MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Touchdown maker. Special teams maven. Amateur psychologist.
All of these roles have been played by West Virginia wide receiver George Campbell within the past week. And perhaps all of them help explain why he has the opportunity to go out on a very high personal note in the final month of his college football career after enduring a challenging journey.
Campbell’s role in West Virginia’s offense will be taken up a notch this week with T.J. Simmons unlikely to play against Texas Tech. But even if Simmons were healthy, Campbell has earned the right to be on the field more frequently.
His 83-yard touchdown reception at Baylor was a needed jolt for West Virginia’s offense, providing the Mountaineers with their first third quarter touchdown in the entire month of October. It also continued Campbell’s funhouse mirror version of Gary Jennings Jr.’s 2017 season.
Jennings had a bizarre junior year, catching 97 passes for over 1,000 yards but only one touchdown. Campbell’s has been weird in the opposite direction. He only has six catches for 190 yards, but four of them have been touchdowns. Despite being ninth on the team in receptions, he is tied for the lead in touchdowns.
“A lot of people talk about ‘Touchdown Machine,’” Campbell said. “But I try and stay humble and keep working.”
“George is playing really well,” said co-offensive coordinator Matt Moore. “He’s going to deserve more playing time. We’re putting him in there. We just have to be careful in asking how much we ask him to do with putting him in maybe a different position (than he’s used to) so he’s actually playing a lot more.”
Part of the reason Campbell’s offensive reps have thus far been limited is because he’s an invaluable contributor as a gunner on West Virginia’s special teams units. Going all-out on special teams can be taxing, but it’s something Campbell has always enjoyed.
“It’s a lot of fun. I used to play special teams and defensive end [when I was younger],” said the 6-foot-4, 183-pound Campbell. “I like to hit people. Special teams gets physical, and I’m up for it. Sometimes I can make a tackle. I like that aspect. I think it’s fun.”
To Campbell, it didn’t matter that he wasn’t playing much on offense. He knew he could still impact games, as he did by recovering a muffed fourth-quarter punt that nearly swung the Baylor game in West Virginia’s favor.
“Special teams is important to any game, as you can see from what happened,” Campbell said. “Stuff like that changes the game, not just on field position but it puts a lot of confidence on offense or defense when you make a play on special teams. It gives them the push to keep going.”
It’s fitting that the final quarter of Campbell’s college career is final the one in which he is poised to make an impact.
He signed with Florida State coming out of high school as one of the nation’s most coveted wide receivers. A 5-star recruit, he was deemed the No. 3 receiver in the 2015 signing class.
Multiple injuries derailed his potential at Florida State, where he caught nine passes for 164 yards and no touchdowns in the two seasons in which he was healthy enough to get onto the field.
He arrived at West Virginia as a graduate transfer this summer, but couldn’t escape his past earlier this week when the Seminoles abruptly fired second-year head coach Willie Taggart. Campbell said he’s been reaching out to sooth former teammates stung by the firing.
“I know a couple players who are really hurt,” Campbell said. “Obviously, there’s some people who are happy that he’s gone. But he’s a good coach. He knew what he was doing. Hopefully he’ll get another chance somewhere.
“I definitely talked to a couple guys who are down about the situation. I told them ‘You never know, they might bring in someone who you can build a relationship with similar to Coach Taggart’s. You’ve just got to be patient.’”
Campbell’s worlds will collide next season when the Mountaineers and Seminoles meet in Atlanta for the Chic-fil-A Classic. His college career will be done by that time, with this final month providing an opportunity to guarantee where his rooting interests will lie.
“For me, there’s a lot more I have to give, both offensively and special teams,” Campbell said. “There’s still four games left and I could potentially do big things for the team. I want to continue to do that.”