Experiment over ... Ian Campbell is back home again.
"This is a position that I'm used to," said Campbell, who will be stationed at defense end this year, after an experimental year as an outside linebacker in 2007. "This is where I feel natural."
In 2006, Campbell was a consensus first-team all-Big 12 performer and was a semi-finalist for the Hendricks Award. He was third on the team in tackles with 67, which led all defensive linemen in the Big 12. In addition, he led the Wildcats in tackles for losses (17.5) and sacks (11.5) with a total that tied KSU's single-season record.
While continuing to be an all-Big 12 caliber player in 2007, Campbell's individual numbers sagged to 45 tackles, 11 for negative yards, and 4.5 sacks. He also lead the league with his four fumble recoveries.
Not bad numbers, but as Campbell said of becoming a stand-up defensive player, "The position was something that I wasn't used to. It wasn't natural for me."
Then when he went back to playing a few snaps at defensive end at mid-seasons, he said, "My technique fell off because I didn't practice it every day. I'm looking forward to getting my hand back on the ground, getting the technique back, and getting back in the swing of things."
That holds true for him personally, but also the K-State team defense that last year ranked ninth in scoring defense (30.8) and eighth in total defense (400.6). Six times in 2007 the Wildcats gave up at least 30 points.
"We need to understand that playing fundamental football is the biggest reason why you lose or win. It's more important than anything else," said the 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior.
"You can play with as much heart as you want, but if you're not in the right spot, you're going to be in for an uphill battle."
While Campbell is preparing to enter his senior season, he's taking a new approach to leadership. A year ago, he tried the vocal approach. This year, he says, "I want to lead by example and let the juniors and sophomore take the vocal leadership role."
He does, however, have this message to those younger players.
"It really goes fast," he said. "I came here in 2004 and we were ranked No. 15 in the country. Things went south with that senior class. It's so easy to let things slip between your fingers."
A year ago Campbell said, "We had plenty of times to go into postseason play, but we didn't. This team doesn't want to be sitting at home at Christmas this year."
As he added, "It's time to reach our potential instead of just showing we have some."