Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover believes senior offensive lineman Josh Campion has real NFL potential, and he was the first player that Limegrover knew without a doubt was going to be on his offensive line this season.
“There’s only one guy, the one thing I can tell you is that somewhere along the line Josh Campion will start somewhere for us,” Limegrover said. “He’s been a three-year starter, been incredibly durable, played both right tackle and left tackle for us. We’re going to play him at guard this fall. He’s a guy that will definitely be there.”
Campion is a part of an offensive line that features five redshirt seniors and three redshirt juniors, not to mention a number of underclassmen who played last season, which makes this one of the deepest and most experienced groups Limegrover has seen.
“Big thing is experience, bringing back eight guys who played at least six or seven games for us. That is always huge and such a big factor in offensive line play,” he said. “It’s hard to throw somebody out there who doesn’t have a lot of experience, so having a number of guys with experience will definitely help overall. Then there’s the competition part of it with all those guys who have tasted it and want to play.”
Limegrover said he has continued to push for that competition instead of naming any starters, besides Campion, early in camp.
“You know what, that one is too close to call,” he said about the other positions. “I’m using the summer. I’m going to lean a lot on Coach [Eric] Klein and his strength staff to give me input on how guys did and how guys competed. That’s how I left it in the spring; I’m not going to make anything concrete right now. I’m going to wait until the summer is over.
“Basically what I tell them is every day when you put your head on the pillow at the end of the day, you better make sure you’re staying ahead of the ones you need to stay ahead of and you’re catching the ones you need to catch,” Limegrover added. “That’s what I’ve told them every day.”
There can’t be many players in college football who have a story like Campion does. He was an all-state player out of Fergus Falls, Minn., and also was ranked No. 1 in Class 2A in wrestling at 285 pounds.
After high school, though, he didn’t enroll in college right away, instead going to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.
Campion, who will turn 25 in December, explained the path so far in his career.
“Out of high school I took a year off and worked and the next year I went to Fork Union Military Academy,” he said. “After I was at Fork Union, Coach [Jerry] Kill offered me to come back and play, and then I had a concussion right away so I redshirted that first year. After the first year I was at right guard for two years, right tackle for two years, left tackle for one year, and now I’m at right guard.”
It’s an impressive feat for anyone to change offensive line positions that often in a collegiate career, but what has stood out is that Campion has excelled with each new spot, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention spots at both left tackle and right tackle, and now he will tackle right guard.
Campion was asked if he’s OK with making another position switch.
“I like it a lot,” he said. “Coach asked me if I could play guard, and that’s where I’m at now. I like playing inside.
“It’s quicker, bigger guys, I guess. Stuff happens a lot faster.”
As such versatile player, Campion said there hasn’t been a lot of learning necessarily, but just adjusting to the new position.
“Just getting used to the quicker, not necessarily tempo, but stuff happens quicker when you’re at guard,” he said. [It’s] a little more spacious at tackle, [but] guard happens a lot quicker with the plays.”
That versatility is one of the reasons the Gophers coaches believe he has a pro future. They know that in order to play offensive line in the NFL, you need to be versatile.
It’s also one reason why Campion never doubted he would play for the Gophers. He has started all 39 games in his college career.
“I knew I was going to play,” he said. “Just a matter of when. You put a lot of hard work in, and I know that my family believed in me and I believed in myself, and the coaches believed in me. As soon as I got here, I just had to execute and produce on the field.”
Does Campion expect a great senior year?
“That’s the plan,” he said.
And what about that big first game with TCU coming to TCF Bank Stadium?
“I’m excited,” Campion said. “I know they’re excited. I know that our players are excited and that TCU is a heck of a team, and I think we’re going to have to come out on fire as much as they are.”
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