For the first time in six years, Iowa State Football held a spring football game after putting the game on hiatus (presumably) in favor of an extra structured practice. The day was cold and windy, but that didn’t stop a healthy contingent of Cyclone fans from making their way to Jack Trice Stadium to get their first look at the 2023 iteration of the program, which is currently in a state of transition after replacing most of the offensive staff following last season.
One thing I do want to mention before we get into things is that this is just a Spring Game. Little stock can be placed in what happens in spring football games. Coaches are experimenting with rotations and playcalling and the team is seeing its first live-ish action since November. However, we can pick out a few things that do indicate current and possible future trends.
Here are a few things I took note of at the game today:
Earlier this week, Iowa State Athletics announced a new throwback uniform to be worn this coming season to honor Jack Trice and his legacy. The uniform was finally revealed today before the Spring Game through a video narrated by defensive tackle Isaiah Lee.
, , .— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) April 22, 2023
Here’s a full look at the uniform:
We will take the field… .— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) April 22, 2023
A complete reimaging and update of the 2013 Jack Trice throwback uniforms (which haven’t aged particularly well), these uniforms are incredibly sharp. The red, white, and silver color scheme works extremely well, and this may be the first attempt at recreating the old-brown pants college football teams commonly wore that actually looks good. Well done that.
Also, THAT HELMET! swoon.
Anybody that read my definitive ranking of Iowa State’s primary athletics logos knows I’m a huge fan of the “AMES” block text logo, and the red text one a clean white helmet with a single red stripe down the middle is just so damn clean and perfect. I really think this helmet should become part of the regular rotation. I would well with basically any uniform we already have, including the black uniforms.
Ryan Clanton’s Offensive Line
Easily the biggest storyline heading into this weekend was the current state of the offensive line under new position coach Ryan Clanton, who has made a point throughout the offseason (as revealed in various clips sent out by Athletics) that intensity, energy, and violence, will be the cornerstones of this group.
Saturday, we saw the early results of that philosophy, and no position group in the stadium raised more eyebrows than the offensive line. Make no mistake, there’s still plenty of work to be done, but this group was able to consistently keep a clean pocket in the pass game and open up holes in the running game for the backs.
The threshold for energy and intensity in that room has clearly been raised already. Monitoring the progress of this group through fall camp and the early part of the season as they get their legs under them is going be fascinating and exciting to watch.
The Ryan Clanton tenure is off to a great start.
Jirehl Brock is back
After spending a couple of years behind Breece Hall, Jirehl Brock was poised to take over the starting gig at running back in 2022, but an injury-plagued season limited his impact. Today, we saw him get a healthy dose of touches and he looked great. Brock was consistently making people miss in space and looked like the quick and agile running back we know he can be when he’s healthy.
Tight ends played a big role again
The 2023 season saw a dip in tight end usage following the departures of Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen while a new group of starters tried to get their feet under them, which resulted in very modest success outside of a good late-season stretch from Dashawn Hanika. Today, we saw the tight ends catch a number of passes, especially Gabe Burkle and Jack Bjorn, who made some really nice plays in the middle of the field and after the catch. Both seem like comfortable route runners, and may figure to see plenty of snaps along with Easton Dean and Hanika.
Jayden Higgins stands out
Higgins, an Eastern Kentucky transfer this offseason, had himself a nice day, and took most of his snaps with the first team offense. It was cold and windy today, so that offensive playbook was pretty limited, but in the few times they did push the ball up the field, Higgins looked comfortable, and, importantly, looked like a guy Dekkers feels comfortable throwing to in space. Keep an eye out for him as the first depth charts come out during or shortly after fall practice. Based on his usage today, we might be look at a starter in Higgins.