Updated: Apr 22, 2022
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
When he arrived at LSU this past January, most analysts and media members believed freshman left tackle Will Campbell would find himself observing throughout year one....no one was doubting the young man barely over 18....but how rare is it to see a freshman left tackle grab a bunch of live reps over multiple veterans?
Only just months into his Tigers career, the former Neville High 5 star isn't just competing for a spot within Brad Davis' OL room.....After gaining 17 pounds and producing one eye-popping on-field moment after another, Will Campbell is edging Cam Wire and Miles Frazier as LSU's 2022 starting left tackle.
When QB Walker Howard dubs you "the best player in the country" as a freshman left tackle, you're on to something. Though Howard may be a little biased toward his best friend, it is clear: at his ultimate, Will Campbell has always been the best player on the field.
After Howard's St Thomas More won big over Campbell's Neville High, the first time Walker had ever seen the left tackle in action, STM's then-freshman QB stepped over to the other side of the field and said "you're going to be my left tackle at LSU". It was this magnetism which made Walker & Will instant friends, both sharing a future destiny surrounding the same things: faith, family, football and LSU.
Campbell always wanted to wear the purple & gold....he never wanted to leave Louisiana; though every school in America tried their best, the Monroe native refused to abandon LSU. Now following in the footsteps of a select group of local 5 star OL to represent the Tigers (Hall of Famers Andrew Whitworth, Alan Faneca, as well as long-time NFL careerist / current Cincy Bengal La'el Collins), Will is next to take that mantle.....and he's already a year or more ahead of schedule.
When "Big Country" lines up at left tackle this upcoming season, his aggression, intensity and willingness to dominate should attract awards & plaudits; yet Campbell wants to be part of something far greater than mere individual celebrations:
Awards come with the territory he already inhabits....winning championships & becoming a championship-level left tackle is his next destination.
Ending his career at Neville High just short of a title, Will Campbell is hungry for championships at LSU, and despite the bulk of his recruitment being led by former Head Coach Ed Orgeron & his staff, Will forged a tight bond with OL Coach Brad Davis; Campbell called him "the #1 OL Coach in America" when talking with this author; He also formed a quick trust in Head Coach Brian Kelly, sealed after Kelly made sure Campbell was his first recruiting visit as LSU's new boss.
During his first day of Spring practice, I saw Will line-up with the #1 & #2 units already.......then, as the practice days continued, Campbell solidified his place as the #1 starting left tackle on the team. He is currently holding his own during violent mano e mano reps vs experienced DL Ali Gaye, B.J Ojulari, Jaquelin Roy and Jacobian Guillory, impressing his teammates, coaches, and every media member with his kickstart to the heart aggression.
"I think it's his emotional maturity as a freshman that's made him a guy we can plug in as such a young player," Brian Kelly said during last Saturday's post-practice press conference. "You don't know until you do it, he's gonna have to have some failures & see how he handles himself & he just bounces back in there & gets after it. That's kinda what we saw the first 3 or 4 practices, we wanted to make sure that he had that kind of maturity & we saw it over 3 or 4 practices & said 'fine, let's get him in there'."
"Will dominates on the field, but he also dominates everywhere else..." QB Walker Howard told the assembled media after practice this past week; as Howard and other coaches helped detail, Campbell is often the first to meetings, last to leave work-outs, quickest to make an impact on LSU's offensive line, and his actions bely the tender reality of his young age.
When told of his dedication, I asked one of my sources if the talk is true or exaggerated to some degree.
"He has got every excuse to be a punkass, but he just a bad ass," one LSU staffer spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Like, he outworks the oldest guys right now. And they know it, they know he's comin' for they jobs and there's nothin they can do."
"I wouldn't be shocked if he started year one.....no, I'd be glad......one less guy I have to bust ass and get after..."
Raised by wonderful parents, Holly & Brian, both Neville High alums who hoped Will would follow his father's football path, the young freshman is making Mom & Dad proud by the day while he hunts for as much responsibility & pressure as he can find.
In year one, Will Campbell wants it all....
When all is said & done, at the end of 2022, Campbell doesn't just have a chance to be a freshman starter week in, week out.......he holds a bountiful opportunity to become the greatest freshman offensive lineman in Louisiana State University history.
SOME OF LSU ODYSSEY'S FOOTAGE OF WILL CAMPBELL IN SPRING ACTION:
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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