The six-foot-four, 225-pound redshirt junior just completed his fourth collegiate spring training. Very different than the previous three, for the first time Campbell was the undisputed starter and he did nothing to change that status in Auburn's 15 days of spring drills. There was no battling Ben Leard, Jeff Klein or Daniel Cobb for first team status.
He moved into that position by leading the Tigers to victories over three Top 10 teams and five overall wins in his six starts as a sophomore while completing 63.1 percent of his passes, the third best single season average in school history. With Campbell at the controls, the offense had more success moving the football than during any spring since Tommy Tuberville and his coaching staff arrived in Auburn in time for the 1999 season.
Jason Campbell has 14 career starts as a college quarterback.
Despite most key players returning on offense and defense, and with expectations higher for the Tigers than they have been since the mid-1990s, Campbell says this is definitely not the time to relax. "What we do in the summer is going to dictate how much better we get," he says.
Campbell notes that the plan is for he and his teammates to work on individual conditioning and strength. He plans to get together with the receivers, tight ends and running backs and work on the pass routes that new offensive coordinator Hugh Nall and new QB coach Steve Ensminger are likely to call this season.
"Our timing has to get to get better with the quarterbacks," Ensminger says. "I am teaching them a little bit different steps on timing than they are not used to. It will take them all summer to get that done." However, overall, the QB coach said he liked what he saw from Campbell and the other quarterbacks in the spring.
As in previous recent summers, most of the team is expected to be on campus to take part in offseason workouts. Campbell predicts that the 2003 offense will go into the season ahead of where it was last year because he has had one season and two springs to get comfortable with the system installed last year by Bobby Petrino and continued in 2003 by Nall, who admits that he and the offensive staff have good players to work with as they prepare for the season opener vs. Southern Cal. "Yeah, we have got a lot of talent," Nall says.
Although it wasn't a problem most of the spring, during the A-Day game there were dropped passes. Making sure that doesn't happen will be important to Auburn's success this year, Campbell says. "I think it was a lack of concentration catching the ball. That is something we plan to work on over the summer. It is important that the receivers concentrate on catching the football before they try to run."
For the 2002 season, Campbell played in 13 games and passed for 1,215 yards, hitting 94-149 passes. He threw for 11 touchdowns with four interceptions and rushed for three TDs more as he netted 206 yards on 72 carries.
The Tigers are only replacing three offensive starters in 2003. Center Ben Nowland has graduated, tight Robert Johnson decided not to come back for his senior season and the Tigers must replace senior wide receiver Marcel Willis. "We got a chance to accomplish a lot this spring on offense," Campbell says. "We got a chance to look at a lot of different defenses. Playing in the offense for a second straight year, a lot of other people on offense knew what they were doing and that helps."