May 14, 2006
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -After eight seasons as Arkansas' director of football operations, Louis Campbell has a chance to spend a little more time on the field again.
"Certainly it's more exciting to be out there in it than to be in damage control behind the scenes, just in the office," he said.
Campbell returned for a second stint as Arkansas' secondary coach during the December shakeup that included hiring Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator. Bobby Allen will continue coaching cornerbacks, and Chris Vaughn has moved from safeties coach and recruiting coordinator to director of on-campus recruiting.
Campbell, 56, was a three-year letterman at defensive back for Arkansas before starting his coaching career in 1973 - as a graduate assistant for Bear Bryant at Alabama.
"It was an honor, a privilege," Campbell said of working with Bryant. "It's kind of one of those things you can't really appreciate it when you're going through it - but now that it's behind you and you look back and you think, dad-gum, you're lucky as a dog to be going through that."
Campbell's career as an assistant has included two stops at Alabama, as well as stints with SMU, Oklahoma State and the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He finally came back to Arkansas in 1990 when he took over as secondary coach.
In 1998, Houston Nutt's first season as head coach, Campbell moved to the more administrative position of director of football operations. After going 4-7 in 2005 for his second straight losing season, Nutt made several changes.
"It just kind of came up. Houston and (defensive coordinator Reggie Herring) came to me after the season and said that they were going to look around," Campbell said Thursday. "Coach Nutt felt like there needed to be some changes made, so he wanted to know if I would be interested."
Nutt and Campbell were assistants together at Oklahoma State two decades ago. Campbell was defensive coordinator and secondary coach, and Nutt worked with quarterbacks and receivers.
The secondary Campbell inherits this season is one of few areas in which the Razorbacks must replace a key senior from last year. Arkansas returns 10 starters on offense and nine on defense, but safety Vickiel Vaughn was a seventh-round draft pick last month by the San Francisco 49ers.
Arkansas' solution is to move Michael Grant - previously a backup cornerback - to free safety.
"Vickiel Vaughn graduated - he didn't have any depth behind him," Campbell said. "We've not only had to look for depth but look for a starter. I think the move with Michael Grant in time will turn out to be a real good move both for him and the team."
Campbell said his new job has enabled him to learn about players in a different way than before.
"I could tell you who was doing well in school or who was in trouble or whatever, but how they were doing on the field, I didn't have a clue," he said. "It's a completely different line, completely different avenue of working with them all. You certainly get to know them closer and better when you're in a meeting room with them every day and on the field then you do just on a limited basis in the office."
Like the rest of the defense, the secondary started slowly last season. In back-to-back September weeks, Arkansas faced Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler and Southern California's Matt Leinart - quarterbacks who went on to become first-round draft picks.
"That was a good year to be in operations and not the secondary coach, I can promise you," Campbell joked.
The Razorbacks lost to Vanderbilt 28-24 on a last-minute touchdown pass by Cutler, then Leinart threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns in USC's 70-17 rout.
But after that, Arkansas' defense improved under Herring, who was in his first season with the team. The Razorbacks allowed over 24 points only once the rest of the year - and Campbell says the team is a little more confident heading into next season.
"It's not like you're kind of hoping and wishing for a lot of things," he said. "You feel like you've got a chance going in that if we play well, they play well - we'll win."