September 23, 2008

Campbell struggling to find his groove

The knot above his right eye was gone. On Monday, the scratch on the eyelid had also healed nicely since the loss at Louisville. But the other scars from the first three games continue to stick with Kansas State's marked man, senior Ian Campbell, who entered the season regarded as one of the top defensive ends in the nation, and so far, has been treated as such. He continues to battle issues as the Wildcats prepare for Louisiana on Saturday.

"It's a number of different things," said Campbell, a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection. "For me to make excuses and say the ball isn't coming to me enough wouldn't be proper. Maybe I need to relax and play my game a little bit more. There's no doubt I'm out there trying as hard as I can."

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Campbell, who saw his statistics drop a year ago when he alternated between defensive end and outside linebacker, plays almost solely at defensive end these days. He has been greeted with double teams, misdirection and persistent protectors at every turn.

And right now, the defensive leader and team co-captain with 28 consecutive starts, is marred in the biggest statistical rut in his career.

"When you're a down lineman, they can find you and they can put together schemes to get you," K-State coach Ron Prince said. "When you're a linebacker, it's hard to find you because you're on the move. So when you have a player with a big reputation and a lot of production, those coaches are going to be responsible, do their due diligence and try to find you.

"We're trying to do a good job moving him around but he's obviously one of their top priorities."

Campbell has 122 career total tackles, but he has just three this season -- one against North Texas, Montana State and Louisville -- after posting 67 in 2006 and 45 last season.

Campbell has 30.5 career tackles for a loss and needs nine more to crack the top 10 in K-State history. But Campbell, who has led the teams in tackles for a loss in the last two seasons -- 17.5 in 2006 and 11.0 in 2007 -- has recorded just one tackle for a loss so far with a sack against North Texas.

Campbell has gone back-to-back games without a tackle for a loss only one other time in his career as a starter and has never gone three straight games without drilling somebody holding the ball behind the line of scrimmage.

Campbell's 17.0 sacks rank eighth all-time in school history and he needs four more to move into fifth place in front of Andrew Shull, who had 20 sacks between 2000 and 2003.

"I have no problem with the position," Campbell said. "It's where I feel very comfortable at. I just need to play better myself."

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