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AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell doesn’t spend practices watching only from the sidelines.
He likes to be right in the thick of the action.
In the Cyclones’ first fall camp practice Thursday, Campbell could be seen across the field next to tackling dummies, teaching offensive linemen technique. Minutes later, he jumped in at quarterback to help ball carriers with handoffs.
The 36-year-old, first-year Cyclones coach wants his program to be hands-on. From the head coach to the graduate assistants, everybody is expected to jump in.
“When you come watch practice, it’s not just one guy yelling and screaming, it’s all of us in terms of actively being involved in the development of our players,” Campbell said. “It’s about developing the players within the program.
“One thing I stress upon our coaches is, be great developers. Give these kids the tools and the tool belt to go be successful whether it’s me doing it or being actively involved or our coaches being actively involved. One thing I’ve always told our coaches is, ‘Coaching is teaching.’ I think our coaches are really good teachers.”
Iowa State is holding split practices in its first few days of fall camp, with half of the team going in a morning session and half in the afternoon. It’s a philosophy that carries from his days at Mount Union — where he said there were upward of 330 players — and gives a more individualized practice time.
Ball security has been an intense effort through spring ball and the beginnings of fall camp. Last season, the Cyclones were last in the Big 12 in turnover margin at minus-11, and -0.92 per game. Ninth-place Kansas was minus-7 and -0.58 per game.
The drills Iowa State is doing aren’t revolutionary — spot the ball, jump on it and cover the points — but the message has been doing the work has to be a way of life.
“It has to mean something to the coaches and the players,” said defensive coordinator and safeties coach Jon Heacock. “I think everybody works on it. I don’t think there are many schools or teams or coaches that don’t believe in it, but you have to really buy in. It’s got to be something you emphasize every day on our side of the ball.”
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tom Manning also is at work finding the pieces for his position group. Iowa State has to replace guard Daniel Burton (ended career with injury) and graduated seniors Jamison Lalk, Oni Omoile, Wendell Taiese and Brock Dagel.
The Cyclones ran with a first-team offensive line of Jaypee Philbert, Nick Fett, Julian Good-Jones, Patrick Scoggins and Jake Campos on Thursday. Through the early portion of fall camp, Manning said it’s important for the coaches to put the linemen in adverse situations with the defensive looks and gauge the cohesiveness of a given lineup.
“We generally have an idea of the physical capabilities of each player, but I think it’s really important to understand now as you start to formulate an offensive line, the mental capacity and being able to react to situations that happen at a pretty rapid speed,” Manning said. “So for us it’s really throw as much as we can at them and kind of see what happens and what people work best to next people.”
• Defensive tackle Demond Tucker was held out of practice Thursday as he recovers from a recent bout with the flu, Campbell said.
Tucker was on the sidelines watching the morning session of practice without pads.
“Demond is 100 percent fine,” Campbell said. “We’re going to be really smart in how fast we bring Demond back. I expect him to probably be out of practice (Friday).”
• Defensive back Nigel Tribune remains indefinitely suspended following an arrest for an OWI nearly two weeks ago.
“Right now it’s as I left it,” Campbell said. “I think we’ll address that at a later date as we continue to get the details and see what happens with Nigel.”
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