"In the pre-game, I just sit by myself and stay focused and stay quiet," Campbell adds. "Everybody will be looking at me and asking, ‘J. Campbell, why aren't you saying anything?' Being quarterback, you can't be like everybody else. You have to stay focused and know what is going on at every position. The quarterback has to read all of the defenses. You have to be the guy to make the right reads to get the team into the right play."
Campbell entered preseason drills as the number two quarterback behind Daniel Cobb, but moved to No. 1 on the depth chart with a strong performance during two-a-days. In practices this past week, which have featured a lot of 11 on 11 and 7 on 7 drills, he has been throwing tight spirals on target while passing on rollouts or setting up in the pocket. The former prep All-American from Taylorsville, Miss., High says he is working as hard as he can to be ready for opening day.
"I feel pretty good about going into the game Saturday. I feel I have come a long ways since last spring and since two-a-days. I am starting to read blitzes real well and picking up when they are coming or not coming. When I do see the blitz coming, I already know in the back of my mind where I want to go to."
The Tigers will take on Mid-American Conference opponent Ball State at a 4 p.m. kickoff. Auburn will be heavily favored, but Campbell is taking no chances. He is taking the game and the visitors very seriously.
"I have been watching film on Ball State for the last two or three weeks," he says. "I think we are going to have a good game plan going into Saturday. I think it should be fun and I think all of the guys will be excited about the coming of a new season, a new era. We are all excited. Everybody is trying to stay focused and not get too excited."
Campbell dressed with the Tigers on home and road games last year and did the pre-game warmups, but his only live action last fall was directing the scout team offense that tuned up the defense by running the plays of that week's opponent. "Last year I felt crazy running out there for the first time," he says, remembering the opener vs. Wyoming. "I didn't know how the warmups were going to go. This year, I already know what to expect so I can just go out there and focus on my game."
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone has been telling the young quarterback to not try to do too much in the opener. With talented players surrounding him on offense and a veteran group of linemen offering protection up front, the former Parade All-American QB's first assignment will be not to get his team beat.
However, Mazzone and Campbell have also discussed the psychology of playing to win. When he takes the field on Saturday, Campbell says one of his goals is to play with his foot on the accelerator. "I don't want to second-guess myself and if I make a mistake, make it at full speed. Other than that, I am just trying to stay focused because our coaches are doing a real good job going over the game plan. They are making it pretty easy for you. I am just going to try to go in focused and do my part. I think the excitement will probably hit me by Thursday night. Right now I am just trying to stay focused. I am still reading my playbook to make sure I have everything down pat."
Campbell will be studying on his own as the team takes its mandatory day off this week on Monday before hitting the practice field on Tuesday. Tuesday will also feature head coach Tommy Tuberville's weekly press conference. In an unusual twist, Campbell will follow the head coach on the podium because there have been so many requests for interviews and because his academic, workout and video study schedules don't leave the redshirt freshman much time to meet the press.
"I spend a lot of time at home watching video," Campbell says. "When I am not doing homework or anything involving my education, I like to sit down with the videos and prepare myself for Saturday and make sure I am ready. I want to have a plan for everything before I get to the game."
Each player receives four complimentary tickets per game for family members. Campbell says he has given up trying to find tickets for relatives and friends after getting about 50 calls from back home in Taylorsville, where he was a rare two-time All-State pick in both football and basketball.
Auburn fans are also eager to see what the former prep All-American can do. Even the low-key Campbell seems eager to get started and is showing some game-week excitement. "I am looking forward to going out there and having some fun," he says.