Coming into the 2017 season, the offensive line for Iowa State was a major concern. Jake Campos and Julian Good-Jones were the only starters back with experience on the NCAA stage. Josh Knipfel was a late addition to the recruiting class, which gave Iowa State another body to use. Thankfully, for most of the season, Tom Manning was able to field the same group which allowed some continuity up front.
Most of Iowa State’s offensive lineman graded extremely well in pass protection. Jake Campos and Robby Garcia were well over 80.0 according to Pro Football Focus’ grading metrics. Iowa State only allowed 19 sacks all season, which allowed someone like Kyle Kempt to become comfortable and get his feet wet in the college game.
Iowa State’s only issue was the run blocking, which is going to knock their grade down. For most of the season ,whether it was technique issues or just plain being beat at the the line of scrimmage, the Cyclones were unable to garner much traction in the run blocking game. It is certainly something that will be addressed this off season especially with a type of running back like David Montgomery coming back.
Position MVP: Jake Campos
Jake Campos was Iowa State’s biggest name to return to the offensive line in 2017. As is the case for many of the Iowa State’s offensive lineman, Campos’ strength was pass blocking, where he graded out as an 86.2. That grade ranked in him 33rd among all offensive tackles in college football. Campos only allowed pressure on 3% of pass attempts for the entire season. Though he struggled in the run game, he was a big presence to have on that line, which helped Iowa State reach an 8-5 season.
Highlight of The Season
I thought the Baylor game was the best overall game for the offensive line. Not only was the pass protection on par, but within the second half of that game we saw the run blocking hit strides we hadn’t seen all season. Below are a few examples of each lineman hitting their assignments and getting the running backs off into space cleanly.
Breakout Player: Robby Garcia
After making the switch over from defensive line to offensive line. Garcia was one of Iowa State’s highest rated offensive lineman. Garcia graded out for the year at 71.3, according to Pro Football Focus. To add on he graded at an elite level of 85 in pass blocking. His story is something truly special, and his ability to play well all year says something about the work ethic of Robby Garcia.
Outlook for 2018
All things considered, Iowa State is in better shape at this time now than they were a year ago. Robby Garcia and Jake Campos will be the departures across the front, and Julian Good-Jones, Bryce Meeker, Josh Knipfel and Sean Foster will all return with plenty of playing experience.
Where do they all fit in? Meeker has the ability to play on the inside at the guard position, which could pave the way for Sean Foster to take either tackle position. We did see some inconsistencies due to lack of experience from Foster where he was out on the field, which is something that will grow in year two for him. That will leave one other tackle spot. Jacob Bolton, whom red shirted this past season, is one who could take that spot as well, and Rob Hudson could be thrown into the mix somewhere.
Matt Campbell and Tom Manning have options next year. The biggest thing will be the improvement in the run game. I trust that won’t be an issue come next year.