Cross another “first” off the list for Matt Campbell at Iowa State. Coach Campbell held his first media day press conference as head coach of the Cyclones this morning. While touching on several key position battles, Campbell continually stressed consistency, videotape evidence and culture.
Here are a few of the key takeaways:
Offensive Line Concerns
We knew coming into the season that the offensive line was one of the team’s biggest questions marks. Jake Campos, Brian Bobek and Nick Fett were mentioned as having “videotape evidence” showing their ability to compete.
Although Campbell referred to the competition at the center position as a three-way race, it would be an upset if anyone but Bobek lined up at that spot come September 3rd. Bryce Meeker was mentioned for his ability to also play the guard position and Julian Good-Jones for his versatility in moving out to the tackle position.
Although it’s still a concern, the general theme was that the position group is better than when they arrived and they’ve improved since the beginning of spring practice.
Mike Warren is no longer a new face to the Big 12. Defenses will begin to develop a game plan that neutralizes his skill set. Campbell mentioned Warren needs to understand what the defense is trying to do and the staff needs to find alternative ways of getting him the ball. This could be in the passing game or lining him up in different spots on the field.
While we would all like to see Warren get all of the touches at the running back position, that just isn’t realistic. Coming into fall camp there have been big concerns over the secondary options at this spot. Campbell got really excited talking about his “two young freshmen” as well as Mitch Harger. Sheldon Croney and newcomers David Montgomery and Kene Nwangwu should all compete for carries this fall and the coaching staff seems to be very comfortable with that.
The most important position on the field is certainly not an afterthought, but the position is set for September 3rd with Joel Lanning solidifying his spot as the starter. As Campbell alluded to, it can’t be assumed that one guy will take all of the snaps. So, who will it be if Lanning goes down?
Campbell mentioned three things he looks for in the quarterback position:
- Ability to lead
- Understanding of the offense
There is a “huge competition” going on for the most popular position on the depth chart: the backup quarterback. While it would be ideal for Zeb Noland to redshirt this season, it was mentioned that he was brought in early for a reason and the best player will play no matter what. Jacob Park is the other part of this competition and is just starting fall practice due to the flu. This is certainly something to keep an eye on going forward.
Of all the position groups mentioned today, this was by the far the group the staff seemed to be the most concerned with. Matt Campbell referred to this group as “up in the air” and said they “need to get better.’’ While this is certainly concerning considering coaches are typically full of optimism on media day, it was mentioned that there is some elite, young talent.
Will any true freshman play?
Coach Campbell has made it no secret that the best players will play, whether they are freshmen or seniors. Along with the running backs mentioned above, expect JaQuan Bailey to get some snaps on the defensive side of the ball.
When the depth chart was released at the Big 12 media days, it didn’t quite look the same as it had in the past. I mean, how brilliant is Matt Campbell? With twelve positions on offense and defense, we will never lose a game! (Well, we still might lose a few games...) It turns out there was more to it.
Coach Campbell mentioned the need to find roles for as many players as possible. With more roles available, there is more investment from everyone on the team.
Don’t expect the Cyclones to be locked into any one particular scheme or set of formations this fall. They’ll look to use a number of different formations to get the ball to their playmakers as much as possible.
It was assumed coming into fall camp that Cole Netten would be the starting kicker against Northern Iowa. It turns out it is indeed his job to lose, but he will have some strong competition.
Chris Francis and walk-on Eric Silvester are pushing Netten at the kicker spot. Francis looked good in the spring game, so hopefully this is a matter of Francis and Silvester upping the ante and not Netten showing signs of inconsistency.
Hell, maybe we will even see some three kicker formations!
Depth and Attrition
The difference between good teams and great teams is depth. Injuries will occur in football and teams that can move on without missing a beat will find themselves in bowl games.
Campbell mentioned that he can bring 105 players to fall camp. This year there were five scholarship players that didn’t make it to fall camp. From the sounds of it, they got beat out by walk-ons. While he didn’t mention who these players are, he did say they could return to the team when practices begin.
Nigel Tribune Update
The Nigel Tribune situation hasn’t changed at all. Matt Campbell mentioned that he is still suspended indefinitely until all of the questions have been answered. Later in the press conference, Campbell mentioned Tribune by name when referring to defensive backs who have “videotape evidence,’’ so that might be a clue that Tribune will find his way back in good standing at some point in the near future.