MORGANTOWN — Shea Campbell bears a striking resemblance to a former teammate, at least according to the West Virginia football coaches.
Both head coach Dana Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson compared Campbell to Justin Arndt, a walk-on that turned himself into a starting linebacker by his senior season.
Not only did Arndt become a starter at Sam linebacker, he led the Mountaineers in tackles in 2016 with 84.
The comparisons are easy to make on the surface — Arndt is a West Virginia native out of Martinsburg who decided to walk-on at WVU and Campbell also decided to walk on after graduating from Morgantown High, in 2015.
The former Mohigan was a safety in high school and seemed to be undersized to play linebacker at the college level. Arndt, while he did play linebacker for the Bulldogs, was considered too small to play significant snaps at a Power Five program.
Arndt proved his doubters wrong in the end, and now Campbell hopes to do the same after earning a scholarship this summer and working his way into the linebacker rotation.
Campbell has already bulked up 31 pounds since his freshman season and weighs 240, which forced the coaching staff to move Campbell from a safety to linebacker. He is also 25 pounds heavier than Arndt was as a senior.
With a wide open competition at Sam, coaches expect Campbell to be a contributor defensively and on special teams.
“Gibby loves him and he’s smart — he really reminds us a lot of Justin Arndt,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a West Virginia kid that walked on and does everything right. He’s a good football player that shows up to practice. He did a great job for us on scout team last year. He’s going to play a lot of special teams and he’ll be a backup linebacker.
“Hopefully he lives up to what we think he can be.”
Gibson said Campbell is in the two-deep at Sam, competing with Charlie Benton and Josh Chandler for playing time.
The reason Gibson is so high on Campbell is what he offers mentally and with his work ethic.
“He had a really, really good spring and good summer and is just getting it,” Gibson said. “He was a safety that we moved to linebacker and he weighs 240 pounds now, so we really like where he’s at. He works his tail off and it’s paying off for him.”
Even toward the end of last season, Campbell dressed for the final two home games against Iowa State and Texas. While he has yet to get into a game, his knowledge of the 3-3-5 and what the defense is supposed to do has helped Campbell separate himself from other scholarship linebackers.
If needed, he could play Will and Sam, which makes him more valuable.
“He and (Dylan) Tonkery have played all three positions, so from a knowledge standpoint, having a guy that can go from Sam to Mike in a bind, he could get us through if we needed him there,” assistant linebackers coach Mark Scott said. “He does everything right on and off the field and he’s put himself into position where he’s going to be a player for us this year.”