Thursday, March 27, 2014

Toledo coach Matt Campbell big fan of Lake County high school football

Matt Campbell begins his third season as Toledo's head football coach on Aug. 30.

The 34-year-old Mount Union graduate has quickly established recruiting roots in at least one Northeast Ohio county.

After practice on March 27, Campbell discussed three players from Northeast Ohio, including two from Lake County in running back Kareem Hunt and defensive end John Stepec.

Hunt played at Willoughby South. Stepec played at Lake Catholic.

When assessing the duo, Campbell made it a point to laud their respective high school coaches.

Campbell said Coach Matt Duffy's system is a big reason why Hunt excelled as a freshman in 2013. Hunt eclipsed 100 rushing yards in five of the Rockets' last six games.

“You look at his head coach in high school," Campbell said. "You come from that program and so much was expected out of you.  He was a lot more mature than a lot of other young men in our football program. I give a lot of credit to Coach Duffy and where he came from, and I certainly appreciate him being ready to go for us because he was certainly a difference-maker for us last year.”

Campbell had similar praise for former Lake Catholic coach Mike Bell, who will coach at Eastlake North in 2014. Stepec was Bell's last Division I recruit at Lake Catholic.

"He's a guy whose career is going to skyrocket as well," Campbell said of Stepec. "Again, you talk about coming from a great high school program, Coach Bell develops players who come into college ready to go. You're getting a first-class player from a first-class high school football program.”

Campbell, a Massillon native, also has a strong relationship with Mentor's Steve Trivisonno. Campbell even brought to Toledo to Mentor for a Friday night practice last spring as a benefit for former Cardinal and Rocket defense lineman Ben Pike's then-fiancee, now-wife, Ashley Barrett, who was battling leukemia.

Toledo didn't land any scholarship players from Lake County in 2014. But it wasn't from a lack of effort or networking.

-- Guy Cipriano | @newsheraldguy

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