Q&A: Toledo head coach Matt Campbell
Matt Campbell is only 32 years-old, but is already a head coach at Toledo, a mid-major Division I college football program. After three years as offensive coordinator for the Rockets, Campbell was named the school’s 26th head football coach in December.
Campbell’s tenure as head coach actually began at the end of last season after Toledo’s former head coach, Tim Beckman, left to be head coach at the University of Illinois following the regular season. He was tasked with coaching the Rockets in the 2011 Military Bowl, and his career got off to a high-scoring, successful start in a 42-41 victory over Air Force.
Arizona Daily Wildcat spoke with Campbell over the phone, covering such topics as his expectations for Toledo this year, his similar career path to Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, his coaching inspirations and more.
DW: To start off, how’s Toledo looking this year?
Campbell: We’ve got an interesting mix here. We’ve got some veteran players who have been in our program now going on four years. We lost a lot of guys from last year but we’ve got a lot of young players who we feel have great talent. I think you never know what you really have until you have an opportunity to see them play in live action.
What are your expectations for this season?
I think to me it’s a matter of consistency here in our program and I think if you’ve studied our program over the last three years, we’ve worked really hard to get ourselves better and continue to grow in our program. I think we feel like we’ve had some opportunities to win some big games. I think it’s our opportunity to really hone in on the little things and bring in a sense of consistency both offensively and defensively and to our special teams.
What was it like coming in as the head coach for one game at the end of last season?
It was a unique opportunity where the previous head coach left before the bowl game, so it was a great opportunity for me to get the opportunity to be a head coach for one game, prepare for a game like a head coach and not as an off coordinator.
Then, I also think it’s great because our kids got an opportunity to realize ‘what’s coach going to be like, how will he handle these situations’. I think everyday is a learning opportunity with a football coach and I think everyone knows that, but to have the opportunity to prepare and be in that situation it certainly helps as you prepare to go into a 12-game football season.
What does the loss of guys like (former running back) Adonis Thomas and (receiver) Eric Page mean for your team this season?
You never know. One of the things we’ve done here, year in year out, is we really have tried to do a great job to the best of our ability. Last year we were fortunate that we had Eric and Adonis, who were very good football players for us. Fortunately for us they were able to put up some very good numbers for us. Now some other guys are gonna have to step up and I think for other guys it will be about seeing how those guys produce in big game situations. They have opportunities to be successful but we are happy with what we’ve recruited here and happy about the talent on offense.
How do you go about watching game film for a team like Arizona, do you watch old Rich Rodriguez tape from West Virginia and Michigan or what?
I think more than anything we try to get ready for Arizona by watching Arizona from last year, so we have an idea of the players we’re going to play against, trying to get a good feel for exactly what each and every one of those young men do but we know they’ve got a great football team and great players coming back
Have you watched any tape from when Toledo upset Michigan in Rodriguez’s first year at Michigan (in 2008, the year before Campbell joined Toledo’s staff)?
No we haven’t. Honestly, I was not here and that was a totally different situation for coach Rodriguez. I think from being a young offensive coordinator the one thing I do know is how good of a football coach Rich Rodriguez is. I’ve had a chance to hear him speak numerous times, and being an Ohio guy knowing how good of a job he did when he was at West Virginia and really what he started to do at Michigan is tremendous. I know myself and our staff have the utmost respect for him and his staff as we get ready to come out there.
What do you remember from the game Toledo played against Arizona a few years ago (Arizona won 41-2)?
Well, I remember it was a tough night for the Rockets for sure. I remember a really talented Arizona football team that had been around and played really good defense and executed really well on offense. When we look at the recent (Arizona) film, we see the same type of build as we saw two years ago. Fortunately for us it was a great learning experience and a great opportunity for us to get our kids better, but I remember a football team that was really prepared and came in and executed extremely well against us.
Why do you think Toledo is capable of pulling off another upset against Rich Rodriguez?
Well, I think the biggest thing for me is that Toledo has to worry about Toledo. To me, winning and losing is not what we talk about here. We talk about taking it one day at a time to get better. How do you get that process and how do you get to that finished product … I know our kids are excited about the opportunity to come out but at the end of the day we know we’ve got a great challenge ahead of us.
You are the youngest head coach in college football, what is that like for you? How does that feel?
Great question, and I’ve gotten that a lot. For me it’s, I really don’t think about it like that. I think about it as a great opportunity at a great university. And I’m really excited about our staff and excited about the kids in our program. I feel fortunate to be getting started as a head coach in such a great university and such a great football program.
For coaches on their first head coaching job at a young age, the first few years are often a transition period with some growing pains. Do you feel like you’re ready?
I don’t know, I guess we’ll find out (laughs). It’s one of those situations that I do know you learn every day, it’s a learning process that you continue to grow as a head football coach. I think you try to find out what you’ve done well what you need to do better and get better at it.
Did you ever think four or five years ago that you’d already be a head coach at school like Toledo?
No honestly, 4-5 years ago I was coming out of DIII Mount Union and honestly prob could have stayed there the rest of my life, coming off a national championship … I don’t know I’ve always tried to pull myself into every job I’ve had and focused on what I was doing at that time and let the course of nature take care of itself.
*For Rich Rodriguez, as he was growing up it was always pretty clear to him that he wanted to be a football coach. Was it the same for you? *
I think I always knew football coaching was gonna be in my blood somewhere down the line. As a player I think I was more of a young man that studied the game of football and was interested in how everything worked, not just my position. When I got done playing I got great opportunity to be a graduate assistant and I think that’s the thing, getting the opportunity and doing that , I think that really gave me the edge to want to be a football coach. I’m excited about the opportunity because it is always something I’ve wanted to do.
How big of an impact has the new training facility had on the football program (a $9 million training facility was built in 2010)?
It’s had a tremendous impact in our program in having the opportunity to let our kids work out through the winter. As you can imagine the winters in northwestern Ohio can get vicious, and its really given kids opportunites to hone their skills. Then from a recruiting standpoint our facilities are as nice as anybody’s in the Midwest so when our kids come in and have the opportunity to see the facility and have the chance to better themselves for the entire year, it’s really done wonders for our football program.
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