BLOOMINGTON — Indiana redshirt sophomore kicker Charles Campbell remembered the conditions. Driving rainstorm. Wind right to left, slightly at his back, on a cold, November day.
Campbell was summoned into IU’s Old Oaken Bucket game against rival Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium because senior Logan Justus had missed his prior three field goal attempts. IU head coach Tom Allen rolled the dice on Campbell, who was attempting just the second field goal in his college career.
Calmly, Campbell drove the 41-yard attempt through the uprights, putting IU ahead 31-23 with 5:08 remaining. The Hoosiers needed all of those points in an eventual 44-41 overtime win.
“That situation — it kind of was getting thrown in the fire a little bit, I think,” Campbell said, “and it made me feel stronger on the other side.”
Now Campbell is ready to take on the place-kicking role full time, replacing the departed Justus. He’s already shown off his strong leg, kicking a 57-yard field goal in IU’s first intrasquad scrimmage two weeks ago.
New IU special teams coach Kasey Teegardin said when he first met Campbell, he could sense a confidence needed to drill pressure kicks in the Big Ten.
“I asked him if he liked pressure, and he kind of smiles, lit up, and he was like, ‘absolutely’,” Teegardin said. “I think that speaks volumes to him coming in and nailing that field goal that he did at Purdue. You want to talk about a pressure kick, that’s a pressure kick, rivalry game, right? We haven’t had the bucket in a couple of years, and we wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for his kick.”
A former high school U.S. Army All-American from Jackson, Tennessee, Campbell also made a 48-yard field goal attempt last season against Eastern Illinois. Teegardin said Campbell will get opportunities to display his range beyond 50 yards.
“He’ll tell you, ‘Coach, I’m good from 65,’” Teegardin said. “I don’t know if he’s good from 65, but you want that. You want that in your kicker. You want him to be confident. You want him to be confident in his skills and his abilities.”
Campbell somewhat clarified Teegardin’s comment when asked about his range.
“Out on the field by myself, I think I could hit around 63,” Campbell said. “Wind’s blowing in my back and it’s good outside, it’s warm, maybe 65. But I always like stretching the distance a little bit to see how far I can go back in practice.”
Campbell said he’s always had a strong leg but continued to work on the finer points of his game with his personal kicking coach, James Wilhoit, back in his native Tennessee last spring during the height of the pandemic. Wilhoit, a former Tennessee kicker, made a game-winning 50-yard field goal in the closing seconds of a 2004 game against rival Florida.
“I worked a lot on my height and my distance and just being confident in myself and knowing my own kicking swing,” Campbell said. “Just always being able to kick within myself no matter from what distance, a long field goal, treating it as a short one, not overkicking.”
Campbell said he also learned from Justus, who finished his IU career making 32 of 39 attempts, including a long of 50 yards.
“We were competitors, but we were more friends than competitors, and so I got to really watch Logan and understand, like, kind of like how to carry myself, how to react to situations,” Campbell said. “He did teach me a lot of how to deal with pressure, just like not thinking about it or taking things too seriously, and I really appreciated him for that.”
- Teegardin said Jared Smolar will likely start the season handling kickoffs, but mentioned freshman Chris Freeman as a player who could spell Smolar on occasion. “(Freeman) was an Indiana-ranked player of the year in soccer, so he’s got a great leg on him,” Teegardin said. “I’ve been really pleased. He can control the ball really, really well. You can tell him where you want it, and he puts it there. So he’s been great. I think he will help Jared a lot in that two kickoff system.”
- Teegardin said sophomore David Ellis will return kickoffs again this season, while senior receiver Whop Philyor and junior defensive back Reese Taylor will both be back returning punts. “Feel comfortable with either of those guys back there at those positions as well, so I think we’ve got a stable of good returners that have good vision, can make people miss in space,” Teegardin said. “Now the job is to get the other 10 guys to do their job, blocking for them and making sure we keep those defenders off.”
Senior punter Haydon Whitehead was unable to return to his native Australia during the spring and summer due to international travel restrictions related to the pandemic. “I might not have been able to get back into the states if I chose to go home,” he said. Whitehead said he was able to find some parks open to work out at locally during the pandemic before IU’s athletic facilities re-opened in June. “It allowed me to get some offseason work in on consistency more than anything, hang time and distance,” Whitehead said. “Very fortunate to be able to get some work in even when everything was shut down.”