AMES — A year ago, Matt Campbell stood on the field following Iowa State’s spring football game and wished for more time.
As the practices went by, Campbell got the sense players were counting down the days until spring was over. The feeling the second-year ISU coach gets around the team this year is quite different.
“From the day we came back in January to where we’re at right now, the majority of this team has really understood the value when nobody is watching,” Campbell said. “When you guys aren’t here, when the fans aren’t in the stands, how critical our success and growth is.
“I think there’s been a lot of lessons learned and the mentality of our football team is certainly way different from what I saw a year ago. All that does is give you a chance.”
Iowa State held its second closed scrimmage on the spring, with plenty of highlights for the offense. No turnovers and explosive plays from quarterback Jacob Park and running backs David Montgomery and Mike Warren led the way, but the trenches is where most of the development happened.
The offensive line has been about building depth this spring while senior tackle Jake Campos is limited with his recovery from a broken leg last fall. Incoming Michigan graduate transfer David Dawson won’t get to campus until this summer either, so offensive coordinator and line coach Tom Manning has been filling in the holes.
Sophomore Bryce Meeker, junior Oge Udegou, sophomore Julian Good-Jones, senior Robby Garcia and sophomore Sean Foster started in the scrimmage from right to left, respectively.
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“We try to provide as many opportunities as we can to allow somebody to showcase what they can do because you never truly understand what a kid can do until he has the opportunity to go do it without coaches out there on the field by themselves,” Manning said. “I know it’s not a great answer, but we want to get as many guys the opportunity to be ready as we possibly can.”
Of that starting group, only Good-Jones and Meeker — both Cedar Rapids natives — started last year with Good-Jones making 11 starts at right tackle. Meeker started the season opener at guard, but provided quality depth last year and is in the mix to move into a solidified starting role this fall.
“I think he’s probably been the guy that’s been one of the most consistent linemen of the group,” Campbell said of Meeker. “It’s been maybe a pleasant surprise for us. There’s a guy that’s been with us for a year and really took advantage of those reps a year ago that he got in practice, the offseason and the winter.”
Iowa State has been building depth and experience with its defensive line and secondary too, but the biggest new piece to that group is linebacker Joel Lanning.
Lanning, who has been tabbed as the No. 1 middle linebacker this spring, has been playing the position as more than just a trial run. He hasn’t worked on many offensive special situations so far, primarily focusing on defense.
“Tymar (Sutton) is doing a good job in there as a true freshman, hasn’t been here a whole year yet,” said defensive coordinator Jon Heacock. “Joel just gives us a little presence out there. We need him to have a presence, because he can run.
“He made a great play on one outside play, a perimeter play, he ran it down, so he’s got some abilities that we have to tap into.”
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