One of Iowa State’s areas of concern heading into last season was the lack of depth of the offensive line. Matt Campbell and Tom Manning made it a priority to fix that issue with this year’s recruiting class. With a 2017 class headlined by two graduate transfers and finished off with 5 high school commits, Tom Manning is going to have plenty to work with as he looks to fill the spots on the offensive line.
Khaliel Rodgers is a graduate transfer from the University of Southern California, having started 9 games (6 at center, 3 at offensive guard) over the course of his career with the Trojans, though he moved to defensive tackle during the 2016 season to bolster the line. He is a former 4-star recruit who was rated as the 3rd overall center in the 2013 class.
Rodgers will bring with him some starting experience in a power five conference, something Iowa State can’t teach and is sorely lacking currently. His ability to play multiple positions made him a prime target for Matt Campbell and Tom Manning, and that versatility should suit him in the Big 12.
Though Rodgers does have starting experience, the small sample size was limited by a 2015 shoulder injury that resulted in surgery, so it’s tough to say what the ’Clones are really getting. It will be interesting to hear what Campbell has to say about Rodgers coming out of spring practices.
David Dawson is a graduate transfer from the University of Michigan. Coming out of high school, Dawson was a 4-star recruit, Under Armor All-American and one of the nation’s top guards in the 2013 class. He started 11 games at Michigan at almost every position on the line, and he also made an appearance on the defensive line.
Dawson is going to bring experience that the rest of the depth chart doesn’t have. Similar to Khaliel Rodgers, Dawson can play all over the line, and will allow Tom Manning to be versatile with what lineups he can use this coming fall.
Hate to sound like a broken record, but just like Rodgers, we don’t know what we are getting with Dawson. He started games and competed at a high level but it hasn’t been consistent or for a full season.
Colin Newell is a 3-star prep recruit and was one of the earlier commits in the 2017 class. Newell showed this past season he was one of the better lineman in Iowa and the 9th overall recruit in the state, according to the 247 Composite. He wont have to go far from home as he will graduate from Ames this spring.
Colin Newell is the typical Matt Campbell recruit: he’s tough and brings intensity to his play. He does a great job finishing blocks, which should pay dividends towards his career.
Newell tends to play stiff. His range of motion isn’t quite there yet, but after he finishes a year of development with the staff, the issue will work itself out.
Robert Hudson is another 3-star commit out of Michigan who was originally committed to Purdue before fliping to the Good Guys. During his career at Walled Lake High School, Hudson moved from defensive lineman to offensive tackle, which gives him the kind of upside that Tom Manning likes to see in his recruits.
Size, strength and potential. Hudson has great size at 6’ 9 and 300 pounds. He possesses great strength, which usually translates well to the offensive line.
Being such a raw talent at the offensive line is his major weakness. It will take some time for him adjust to the position at the division one level. Footwork is another issue, as his feet tend to lag behind his upper body, which doesn’t allow him to get a good base. These are all things that can be corrected by Tom Manning.
Jacob Bolton was a staff priority down the stretch. Bolton is a 3-star offensive lineman that chose Iowa State over Ole Miss and Maryland. He’s going to be one who, with development by the Cyclone staff, could potentially play all over the offensive line.
Bolton has a big frame at 6’6” and 300 pounds, which could allow him to play either guard or tackle. He also has the ability to get off the ball and finish a block with force. His strength will give him an opportunity to crack a lineup early in his career at Iowa State.
Downfield blocking is something Bolton appears to struggle with. He will have to be able to get to the second line of defenders and make great blocks to be able to see the field. It’s something that can be fine tuned by the staff in the coming years.
Alex Kleinow is a 6’6”, 290 pound 3-star recruit out of Iowa City West High School. He chose Iowa State over offers from Colorado State, Toledo and UNI.
Kleinow’s size and athleticism is great pass protection. With an injury hampering him in his junior season, he came back and looked much better than expected for his senior campaign. He has a good worth ethic and high character that give him serious upside.
He’ll have to work on redefining his technique. Due to missing time during high school, he resorted to old habits and his technique showed signs of weakness, though that will be tweaked by Iowa State. His injuries are also a minor concern, and ultimately, the ability to stay healthy will be the key to his development.
Jeff Nogaj was also another early commit in the 2017 class who has largely stayed under the radar. A longtime target of Tom Manning’s, Nogaj is a 3-star offensive lineman from Johnstown, Ohio, who chose Iowa State over Toledo.
Nogaj has great size and displays the physical attributes to be a great lineman. His main focus appears to be on the interior of the offensive line, which should allow him to show off his strength.
He just needs time to develop. His technique is a little raw, but sometimes that’s not bad things, especially when you have Tom Manning showing you the way. He’ll have plenty of time to learn and be molded into what the Cyclones need.
2017 Offensive Line Outlook
Obviously Matt Campbell and Tom Manning are going to want Khaliel Rodgers and David Dawson to play day one — it will be up to them to learn the playbook and do the work to make that happen. Jake Campos will be back from a broken leg to give Iowa State another formidable piece up front. Julian Good-Jones will also be returning from his red-shirt freshman season. It remains to be seen if he will move back to center where he started last year. If that’s the case, redshirt freshman Sean Foster should battle for the last starting spot, but keep an eye on will be Bryce Meeker and Oge Udeogu.