Heading into this weekend's matchup between the 24th-ranked Tigers and the seventh-ranked Bulldogs, Campbell is firmly at the helm of an offense that is leading the SEC in total offense and second in scoring offense. After struggling to score points last season with both Campbell and Daniel Cobb under center, the Tigers have become explosive under first-year coordinator Bobby Petrino. Still, Campbell said he never lost belief in his abilities even in the toughest of times.
"I feel a whole lot of confidence," Campbell said. "I never lost my confidence--it was just things weren't going the right way, the way I had it planned. The Lord is blessing me right now. I'm just trying to stay focused and do the best that I can to contribute."
Campbell and Coach Bobby Petrino talk before Wednesday's practice.
Facing the first of Auburn's two biggest games this season with Alabama next week, the Tigers must try to remain on an even keel win or lose this week. To remain on track for their goal of winning the SEC West Championship for the third time in four seasons under Coach Tommy Tuberville, Auburn must continue to show poise and execution under pressure like the Tigers have in a current three-game winning streak. Campbell said that through three practices he likes what he sees out of the team this week as they get ready for a tough Georgia team.
"Guys are going to get up and be emotional, but I don't think we'll be over-emotional," Campbell said. "I think they know how to take it to a certain extent and when it's time to play you just go out there and play football. You have to relax and have fun and play, not worry about what's going on outside. We have the two big games coming up, but we have to play them one at a time. Both of them are very traditional games. You want to be excited about the game and ready to play, but not over-emotional."
After starts against LSU, Ole Miss and last week's game against Louisiana-Monroe, Campbell has already gone through three different emotions this season. Against the Tigers it was the nerves of his first start of the season, which he handled fine thanks to the hard running of tailback Ronnie Brown and true freshman Tre Smith.
Ole Miss was the homecoming game for Campbell, a Taylorsville native making his first start in his home state. Getting off to a slow start, the sophomore settled in and played turnover-free football in guiding the Tigers to the win. Last week was all about not overlooking an outclassed opponent in the Indians. Showing maturity to get the job done and get out of the game, Campbell completed 8-of-10 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns in just over a quarter of action before giving way to Cobb to close the deal early in the second quarter.
Even after the range of emotions he's encountered already this season, Campbell said this week will be a little different than any other so far this season because of what is on the line for both teams.
"I feel a whole lot different because it's in the atmosphere," Campbell said. "It's kind of like a playoff game, this game here and the ones to come. We just have to take them one at a time. This week we have Georgia and we really have to go out there and play hard because they are going to come here to play hard. Both teams are playing for something big so we have to approach this game differently than other games."
Enjoying a perfect day for football on the Plains, the Tigers practiced for just over two hours Wednesday in full pads as they continue preparations for the Bulldogs. Working on all phases of the game, including special teams where Georgia is very solid, Tuberville said his team had a good practice and looks to be on course for Saturday's game with a key defender back in action on Wednesday..
"It was a good practice," Tuberville said. "Reggie Torbor practiced today. He was the only one we had really been concerned about not playing because of his injuries, but he practiced full speed and went the whole practice. It was good for him to practice. Today was short yardage day so we worked on all our short yardage and did a little bit more kicking. The game plan is in and we're ready to go."
Demarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson work on pass rushing during Wednesday's practice. Both have been hampered by injuries this season but are expected to be as close to full speed Saturday as they have been since the beginning of the season.
Another good sign for the Tigers was a close to 100 percent Spencer Johnson on the practice fields. Working alongside fellow defensive lineman Demarco McNeil for the entire practice, the junior should give the Tigers what they have been missing up front in terms of leadership facing an experienced Georgia offensive line.
"Spencer is probably about 90 percent and he has to get in a lot better playing shape," Tuberville said. "He's doing a lot of extra running this week. I think he's only played one game in six weeks. We hope he can last. The weather seems like it's going to be pretty good for guys to play a lot of snaps. It's supposed to be cool. He's a difference for us and for a team like this so many seniors on the offensive line we're going to need his experience in the game."
Saying that the door isn't closed for a return if he wants to come back, Tuberville said Wednesday that true freshman Montae Pitts has left the Auburn team. After starting the season at wide receiver, Pitts asked to be moved to cornerback halfway through the season to begin working at that position for the future. Recently he decided that rap music was his ticket to fame and he decided the work and toil of football just wasn't worth it.
"Montae decided to forgo football for another career, I guess," Tuberville said. "I haven't talked with him, but we'll see what happens."
Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. with Tiger Walk set for 12:20. The guest of honor for Tiger Walk is former Auburn star receiver Terry Beasley, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December. Saturday's game can be seen on CBS.