COLLEGE PARK — In a season in which expectations exceeded reality, Maryland linebacker Chance Campbell had a difficult time singling out any personal success. He pondered for a few seconds before a quick shake of his head.
“I don’t really have a good time when we lose,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think the wins are my highlights. I think it’s fun when we win. I think when we win as a team, everybody wins individually. So that’s probably my favorite.”
The team’s 3-8 overall record — which includes a current six-game losing skid — and 1-7 mark in the Big Ten is perhaps the biggest factor in Campbell’s inability to enjoy the year, but it should not diminish what the Towson resident and Calvert Hall graduate has done.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound sophomore linebacker has played in all but one game, making back-to-back starts against Indiana and Minnesota. He ranks fourth on the defense in tackles with 54 and has added three pass breakups, one interception and one forced fumble.
The numbers are a dramatic improvement from Campbell’s freshman campaign, when he appeared in 11 games but finished with only 10 tackles. He said he prioritized being more involved in his second year.
“I know I wanted to play after my freshman year. So I don’t know if I had huge expectations,” he said. “It’s good being able to help the team. It always feels good whenever you can do something that helps your guys out.”
Campbell has played well enough to please first-year Terps coach Mike Locksley.
“This is definitely what you saw out of Chance from the day that I stepped here on campus and all through spring,” he said. “He’s been one of those guys that’s a worker. You see him continue to have the right kind of habits and behaviors like we talk about. He’s the guy when you think about the upper 20% of your team shows great leadership, which to me is having a positive impact on others within the program. He has all those attributes. He’s a young player we’ve been able to continue to develop, and I’ve been really happy to see the way he’s come along.”
Campbell said one of the biggest adjustments he had to make was adapting to a new system under defensive coordinator Jon Hoke and linebackers coach John Papuchis.
“In high school, it’s different. It’s a lot more freelancing,” he said. “In college, there are jobs, and you’re accountable for something, and you’ve got to be accountable to the other guys. You can’t freelance whenever you want. You have a job to do. So I had to learn how to do that and how to try to do it to the best of my ability.”
Although Campbell has made both starts at Mike linebacker, he has also played Will linebacker to make room for senior Isaiah Davis. Sophomore Ayinde Eley, who has started nine games at Will linebacker, said Campbell’s versatility is valued by his coaches and teammates.
“He knows both spots,” said Eley, who leads the defense in tackles with 79 and fumble recoveries with two. “So he goes in at maybe Mike, maybe Will. He’s a real downhill linebacker and beats blocks very easily. He just brings a good balance to the linebacking corps. … Any spot that needs filling, he can fill. And when he’s in, he’s very productive and contributes a lot.”
Campbell’s development is the least surprising news to Donald Davis, his former coach at Calvert Hall, where Campbell played three linebacker spots and strong safety and was an All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference first-team choice as a junior.
“He’s got a tremendous skill set, a diverse skill set,” Davis said. “But even on top of that, the kid is just a worker. He learns so much that he knows how to be in any spot. He works hard. Hard work, dedication and great acumen, when they meet, it creates diversity.”
While Maryland’s slide after a 3-2 start has darkened the mood among the program’s fanbase, Campbell said he has remained encouraged.
“We’ve seen glimpses of brilliance, some things we’ve done really well,” he said. “I think we see that, and if we can get some consistency behind it, we can be who we want to be. When we break down the film, other teams are doing a fantastic job, but a lot of it is us being ourselves. I think that’s something that is entirely controllable. So while every loss is frustrating and there are no moral victories, it’s nice to know that it’s not that we’re incapable of getting there, incapable of playing in this league. We have really talented guys, and we’re capable of doing all the things we want to do.”
Davis, the Calvert Hall coach, said Campbell is not the type to relent to pressure.
“What I would imagine is that his work doesn’t change day-to-day,” he said. “Whether they come out on top or not, he’s a kid where his work is going to be the same. He’s going to be consistent.”
The Terps will finish with a sub-.500 record for the third consecutive season. But Campbell said an upset of Michigan State (5-6, 3-5) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing would go a long way towards giving him and his teammates a sense of optimism heading into next year.
“Just to give us something to springboard off of into the offseason,” he said of an objective in the season finale. “We want to try to give the seniors something they can hang their hat on since the season didn’t go as planned obviously. We want to give them something they can take away. And for the guys staying, we want something we can build on.”
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