind Duggan.
He doesn't have a clear front-runner yet. Campbell's father, Dave, played offensive line for UNI. Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell was presumably watching Jack when he went to Ames vs. Cedar Falls two Fridays ago.
But Jack says he's in no rush to make a decision.
"I’m going to wait, because the decision that I’m going to be making will change my life forever because it’s the college I’ll be at," he told the Register in August. "I’m trying to weigh the pros and cons with my family — talk with my family — and just figure out which one is the best for me."
Campbell certainly showed why he's one of the state's top prospects Friday night. He displayed a keen eye for the ball and rock-solid tackling up the middle in Cedar Falls' 32-31 overtime loss to Iowa City West.
"He’s a good player," West head coach Garrett Hartwig said. "We knew we were going to have a tough job running up the middle, and that’s why we went to the edge. When we came back to the middle, he made plays."
Here are some observations and videos from Campbell's performance.
Strong up the middle, tracking QB
The 247Sports Composite ranks Campbell the No. 48 outside linebacker in the class of 2019, but he switched to middle linebacker for Cedar Falls this year. He looked like a natural there Friday night.
Especially in his tracking and containing of West's mobile quarterback, Evan Flitz.
On designed quarterback runs, Campbell was consistently able to put himself in good position near the line and catch Flitz — an Ivy League/Division III prospect — just after the line of scrimmage.
"I think he hit me a couple times as I ran," Flitz laughed. "He's a good player, obviously. Programs are looking at him. He's big. He's athletic. He’s a strong leader for them."
Perhaps more impressive, though, was what Campbell did on West's broken plays. Those are Flitz's specialty, whether he slips out of the pocket and scrambles, or finds one of his athletic receivers down the field. He scrambled more often on Friday. And when he did, Campbell would shift out of pass coverage, take a good angle to Flitz and bring him down for a minimal gain.
Take the play from this next video, for example. Campbell drops back into pass coverage, knocks his man off his route, comes back toward the line to track a running Flitz and tackles him after a short gain.
Mostly strong in pass coverage
For most of the night, Campbell was strong in pass coverage. He looked comfortable as he stretched further and further from the line. He demonstrated the ability to follow Flitz's eyes on broken pass plays and nearly nabbed an interception in the third quarter (which you'll see in the video).
There was really only one significant error (which you'll also see in the video). In the first half, Campbell bit hard on a West play-action, which left West tight end Dillon Doyle, a 2018 Iowa linebacker recruit, wide open for a big gain underneath the secondary.
Right place, right time
Coaches know there really is no such thing as luck when it comes to having a nose for the ball. If a player is consistently in the "right place at the right time," that's not a coincidence; that player simply has a strong sense for the game.
And, at least Friday night, that player was Campbell. One such example came in the third quarter: Flitz fumbled the ball on Cedar Falls' 12-yard line late in the period. Campbell was in the end zone when Flitz lost his grip on the ball. But guess who somehow emerged from the dog-pile with the football?
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.