Richardson Lake Highlands High School
NR: 56 SR: 49 Rating: ***
An Inside Texas conversation with Lake Highlands head coach Jerry Gayden on Jeremy Campbell:
IT: What are Jeremy's strengths as a football player?
Gayden: He's got a great sense defensively as a linebacker for where the ball is. He studies film, he works very hard, he's very diligent at analyzing tape and things of that nature which obviously helps that intuitive knack for finding the football.
IT: Because of that intuitive knack, was he always around the football?
Gayden: We played a very disciplined type of defense. He knew what to do, he knew what audible on defense to get us into, or check us out of a certain stunt because of the formation, and he filled his responsibility correctly. Now, when it was a situation where he was uncovered, he was free to do whatever he needed to do to make a play; he knew where it was and what to do. He got fooled very infrequently.
IT: Was he the QB, if you will, of your defense?
Gayden: I think so very much. The last two years, as a sophomore and a junior, he played the Will linebacker for us and we had a young man that was ahead of him that played the Sam linebacker (and he's at Yale now) and he made all the calls and adjustments, and Jeremy did not have to do that. I think Jeremy did a great job of studying Chris Berry so this year when Chris graduated and Jeremy was s senior, we moved him to that strongside linebacker, he made the calls and the adjustments, took the signals for the coaches and led the defense. Defensive guys never like to be called quarterbacks because that's an offensive term, but he was the leader of our defense.
IT: At which linebacker spot do you see him playing at Texas?
Gayden: He's going to be a big guy, a big playmaker guy that can play on the strongside. I think also because of pass coverage, he can play the weakside linebacker. He did a great job for us on pass drops. He runs very well. He played running back for us a sophomore and junior. He's got a unique style of running. We could have played him at running back and he would have done a great job. We just always envisioned him from an early, early age, as a defensive player with a defensive mentality so that's where we tended to play him.
IT: Talk about his "defensive mentality"...
Gayden: Being in the business for 32 years, you can sense attitudes; work habits of various kids are more suited for either the offensive or defensive side of the football. It could be that they are a finesse type of guy so they end up playing offensive line as opposed to a guy that really likes to knock someone down and get in there and do some things. Jeremy was one of those guys even on offense when he was blocking and running, he was going to run over them rather than around them and make moves. That type of mentality. When he was on defense you could see he was really enjoying the game, that he loved the contact portion of the game. Not that he wouldn't have made a great offensive running back and he worked very hard at it and did a great job at it, he just seemed to love the defensive side.
IT: Did he play much on the offensive side of the ball?
Gayden: He played on offense for us in crucial settings -- third-and-short, fourth-and-short, goalline, those type of situational things for us this year. We just thought he was too valuable to put at running back, perhaps get hurt, and then lose him on defense.
IT: Is Jeremy a leader, and if so, how does he lead?
Gayden: He's a very demonstrative, gregarious, outgoing young man. He just loves to talk, loves to have a good time. People love to see him smile, he laughs all the time, so he led by actions, he led by talk, he led by spirit because of his personality. He's just got a great personality; a radio or TV star someday.
IT: Is there a defining moment in Jeremy's career, a play or a game that exemplifies his abilities as a football player?
Gayden: I think the thing that exemplifies (his abilities) in general is an offensive play: on the goalline, going through, making a huge hit, exploding the opposing linebacker to allow us to score. I'm not sure there was a play on defense but a myriad of plays over three years of seeing him make the tackle; doing a great job, perfect form, doing what you ask and expect of a linebacker to do. Some of them were great plays, some of them were not that just bone-crushing type of explosion where you go 'Wow' and the crowd sucks in the air, but I think that's because Jeremy understands how to play under control. He knows that if he goes out there and he's out of control, yes, he might make a spectacular play and the crowd may go crazy but he also the next time might miss the next two or three times he tries to do that, so he's very controlled, very much knowing the situation, doing the things he's been coached to do.
IT: What are the areas of his game that Jeremy needs to improve upon to be successful at the next level?
Gayden: I don't know if I would say there's an area that he really needs to work on. I think it will all get better as he matures. Again, being 17 years of age, being on the varsity as a sophomore when he was 15, that's a pretty awesome burden and responsibility and I think the older he gets because of the good habits he's got of working out, and being in the weight room and watching film and things like that, I just think that his overall game will just excel.
Note from Will: We went to the cafeteria at Lake Highlands to take Jeremy's picture. He wanted to use a mural of a wildcat as the backdrop for his photo and I thought it would be cool to just have the eyes of the wildcat looking over his shoulder...
As we walked through the hallways coming back from the cafeteria the subject of one Franklin Okam came up. He and Jeremy are very close friends, and even Jeremy had no clue where Okam's head was at the time. He said that he had been working on Okam to follow him to Austin and would continue to do so until Franklin made his final decision. I don't know if Jeremy's efforts helped sway Okam, but I think Texas fans will be very happy with both kids, both on and off the field, over the next four years...
Jeremy does not come across as cocky, but he is very confident in his abilities and says he is ready to come in and compete for a job at the next level. He would obviously like to play next year but said if he ends up redshirting that he will take advantage of the time and improve his strength, speed and knowledge of whatever defense Texas ends up using next season. (Interestingly, the new defensive coaches were announced minutes after Clendon and I left Lake Highlands.)
NEXT UP: CEDRIC DOCKERY (Friday, Feb. 6)