It's easy, when looking at sophomore players going into their junior years, to craft the "it's difficult to evaluate somebody who hasn't played very long" narrative. But, as Corpus Christi Flour Bluff coach Darrell Andrus noted, that's not really the case with 2015 Texas commitment Jalen Campbell.
Campbell has started for the strong Flour Bluff program since the first game of his freshman year, starting every contest for a team that went to the third round of the playoffs his first year and the fourth round this past year. That means he's already played 27 games of varsity football (and perhaps most importantly, already put 27 games on tape).
"The No. 1 thing that he's shown over those two seasons is that he's obviously learned from just about every mistake he's made at such a tough position," Andrus said. "I've just been really impressed with not just his athletic ability, but his ability to take that pressure and perform at that kind of level and impact football games.
"We played Lake Travis in the third round [Campbell's freshman year], and he took a couple lumps in that game," Andrus said. "But look at the resiliency he showed. He put in the work in the offseason and came back and showed major improvement in his technique and maturity."
Often, the best cornerbacks don't make a huge statistical impact. But Campbell, who does an outstanding job at playing the ball, has 14 interceptions in his two seasons, taking four of those interceptions back for touchdowns. But the next step, according to Andrus, is to cut down on Campbell's baiting quarterbacks to throw the ball.
"Our defensive staff has done a really good job with him and others of getting them to play with great technique," Andrus said. "But there are times where he can relax and try to bait quarterbacks into throwing the ball when he's going against a kid who might not have quite as much speed or athletic ability.
"Overall, he's done a very good job of staying disciplined, but there have been times we've gotten on him about that," Andrus said. "We just don't want him to try and bait someone in, but give up six points over the top. He's very intelligent. His dad coached him in youth football, and you can tell the level of understanding he has of the game. I think he's a disciplined football player. He just relies on his athletic ability at times."
Campbell's athleticism will earn him a bigger role for the Hornets this season. While he'll still serve as the team's lock-down cornerback and primary return man, he'll also be given a few packages of plays on offense.
"We're going to keep putting a lot on that young man's plate," Andrus said. "He'll line up at the wide receiver position and in the slot. Obviously, he'll still return kicks, and he's not coming off the field defensively. But offensively, he'll have several packages in place.
"He had a beautiful 40-yard touchdown catch last year against Leander last year," Andrus said. "He has a chance, he has those really good ball skills and he's had those ever since I've known him, to impact games more. He'll always go up and get a ball."
Andrus has known Campbell since he was in the fourth or fifth grade, and added that the Longhorns are getting a high-character player as well.
"He's a good kid. He's a bit soft-spoken, and somebody that you have to get to know, but once you get him to open up, he's a lot of fun," Andrus said. "I like the way he thinks. He's so competitive. We do a lot of one-on-one drills in practice, and he's always there to get better. His personality isn't very flamboyant … he's not talk, talk, talk. But he's a very respectful young man and he's been raised well by his parents.
"We're very excited for Jalen, and also for the Flour Bluff Hornets," Andrus said. "This was a big offer, and an even bigger verbal. So we're really excited for him. At the same time, we're excited for the exposure and the attention that some of these other kids can get, not just at Flour Bluff, but also in the Coastal Bend area. There's some talent there, and they'll get more eyes on them. So I'm excited about that, and very excited for Jalen as a young man. It's well-deserved."