Over the final few days of the offseason, we at WRNL are going to be breaking down every position group from the quarterbacks down to the special teams. I’ll be looking over what the offensive line has to offer for the 2019 season, and what my expectations for the group are going to be.
For much of Matt Campbell’s tenure in Ames, the offensive line has had issues, but it can also be the group that takes the longest to build. The coaching staff finally believes they are getting the pieces in place to have a great offensive line. The Cyclones bring back all five starters (Julian Good-Jones, Collin Olsen, Collin Newell, Josh Knipfel and Bryce Meeker), but two redshirt freshman are making a push for playing time.
None that are notable to the success of the 2019 season. 63 of 65 starts will be back to the starting lineup to begin the season. The only starts that would no be accounted for would be two by Sean Foster, who is currently listed on the depth chart backing up Bryce Meeker.
All four of these guys will have a developmental year and then work their way into contention next season, as the Cyclones will have to replace some pieces on the line before the 2020 season.
Leader Of The Pack
Iowa State has maybe one legit NFL offensive lineman as of now on the roster, and that’s Josh Knipfel. Since transferring from Iowa Western Community College, Knipfel has started every game on the offensive line for Matt Campbell.
In 2017, the line allowed the 26th fewest sacks in the country, and Knipfel led a group that helped Iowa State’s offense average 30.9 points per game. He’s also coming off an honorable mention All-Big 12 season in 2018, and enters the 2019 season with 26 straight starts.
If the offensive line is going to have a ton of success, they are going to have to have Josh Knipfel’s very best effort as a Cyclone, coupled with the other four making complete strides from last season. A lot of the big plays on the ground happened behind Knipfel’s lead, and I expect more of the same this season. Don’t be surprised to see Knipfel selected in the mid rounds of next year’s NFL draft, as I think he will open up a lot of NFL scouts eyes with another solid year.
Don’t Forget About
If Josh Knipfel wasn’t on Iowa State’s offensive line, I think Collin Newell would be the most import piece of the offensive line going into the 2019 season. Newell has a ton of room to grow, while showing a ton of promise last season in arguably the most important position on the offensive line. While Newell’s play wasn’t bad during the 2018 season, he wasn’t able to get a ton of push up from to make room for the Iowa State running backs. His ability to hold blocks is great, but creating impact blocking plays is still behind. I am excited to see how his blocking takes a step forward in 2019.
Right now, Downing is listed as the #2 left guard behind last year’s starter Collin Olsen. All signs point to Olsen keeping that spot but Downing has been impressing the coaching staff since spring and into fall camp this year. I think this is going to be the first position change that will happen on the offensive line in 2019, and I view it as a complete upgrade. It’s only a matter of time, but I would certainly keep an eye on how things unfold at left guard.
This is where the second redshirt freshman comes in to play. Right now, Joey Ramos is behind Julian Good-Jones on the depth chart at left tackle. The coaching staff is impressed with Ramos, and may try to work him at times to start the season. Julian Good-Jones will have the spot unless he loses trust from the coaching staff.
This is the most important position group for Iowa State football in 2019. It’s also the most frustrating on the entire team. The potential for this group to great is sitting right in front of their face. The 2019 season’s motto is #ProveIt, and I look at that and instantly look right at the offensive line.
If this group can come together and have a solid year, the possibilities for the offense are endless. Without David Montgomery making his own space, the offensive line will have to find ways to get push and keep Brock Purdy clean in the pocket.
The group showed they can get better, and demonstrated that against the Alamo Bowl. Against Washington State, the offensive line had one of their best games of the year. Even though the line returns every starter from last season, I do believe that there will be some personnel changes during the season that will elevate the group to another level. My goal for the group is to start better than average and get better from there. This needs to be the year the offensive line makes a jump.