Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York on October 21, 2015 · Page D7
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Democrat and Chronicle from Rochester, New York · Page D7

Rochester, New York
Issue Date:
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Page D7
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DemocratandChronicle .com Wednesday,October21,2015 Page7D TOLEDO , OHIO Every team meeting room in every college football facility in the country has graphics and posters that reflect what a coach wants his players to see every day. Some put logos of bowl games. Others have the schedule. Usually there are certain statistical benchmarks or pyramids of success. But when Toledo coach Matt Campbell stands up in front of his team, the most prominent message his players see at the front of the room is a reminder to say please, thank you and excuse me. “Phrases such as: Good Morning, Be Safe, How Are You and Have a Great Day are all part of who I am,” the poster reads at the bottom. “I am the Respectful Rocket!” That message is only a small window into what is happening this season at Toledo, which vaulted into national consciousness Sept. 12 with a road win against Arkansas and has kept going, rising all the way to No. 20 in t he Amway Coaches Poll. But it d oes reflect something about how Campbell, who got the job at age 32 and is 32-13 overall in his fourth season, has become one of the hottest coaches in America and perhaps the next great one to rise out of the Mid-American Conference. Avoracious reader who played during the championship dynasty at NCAA Division III Mount Union and walks past a picture of former Toledo coach Nick Saban every time he enters his o ce, Campbell believes strongly in process and a culture in which no detail — even manners — is too small. “As much as this is about winning and losing games, we’re still teachers,” Campbell said. “With everything these guys are going through, it’s hard. We were all 18 and 19 once, but we can’t lose the fundamentals of how to do things t he right way from yes sir, no sir, please and thank you to how do I carry myself the right way to do t he right thing? It’s not just about f ootball.” BORN TO BE A COACH The son of a high school coach w ho grew up in Massillon, Ohio, and has been around programs in the state his entire career, Campb ell knows what he values and what he wants his team to look like. Even at 35, he comes across as mature and substantive, not s ome flashy recruiter who wants to sell an image through YouTube videos and tweets. And that’s why, for all the attention a top-25 ranking has brought to the school, it seems unlikely the Rockets are going to fall victim to the pitfalls that come along with this level of success. “It’s his consistency, basically,” senior cornerback Cheatham Norrils said. “He tries to figure out ways to grow, but he doesn’t change his expectation or what he wants out of the team. He always preaches about the process. If you perfect your process, you’ll be fine.” Campbell’s steadiness is particularly impressive when you cons ider that he had not exactly pegged himself as an imminent head coach in the haste of Tim B eckman’s departure in 2011. A fter all, he was less than a d ecade removed at that point f rom working in a cement factory a fter college graduation, sending h is résumé to every school in Division I football and hoping to catch on as a graduate assistant. I t wasn’t that people hadn’t noticed Campbell’s rapid rise from graduate assistant to o ensive line coach at Bowling Green and u ltimately to o ensive coordinator at Toledo, but the logical next move was to Ohio State, where Urban Meyer had targeted him to run the o ense alongside Tom Herman. Three days after being named Toledo’s interim coach for the 2011 Military Bowl, however, Campbell was hired permanently as the youngest (at the time) head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. “The very first practice he had as interim, I was just going to see how the team was, how the demeanor was,” athletics director Mike O’Brien said. “And it was like we never missed a beat. That’s when I said, ‘We have our guy.’ I didn’t want to lose one of o ur better employees, and sometimes it’s a gut feeling. There were some people who whispered i n my ear, ‘Do you know how old h e is?’ But he was born to be a h ead football coach.” ‘RECRUIT, RETAIN, DEVEL OP’ Campbell figured the only thing he could do to get rid of the age question was beat Air Force in t he bowl game, so he poured all of his energy into that for the next few weeks. But once the game ended and he got on the plane to g o home, Campbell sat down next to his wife and laid out a plan for building his identity as a coach and for the program. “I got a sheet of paper and wrote three words down,” he said. “Recruit, retain, develop.” And the results are showing this year, largely with a group of seniors and juniors he recruited early on from a prototype he identified for what players at every position on the field should look like physically and mentally. “We dissected it and said, ‘This is what we want,’” Campbell said. “And then we didn’t miss very often.” Once he gets them, Campbell says he is brutally honest with players about where they stand a nd what they need to do to improve. It’s a trait he appreciated while playing under legendary L arry Kehres at Mount Union a nd has brought to Toledo, where o ne-on-one meetings with the h ead coach are frequent. “ You need that in this busi- n ess,” said senior quarterback Phillip Ely, who transferred from Alabama after the 2012 season. “ You can have players misinterpret things. A lot of coaches won’t tell you if they’re playing you or not; they’ll kind of leave you hanging. Here, they’ll tell you what’s up. They’ll tell you how it is, how you’re doing and how you can get better. They say, ‘If you want to be our guy, this is where you’ve got to be, and here’s the film for it.’ They are honest, the whole sta is, and it’s mainly because of Matt Campbell.” BIG OFFERS COMING? That approach has manifested itself largely in a defense that has given up eight touchdowns and seven field goals all season. Most notably, the Rockets held Arkansas to 12 points and staved o a potential winning drive in the fi- nal seconds. “When we beat someone like Michigan or Arkansas, the shelf life is a long time,” O’Brien said. “Matt and the players, they don’t talk about the rankings, but it’s fun for our university. A MAC team being in the top 20 now, it is abig deal. It’s hard to do.” And it’s historically di cult to sustain in a league in which coaches become highly sought-after once they have success. Toledo is no stranger to this phenomenon, having lost Chuck Stobart to Utah, Saban to the Cleveland Browns, Gary Pinkel to Missouri and Beckman to Illinois. Campbell is the fifth-highest- paid coach in the MAC at $495,000, and there is little doubt s ome school will soon o er to trip le or quadruple his salary. But Campbell is also 35 with a wide-open window of success; he might not need to rush o , particularly with his life-long roots in Ohio. “Matt is a very bright guy, and all I can say is he’s very committed to (Toledo), and very selfishly Ithink he has a really good job,” O’Brien said. “He can build something very special.” There might not be much more to build. Though the Rockets could potentially be in line for the New Year’s Six bowl bid that goes to the highest-ranked champion in the Group of Five conferences, they are keeping the focus on winning the school’s first conference title since 2004. Given how dominant Toledo has been, beating its three MAC opponents by an average margin of 29.3 points, that goal might not b e far away. And it might be what keeps him around a little while longer. “ Last year was the fi rst time I r eally felt like our football pro- g ram was close to where I wanted i t to be,” Campbell said. “Even t hough we were 9-4, we had some r eally tough injuries, but our team never folded its tent. Our kids never complained, never w hined, never quit, they just kept coming. We’re building something special, and that’s been really exciting for me.” AT TOLEDO, IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS Under Campbell, Rockets rise doing things ‘the right way’ Dan Wolken @DanWolken U SA TODAY Sports ANDREW WEBER,USA TODAY SPORTS “As much as this is about winning and losing games, we’re still teachers,” says Matt Campbell, who has guided Toledo to a 6-0 start and a No. 20 ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll. I t’s typically by the midway point of college football’s regular season that the nation’s best teams have separated themselves from the pack. The same could be said of the nation’s best individual performers. The USA TODAY Sports Mid- season All-America team recognizes the group of players from P ower Five and Group of Five conferences who have excelled t hrough the fi rst seven weeks of t he season. The team includes 25 players: 11 on o ense, 11 on defense and three specialists. It’s a list paced by LSU running back Leonard Fournette and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, the perceived front-runners for this year’s Heisman Trophy. Boykin is one of three o ensive skill players from the o ense- fi rst Big 12 Conference, joining teammate Josh Doctson a nd Baylor’s Corey Coleman. B aylor leads all teams with three selections, with Coleman j oined by o ensive tackle Spencer Drango and defensive tackle Andrew Billings. Another six teams have two picks: TCU, LSU, S tanford, Alabama, Texas A&M and Utah. Paul Myerberg Big 12 players make first-half noise Boykin, Fournette head midseason All-American team Offense QB: Trevone Boykin, TCU RB: Leonard Fournette, LSU RB: Dalvin Cook, Florida State WR: Corey Coleman, Baylor WR: Josh Doctson, T CU W R: Will Fuller, Notre Dame OL: Spencer Dr ango , Baylor O L: Joshua Garnett, Stanford O L: R y an K elly , Alabama O L: Landon T urner , North Carolina O L: Vadal Ale xander , LSU Defense DL: Myles Garrett, T exas A&M D L: Robert Nk emdiche, Mississippi D L: Andrew Billings, Baylor DL: Carl Nassib, Penn State LB: Kentrell Brothers, Missouri LB: Blake Martinez, Stanford L B: Tyler Matakevich, Temple CB: Shawun Lurry, Northern Illinois CB: Desmond King, Io wa S : M ar cus Williams, Utah S : Eddie Jackson, Alabama Specialists RET: Christian Kirk, T exas A&M K : Austin Rehkow, Idaho P: Tom Hackett, Utah KEVIN JAIRAJ, USA TODAY SPORTS TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, left, and wideout Josh Doctson are USA TODAY Sports Midseason All-Americans. SCOTT HALLERAN,GETTY IMAGES Lineman Robert Nkemdiche, a second-team All-American last season, leads a strong Mississippi defense. KIRBY LEE, USA TODAY SPORTS Stanford’s Blake Martinez has 70 tackles, including 3 1 ⁄ 2 for loss, in six games this season. COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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