The first question directed at new University of Central Arkansas football coach Steve Campbell at Southland Conference Media Day was classic and simple.
Who are you?
Campbell correctly interpreted that as a philosophical query rather than a historical one.
“The foundation of my coaching is on three core principles,” he said. “First, I want an unselfish football team and everybody associated with it. Selfish teams usually underachieve. Second, we want to get better every day and we’ll gonna work to do that. Third, we want to do the little things as close as we can to perfection every game.”
He noted there might be a “million stats” in football. He pays most attention to two — turnovers and explosive plays.
“Turnovers on offense come about by not doing the little thngs,” he said. “Explosive plays on defense come about by doing the little things.”
When the Bears begin practice Saturday, some of those basic fundamentals will be emphasized and tweaked.
During the offseason, spring and summer, Campbell has been pleased with the attitude and development of the players he inherited from former coach Clint Conque. Upon leaving, Conque said, “The next coach will find a good football team in that locker room.”
Campbell said, “When players buy into what you’re doing, it makes a first-year transition really good. Our best players are great leaders. When you have guys working hard for the betterment of the team rather than for personal stats, you’ve got a chance to be pretty good really fast.”
The Bears already have a team built along the template that Campbell wants. He wants to be strong up front on both offense and defense. He likes speed and explosiveness at the edges on both offense and defense.
“We’re young, but we have guys who have played at a high level,” he said. “We have playmakers on both sides of the football. We have a lot of things to be excited about.”
One exciting but daunting challenge awaits immediately. The opener is at Texas Tech, possibly the strongest opening opponent ever for the Bears.
“In the weeks leading to Texas Tech, we’ve got to tweak the little things on both offense and defense,” he said. As soon as we can get down, rather than broad strokes, to fine-tuning, that’s when you get a chance to get where you want.”
Campbell, who came to UCA after a highly successful tenure at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, knows he’s in for a cultural change, particularly in opening with a Big 12 opponent.
“But every week is going to be exciting and every week you have to play well, no matter what name is on the jersey and whether the team is FBS and FCS,” he said. “I’m excited. But I always got excited playing Coahoma Community College.”
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)