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FRISCO, Texas — Twelve months after a cloud of uncertainty hung over the Iowa State offensive line, things have begun to clear.
It was anybody’s guess who would be starting on the line, particularly in the first few weeks, and where they would be slotted. In Coach Matt Campbell’s second season, the difference from last fall is simple: a structured plan emerged.
“Are we perfect there yet? No. Are we a lot better than we were a year ago? Yes,” Campbell said at Big 12 Football Media Days. “I think the one thing that’s been really fun is these guys have been able to keep comfortable with where they’re going to play and what the expectations are.”
Iowa State released its pre-fall camp depth chart Monday with the first glimpse at the offensive line. Senior Jake Campos, who has 23 career starts and missed last season with a broken leg, moved from right to left tackle while sophomore Bryce Meeker did the opposite.
Sophomore Julian Good-Jones is the unquestioned center while senior Robby Garcia and junior Oge Udegou are the left and right tackles, respectively. The lineup will likely be tweaked between now and the first game, but Campbell said the most important aspect of this offseason is finding the snuggest fit for each player.
Redshirt freshman Sean Foster, senior Bryan Larson, junior Will Windham, sophomore Josh Knipfel and junior Kory Kodanko are the backups from left to right.
“Last year there was a lot of young guys coming in,” Campos said. “This year, same story, but they’ve had some playing time. They’ve gotten to experience a season under Coach Manning and I think the maturity has really risen. People are really playing well together. There’s a lot of trust.”
Quarterback Jacob Park, wide receiver Allen Lazard and linebacker Joel Lanning are all locked into their spots. Tight end Chase Allen is listed ahead of Sam Harms while Hakeem Butler, Marchie Murdock and Carson Epps have ‘ors’ between them at receiver.
Sophomore linebacker Marcel Spears, who wasn’t on the depth chart last season, is listed as a starting linebacker alongside Lanning and Willie Harvey. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder played in 11 games last season, primarily on special teams.
“I think Marcel is probably one of the shining stars of our program right now,” Campbell said. “A guy that’s really invested on the field, off the field. I think he’s got high end talent. I think he had maybe as good a spring at linebacker of anybody. That’s saying a lot because I think Joel had a really good spring.”
Iowa State set its sights on JUCO defensive linemen Ray Lima, Matt Leo and Kamilo Tongamoa to help bolster the unit with size.
Lima and Leo are the starters at nose guard and backup at defensive tackle, respectively, while Tongamoa’s status is up in the air.
“He’s finishing up some course work and we hope to have him here before the start of camp,” Campbell said.
Tongamoa, 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, is an ideal candidate size wise to anchor the defensive line — and would complement Lima (6-3, 306) and Leo (6-7, 276) — but will have to play catch-up upon arrival in Iowa. Expectations, Campbell said, will be based on what kind of shape he’s in.
“You know he will be here at some point and the other positive is we’ve got some flexibility that we actually have some depth on our defensive line,” Campbell said. “My expectation for him is to get him in shape and then get him into the ability to compete for reps and I think that standpoint is really important for all of us.”
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