Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

IU football WR Cam Camper shines in first game at FBS level

Indiana’s offense sported a lot of new faces entering this 2022 season, and many of those players featured during the opening game against Illinois.

Few made their presence felt as early and as often as wide receiver Cam Camper.

The junior caught a 40-yard pass from Connor Bazelak on Indiana’s opening offensive possession, and was a focal point of Indiana’s offense all night. He received a team-high 18 targets, and finished with 11 receptions for 156 yards, tying several others for the 17th-most receptions in a game in program history.

This was Camper’s first game at the FBS level, after transferring to IU from Trinity Valley Community College in the offseason. He didn’t surprise himself with a strong debut at the higher level.

“That was my goal: come in and try to be the guy,” Camper said. “That’s what I wanted to do. I knew I had to work for it, and that’s what I did.”

The 40-yard catch was his biggest play, but he was all over the field Friday. Camper found success on short passing plays, intermediate routes, and going deep. His skill set already appears like a good fit for the Hoosiers’ offense.

Some people would have trouble adapting to the brighter lights of a Big Ten contest. But Camper wasn’t fazed by the environment or the stage.

“It just felt natural to me. I came out, I wasn’t nervous or nothing,” Camper said. “Everything just went away when gameday came. I prepared the right way.”

Camper wasn’t perfect on Friday. He committed a major error with a late-game fumble that gave Illinois good field position and forced Indiana to use its timeouts to preserve enough clock to have a chance.

But he wasn’t fazed by that play, either. When the Hoosiers’ offense returned to the field for its two-minute drill, Camper was locked in. He made three receptions on that game-winning drive for 35 yards.

Bazelak praised Camper for bouncing back from the mistake and making big plays on the last drive. Camper attributed that to a mentality he grew up with.

“Just a ‘next play’ mind set,” Camper said. “That’s what I came up on. You’ve got to move on. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Camper wasn’t a highly sought-after recruit coming out of Lancaster (Texas) High School. And even when moving on from junior college, IU was his only power-five offer — though he had offers from Central Florida and Liberty, among others.

Tom Allen just liked what he saw on Camper’s tape. He saw a fit.

“Came out of high school and was really small. He had a huge growth spurt both in weight and in his height (in junior college) and kind of became a different kid,” Allen said. “When I put his film in from the junior college, I was like, ‘How is this kid not a guy that everybody’s trying to get?'”

Allen, too, wasn’t surprised by Camper’s performance against Illinois. The junior stood out in preseason practice, and the Hoosiers knew he was capable of a game like this.

There’s plenty of season left, with even tougher opposition on the horizon. But in Camper and D.J. Matthews Jr. — who also enjoyed a strong game, with seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown — Indiana could already have a formidable wide receiver duo, if Friday is any indication.

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