Hawkeye film room: Jack Campbell has the skills to play inside or outside linebacker at Iowa
Cedar Falls linebacker Jack Campbell announced his commitment to Iowa on Saturday afternoon, giving the Hawkeyes their fifth recruit for the 2019 class.
The in-state priority racked up 92.5 tackles, 11 solo tackles for loss and five solo sacks en route to All-Iowa Elite Team honors last season. He picked Iowa over Iowa State and Minnesota.
The 247Sports Composite gives Campbell, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, three stars and ranks him the No. 6 2019 prospect in Iowa. Rivals, which only ranks Iowa's best five players, gives him three stars and doesn't have him ranked in the state's class.
Campbell plays middle linebacker for Cedar Falls, although could legitimately project inside or outside at Iowa.
Here's a look at what makes Campbell stand out in this Hawkeye film room:
Campbell isn’t the fastest linebacker prospect. But his ball-pursuit is Power Five-worthy. He gets this done in two ways. One, he can switch direction on a dime and takes great angles toward the ball carrier, which also helps him thump running backs at the line of scrimmage. And two, his long legs create deceptively quick acceleration, even though it doesn’t look like he’s running too fast. Pay attention at the 3:05 mark, when Campbell catches a receiver who had run 20 yards down the field on a screen. Another good example comes at the 5:03 mark, when Campbell tracks down a receiver from behind and pokes the ball free.
Part of the excitement with Campbell is that his frame looks like it can support plenty more weight and strength in college. He’s already quite strong, though. He flashed that strength playing basketball during Cedar Falls' state-title run, routinely out-muscling taller post players. And, of course, he showcased it all football season. Watch at 2:05, when he gets blocked but still reaches out to snag the running back with one arm before swinging him to the turf. In the next clip, Campbell unloads for a thunderous hit on the opposing quarterback after tracking him out of the backfield. At 6:30 he takes a great angle and stops a full-speed Keegan Simmons, one of Iowa’s most powerful running backs, before wrestling him to the ground. He also boasts very strong hands, which allow him to work his way through logjams at the line of scrimmage and get into the backfield.
While most think he'll play outside in college, Campbell has certainly proved he can dominate inside at the high school level. He learned it on the fly this year, too, because he played outside for Cedar Falls as a sophomore. Although all three linebackers in a 4-3 defense have a hand in everything, the middle linebacker has to worry about clogging gaps in rush defense and spying the quarterback more than the other two guys. And Campbell excelled in both those categories. There are many clips where Campbell quickly fills his gap in the line of scrimmage and either stops a running back in his tracks or fights his way to the backfield for a tackle for loss. Perhaps his best attribute, though, was how well Campbell could bottle up opposing quarterbacks. At 1:30, he reads the quarterback’s eyes on a bootleg, recognizes he won’t pass and quickly closes in to tackle the scrambling quarterback around the line of scrimmage. There’s another example at 3:15 when he immediately ensnares the quarterback on a read-option run.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.