Slot machine: Campanaro emerges as elite ACC wide receiver, finds chemistry with fellow senior Price

first_img Published on November 1, 2013 at 1:20 am Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbb Facebook Twitter Google+ Tanner Price didn’t think there was any chance the pass he just released would be caught.Michael Campanaro was running a go route against Boston College with a safety draped all over him. His back was to the line of scrimmage and it seemed like Price had overthrown him.But Campanaro used every inch of his wingspan to lie out and haul in an improbable touchdown that he’s made routine in his four years at Wake Forest.“There’s been a few where I just thought there’s no way he’d come down with it, but he does,” said Price, the Demon Deacons’ senior quarterback. “And he did a great job of coming down with that one.”Campanaro is one of the top receiving threats in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a result of his precise route-running and ever-present knack for finding openings in the secondary. The fifth-year senior is now Wake’s (4-4, 2-3 ACC) all-time receptions leader, and tops the conference in both receptions and receiving yards per game.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut before college, he was a running back, just as he had been ever since he started playing flag football at the age of 5. He was a Washington Redskins fan, but idolized tailbacks Emmitt Smith and Brian Westbrook. That sparked his love for the backfield.Because of his 5-foot-11 frame, Campanaro knew that he would have to switch to wide receiver at Wake Forest after playing a number of positions for River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md. He always had the ability to catch the ball well, he said, which eased the transition into his new position.Although he was forced out of the position with which he had been so familiar, Campanaro loves the nature of his work now.“It’s a lot more fun than running back, I feel like,” he said. “You can make some really big plays from the receiver position.”Campanaro has supplied plenty of those for the Demon Deacons this season. The flanker came into this season with eight career touchdowns, and is just two scores away from matching that total this year alone.“He’s really smart, very football-savvy,” Price said. “He just has a great understanding of the game. He does a really good job of seeing defenses and basically seeing what I see.”The two connect more often than almost all quarterback-wideout combinations in the ACC. Forty-two percent of Price’s completions settle in the hands of Campanaro, the second highest rate of all ACC quarterbacks, with more than 90 passes completed.Campanaro’s 65 catches are the best in the conference, fourth best in the nation and 51 more than the Demon Deacons’ second-leading receiver. Wake Forest’s play calls are often designed to get him the ball, Price said, but there are plenty of times when Campanaro is the third progression on a play and the first to create space and get open.But the three or four high-percentage bubble screens to Campanaro that are called each game, the receiver said, bloat his high reception total. He doesn’t have many deep routes, and most of Wake Forest’s passing plays call for him to run underneath patterns. Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer likened Campanaro to Denver Broncos All-Pro slot receiver Wes Welker.Campanaro said his favorite route to run is what the Demon Deacons call the “middle bend.” It’s similar to a post route, but hinges on the receiver reading the defense, reacting and finding the holes. Campanaro thrives at that.“It’s just a route that myself and Tanner, we’ve kind of developed over the years,” Campanaro said. “I feel pretty comfortable running it across the middle. It’s dangerous, but it’s fun.”Wake Forest wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield doesn’t buy into highlight-reel catches. His belief is that execution on routes lead to easy catches, not the dazzling catches that appear on “ESPN SportsCenter.” Many of those plays, he said, are results of poor routes.“There’s so much work that’s done before that to make easy catches,” Stubblefield said. “With Michael Campanaro, we’re trying to have nothing but easy catches because he ran the route so good that there’s nobody around him, so some of his highlights might be before the catch.”Stubblefield said that last season, Campanaro was guilty of a lot of “freestyling” in his route-running.Too often, the wideout would put Price in a position where the quarterback was vulnerable to throwing an interception. Campanaro also put himself in dangerous situations, giving defenders a chance to lay a painful hit on him when it wasn’t necessary, Stubblefield said.Now, Campanaro is better prepared and reacting to defenses better to become a more complete wide receiver. Stubblefield believes his skill set is one that will transfer to the NFL.“This past year, we’ve really challenged him about reading defenses and knowing what to do off of different looks that you see, and he’s embraced that,” Stubblefield said. “He’s taken that to another level.” Commentslast_img

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