Striving for Better

Tyler Campbell is picking up right where he left off last season, his first to punt for the Ole Miss Rebels.

The Little Rock, Ark., product is one of the top returning punters in the country after averaging 44 yards on 43 punts and being selected to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team by the SEC Coaches and the Sporting News.

He not only boomed them long, with nine punts of more than 50 yards including a 71-yarder, he also pinned foes inside the 20-yard line 13 times.

Already in the early practices for the 2010 season, Campbell has impressed even more.

James Shibest

"I can just see him growing up," said Ole Miss special teams coach James Shibest. "He's become more of a fundamental guy. He was a rookie last year.

"As far as technique and drops and things like that, he's really worked hard. You can tell it's been a year's difference. He's been more consistent and he's just got an unbelievable leg. He's just got to stay consistent, but we're excited about him."

Only three days into fall practice, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore said he feels good about how things have gone.

"I've been pleased so far," said the Little Rock Catholic High alum. "I feel more comfortable about every aspect of things."

One adjustment this year is of the major variety, and it's beyond his control. Campbell will have a new long snapper.

"We're definitely going to miss Preston Powers," Campbell said. "(Senior) Wesley Phillips is going to try to get back. There's freshman Will Denny, and redshirt freshman Jacob Hickman. We've been working all summer, and I'm comfortable with all of them. Whoever gets it I'll be fine with."

Campbell has worked on several aspects of his techniques and mechanics of punting. One has been placement of the ball as he receives it, right before he drops it to make the punt.

"It's all about timing and getting it off before they get there to block it," he said. "So I try to go as quick as I can. Last year I caught a lot of them into my body, and I think some of that was just nerves, just a true freshman and being back there. It was just natural, so I've really been working and concentrating on keeping my arms extended and catching it out front. Also that helps like with less air with the drop. I don't have to move the ball out (to drop it). When I catch it, I can just drop it straight down. Just trying to get more consistent and quicker."

Campbell said there are other aspects of punting that he's focused on and tried to improve upon.

Tyler Campbell

"I've actually worked on mental toughness," said Campbell, who turns 20 the day the Rebels play Tulane in the Louisiana Superdome – 9/11/10. "I've got a new snapper, so I know I have to be ready for adjusting to that. I've worked on leg strength and flexibility and my hands, just catching it out front and being quicker with it all."

Shibest said Campbell has indeed worked at improving and it's shown already.

"I thought he did a great job last year," said Shibest, mentioning Campbell was second in the SEC in punting last season, 12th in the nation. "He feels like he has a chance to be even better. Fundamentally he's so much better and has just matured. There are a lot of things as far as protection that he's involved in as to where that ball has got to be punted that helps us in coverage. He's got a chance to be really, really good."

Campbell admits last season was quite a start for a guy right out of high school. But he knows he has to be even more effective this time around.

"I tried to come in and compete early last year," he said. "I demanded a lot out of myself. This year I'm trying to be even better than last year.

"Coach Shibest tells us if you get a punt blocked in a game, there's like an 80 percent chance you'll lose that game," Campbell continued. "Obviously that's a statistic that sticks out to you. But my main role is field position and making the other team go as far as they possibly have to go and setting our team up as best I can."

Tyler Campbell, a good punter last season, is already well on his way to being even better in 2010.


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