Shea Campbell is no stranger to playing time at the “Mike” linebacker position for West Virginia University, and now that he’s healthy you can expect to see an increased workload for the Morgantown native.
Campbell, a redshirt senior, played in 11 games and started six for West Virginia in 2018, but thanks in large part due to some nagging injuries found himself down the depth chart among WVU’s middle linebackers to start this season.
As Campbell’s health has improved, so has his playing time. In the 38-7 loss at Missouri, Campbell played well but he did not play often. Last week, in a 44-27 win at home against North Carolina State, he tallied four total tackles and split a tackle for a loss.
“Shea had, really, two weeks in a row had good practices,” first-year WVU coach Neal Brown said. “Shea had two different injures in fall camp that really limited him. He really only got to practice about two days in pads before he had an injury and he missed almost two and a half weeks. So it has taken him, really probably until the Missouri week, to get back and into shape. He played well. He played really well. He was productive in his snaps and he’ll continue to play. He will.”
Campbell, who was a standout at Morgantown High before walking on at West Virginia and eventually earning a scholarship, got his chance to shine early in Big 12 play last season when Dylan Tonkery went down with a groin injury. With Tonkery on the shelf last season, Campbell was credited with 40 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one interception.
Tonkery has been the listed starter again in 2019, but something has been missing. Against North Carolina State last week, West Virginia was again having a hard time containing the run game. When Campbell was in the game, however, the coaching staff noticed some of those problems weren’t problems anymore. The idea now is to find the best situations to use Tonkery and Campbell to best fit their individual skill sets.
“I think that we’re looking for someone that can be productive [at Mike linebacker],” WVU defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. “We haven’t been as productive there as we feel like we need to be. We’re trying to see what the guys can do best and kind of feature that. We’ve made some mistakes in alignment that has hurt us, particularly on runs to the boundary side, and [it is] not giving us a chance to be successful. We’re a little bit hard-headed and not taking the coaching and getting over. So, we’re probably asking too much of him, but Shea has come in a done a really good job. He’s finally recovered from the injury he had in camp and I think he played a really good game. Look for him to play 50-50 now, I would say, at least.”
Blitzing in particular was something Brown said he liked from Campbell in the win against NC State.
“He did a great job blitzing,” Brown said. “We used him on the blitz several times and he did a really good job with that. He’s a smart football player. He looked quicker. I thought he played really fresh and quick in that game on Saturday.”
DEPTH CHART UPDATE
Brown said Tuesday that left guard Mike Brown, who missed the NC State game due to illness, would be back for this week’s trip to Kansas (4:30 p.m., streaming only on ESPN+). Right guard Josh Sills, who was out against the Wolfpack with a shoulder injury, was still questionable this week according to Neal Brown.
Both are accounted for in WVU’s depth chart released with this week’s game notes. Brown is listed as the backup at left guard behind James Gmiter while Sills is listed as the backup at right guard behind John Hughes.
True freshman Winston Wright, who started last week at the “H” receiver position in place of suspended Tevin Bush, remains at the top of the depth chart there again this week, with Bush (who has since returned to the team) in the backup spot. Jordan Jefferson, a 17-year-old true freshman, is listed as the starter at nose tackle but, like last week, will split time with Darius Stills along the Mountaineers suddenly deep defensive line.
Campbell, for what it is worth, is listed as the third Mike linebacker behind Tonkery and former Fairmont Senior standout Jake Abbott.