Calais Campbell finished with 35 tackles and 2 ½ sacks as a reserve behind Thomas Carroll and Javon Nanton. But with Bryan Pata moving to tackle, it opened up a spot for Campbell who has taken full advantage of the opportunity to start at defensive end.
And he knows he will be relied upon to come up with plays because that's what starters on the Miami defensive line are supposed to do.
"I know they are going to try to test me, but I am a going to prove that I am not the weakest link on the line," Campbell said. "I have the least experience of anyone on our defensive line, but I am ready to be a big time contributor to this team. I need to step up and make big plays."
Line mate and senior leader Baraka Atkins has seen improvement through fall practice from last season in Campbell.
"He's definitely maturing," Atkins said. "He's growing up into this game the college level of football. He's starting to use his long legs and long arms in getting off blockers and things of that nature."
Campbell will have his hands full though Monday night and he's ready and quite excited about the challenge.
"It's very exciting. You work hard for all summer. We've been looking forward to this game after the last game last season," Campbell said. "You can't wait to get back on that field. It's finally back so I'm real excited and can't wait to get back on the field."
But a ton is riding on the ‘Canes opener and Campbell's first start, so it will be unlike anything he's really seen yet.
"Nobody likes to lose especially to a big rival," Campbell said. "That's a game you've got to win even though every game you have to win to win a championship. But when it's Florida State it goes to another level. I can't wait to get out there so we can redeem ourselves from last year."
While some look at the season opener as a time to fine tune their teams and get ready for the rest of the season, that's not possible for the ‘Canes and the team knows it. However, Campbell likes the idea of facing the ‘Noles in the opener because he and his teammates have to be ready to go from the opening kickoff.
"The positive side is that you start of the season with a bang. Everyone is hyped up. A lot of teams play lesser opponents to get their offense in sync, but a big game gets your momentum going that can set you up for the rest of the games. You bring a higher energy. It brings everyone around to a higher level. From the first snap, you play hard and are ready to hit.
But Campbell likes the ‘Canes chances in the opener against Florida State.
"They have a lot of talent," Campbell said. "I watched the film on them. A lot of their players are really talented. The guy I am going against is a real good pass blocker. It will be a challenge, but if we read our defensive keys, we should be good."
Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
DE Campbell is a Player on the Rise
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