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AMES — The offensive line hasn’t stopped concerning Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell, but there are pieces of it that he takes comfort in.
Left tackle Jake Campos is healthy and brings 23 starts to the position group, but it’s the competition between redshirt freshman Julian Good-Jones and senior Brian Bobek that is working itself out. Redshirt freshman Bryce Meeker is in the mix too.
“I think it’s a situation for us where I feel really confident in that position, way more confident than I did maybe coming out of spring practice,” Campbell said. “Where we are right now, a lot of credit goes to the kids and what they’ve been able to do and obviously being able to pick up Brian this summer has been a huge addition. It’s allowed us to get some flexibility in what we can do and who they are.”
Iowa State offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tom Manning likes that versatility in his linemen and all three centers, particularly Cedar Rapids products Good-Jones and Meeker, who have shown the ability to play elsewhere.
Good-Jones has gotten snaps at tackle while Meeker has played inside at guard. Good-Jones is currently listed as the starter, but Bobek started five games at center last season at Minnesota before injury ended his season. Campbell hasn’t set a timetable on when he wants the position to be decided, but expects to have an idea once Iowa State works through scrimmages in camp.
“I think it’s really positive right now because they’re all pushing each other and you can see those guys becoming competitive in that group,” Manning said. “I’ve got to hand it to them because they’ve been very competitive, but great teammates.”
Iowa State’s quarterbacks have more or less had the label of 1A and 1B as opposed to first or second string. The leashes have been short.
Since 2010 the Cyclones have started seven different quarterbacks, the latest being junior Joel Lanning. Entering this fall, competition for the top job has all but been secured and the controversy will be about who is his backup.
Sophomore Jacob Park and true freshman Zeb Noland are both in contention for the No. 2 spot and, as far as Park can tell, coaches aren’t tipping their hat one way or the other.
“I can’t call it,” Park said. “It’s a competition, yeah, but you can’t really worry about the competition. It’s more of a competition with yourself to get better every day. That question, Coach would have to answer because I can’t really answer it for you.”
Campbell didn’t indicate a front-runner for the spot either, but Noland — who graduated high school early and enrolled this spring — didn’t go through spring practice to just watch. Park, a Charleston, S.C. native, redshirted his freshman season at Georgia before sitting out last season while he attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
“We wouldn’t have brought Zeb in so early in his high school career if I didn’t want him to come in here and compete,” Campbell said. “I also said this day one, I don’t care if you’re a freshman or senior, the best players will play. To me, that’s honest. It’s 18 to 22 year old kids. If you’re not playing the best players as a coach, that’s an issue.”
Campbell on his fall camp roster:
“We’ve done a lot of moving and shaking in a short amount of time, especially through the summer trying to make sure some of those guys we were on and some of those guys we had to go find just to try to do everything in our power to bring the best 105 roster we’ve had. Some of those guys are walk-ons. There are five or six scholarship players that didn’t make the 105 for football camp. That’s all right. That tells you there is good competition in our program and tells us where we need to be with our program too going forward. When you sign scholarship players to come here, you want those guys to be in fall camp for us.”
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