Michigan football OC Kirk Campbell relies experience, players new role

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After having only been an on-field coach for a year at the Divison II-level, coaching wideouts and tight ends at Tiffin, Kirk Campbell found himself at a new school in Alderson Broaddus (also D-II) as the school’s new offensive coordinator.

He was young and hadn’t had a ton of experience. Having played wide receiver in his college days at Mercyhurst, Campbell was only five years removed from having strapped on a helmet and being involved in the actual games themselves. Now he was responsible for overseeing an entire offense.

Campbell held that post in West Virginia for five years before he went to State College to work as an analyst for a Penn State team that had a high-flying offense under then-coordinator Joe Moorhead. He remained in Happy Valley for three years and that led to his opportunity with a Group of Five school in Old Dominion, where he was the offensive coordinator for two years. He left Norfolk to be an analyst in Ann Arbor in 2022, was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2023, and now he’ll oversee the Michigan football offense as the coordinator for Sherrone Moore’s Wolverines in 2024.

He did get a taste for what it’s like to make the calls for the maize and blue offense in 2023, having held interim duties for the season opener a year ago. All of this experience culminates with him getting the job proper in Ann Arbor, and he feels like all of the roads he’s taken in his career have led to this moment.

“I think the biggest thing for me in my entire coaching career, I became an offensive coordinator, I believe was 24 years old. And before I called my first game, I was 25,” Campbell said. “That experience has taught me so much in this process, because I revert back that a lot is like — you throw an infant into a pool, and they learn how to swim, right? That’s what I was doing when I was just trying to tread water, keep my head above water. But I learned what my strengths, my weaknesses, where I had to adapt, where I had to get better. And then have an opportunity to do it at the FBS level for two years and then come in here and grab the first game that I was I was on staff I had to call the game, that’s a great experience.

“New vernacular last year for me as a play-caller in that game and just be able to adapt. That put me in a situation that I think it’s just gonna be like riding a bike. You just gotta get back to it, and you just do it. And it’s very, very honored to have that opportunity.”

The big question for the offense — aside from who the playmakers will be after so many departures from the national championship team — is how much (or little) will the philosophy change?

The prevailing notion is that it won’t, even with Sherrone Moore moving from offensive coordinator to head coach and Campbell being elevated from quarterbacks coach. The idea coming in, from the outside looking in, is that continuity will reign supreme. But that’s not how Campbell sees it.

Given the changes in personnel, spring ball provides a good evaluation period for how closely this offense can resemble the one of the past two years, but also how it could differ. There are different playmakers who will now be stars and focal points that perhaps were relegated to a more secondary role in years past. Campbell asks himself: what are the best ways to get those players the ball?

So don’t expect a redux of last year’s offense. Sure, there will be similar plays, and the scheme will likely be just about the same. But the overall philosophy on a game-to-game basis may be radically different from the Blake Corum-led ground-and-pound from the past two seasons.

“Any great coordinator on any side of the ball forms their offense around the players, right? So who are your best players? How do you put them in the best situation to succeed?” Campbell said. “So as far as if you’re hitting on like run-pass tells, I don’t know how those will play out. Those are all dictated by the outcomes of the game, situational football, how the game flow’s going. But as far as structure, terminology that we use, that’s not going to change, but how we use the players in the offense, that may change.

“We know that Colston Loveland is a really good football player. How do we get the ball to our best football players? Donovan Edwards — the list goes on. Semaj Morgan — got really good receivers — Tyler Morris. And you got to get the ball in their hands and then see if we’re gonna be a downhill run team or a perimeter run team or you don’t know that yet. That’s what spring ball’s for.”

Spring ball began on Monday and will continue through late April, with all eyes on the April 20 spring game at The Big House.


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