Midland – Jayru Campbell and Ferris State coach Tony Annese have developed a solid relationship, and that has helped Campbell be successful on and off the football field.
Campbell, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior quarterback, has led Ferris State to a 3-0 start, averaging 597 yards of offense (second in the nation) and 54 points (third).
The once-troubled Campbell – who spent time in jail for an altercation with a security guard while at Detroit Cass Tech, then had an incident with his girlfriend his senior year – appears confident and at ease, piloting the Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 6 nationally.
Campbell has completed 61 percent of his passes, throwing for 671 yards and six TDs without an interception. He has rushed for 294 yards and six TDs, averaging seven yards a carry.
Campbell was on top of his game Saturday in his GLIAC debut, a 53-10 rout of Northwood, helping Ferris State score TDs on six of its first seven possessions to open a 39-3 third-quarter lead. He completed 10-of-16 for 225 yards and a TD, also running for 98 yards on 16 carries and three TDs.
“We’re doing a good job, off to a great start,” Campbell said following the win over Northwood at Hantz Stadium in Midland. “I don’t think we’ve played the best opponents, but it was nice to really see what our offense can do and how good we can be. I just feel like we have to keep our foot on the gas, practice a little harder and go a little harder since we missed a couple of opportunities.
“I’m comfortable with this offense. I’m under some great coaches. We have a great coaching staff and some talented players, definitely some athletic players out there from the slot to the wideout and even our running backs going out there and catching the ball. I feel our offensive line is great at the run game and pass block, so I’m real comfortable and it makes it a lot easier when you have a lot of talent around you.
“You could say I’m very comfortable at Ferris State.”
Annese has enjoyed tremendous success at Ferris State, owning a 63-14 record with four straight seasons of 11 or more wins. He is proud of how Campbell has turned his life around.
“He’s a special athlete, a consummate dual guy who can run the ball effectively, run the ball physically, which is unbelievable – scares the heck out of me – and is a smart, accurate passer,” said Annese. “What I’m most impressed about though is his attention to detail. He wants to be the best so every day is like a mission for him.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the young man because he’s fought through a lot of tough times and has had some adversity, but he’s doing what he can do to be his best every day.”
Annese said Campbell’s work ethic was in full force this past summer.
“He’s a hard worker and he’s very serious about being the best and that’s what I love about him,” Annese said. “He’s been doing that all summer. We would have a workout – the strength coach would run a workout and then they’d work on some skill stuff on their own – and then he was bringing guys back three hours later to run extra.
“People always question – you know, just because of who he is and how high-profile he was in high school. But to me the bigger purpose here is to help people develop and that’s been my mission as a coach my whole career, to serve young people, and we’re here to serve him, help him be successful, and he’s doing everything that we need him to do to be successful so we’re proud of him.”
Campbell came ready to play Saturday at Northwood.
On the Bulldogs’ first series, Campbell directed their up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense on an 89-yard scoring drive, finding Keyondre Craig for a 69-yard pass play on third-and-15 to set up Campbell’s 1-yard TD run.
On the third series, Campbell again went up top and found Craig down the left sideline for 54 yards to set up his second TD run, this time from two yards out for a 13-0 cushion.
Then, on the Bulldogs’ fourth drive, Campbell broke loose for 45 yards on a third-and-17 from their 17, bursting right up the middle and spinning away from one defender at the 28, cutting down the right sideline and stiff-arming two defenders to get to the Northwood 38, setting up Derrick Portis’ 22-yard TD run for a 19-3 cushion.
Campbell’s 1-yard run with 28 seconds left in the half gave the Bulldogs a 25-3 lead with the key play of the 77-yard drive being Campbell’s physical 16-yard run to the Northwood 34, leading to his teammates’ yelling, “Now, that’s a grown man!”
Craig had three receptions for 162 yards and a 39-yard TD catch on a pass from Campbell for the 32-3 lead on the opening series of the second half.
“We try to get better every week, me and Jayru, do a lot of one-and-ones after practice, before practice to try and build that chemistry and today it showed,” said Craig. “Jayru is a leader on this team. He wants to be great every play. Every week he pushes us. He’s a good guy and good player.”
Campbell led Cass Tech to Division 1 state championships in 2011 and 2012 and was a Michigan State commit before his troubles began. He landed at Garden City Community College in Kansas and led GCCC to the Junior College National Championship in 2016 before transferring to Ferris, where he had to sit out last season.
The Bulldogs haven’t been tested, with victories over East Stroudsburg (49-17), Findlay (59-13) and Northwood. The Bulldogs play at Northern Michigan Saturday before a homecoming matchup against Ashland Sept. 29.
“I honestly just feel like if we lift weights hard and we come to practice ready to play and everybody just does their job, I feel like we have nothing to worry about and it doesn't matter who we play," said Campbell. "I feel like we can compete with some of the DI teams out there. I'm not worried about anything when it comes to the guys that I have and the team that I have."