INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell recognizes the excitement all around him.
The start of fall camp has energized a team that hasn’t been to a bowl game in the last three seasons and has won just eight games during that time. He hears the words and sees the actions from his players, but that’s only part of what he’s looking for.
Eight months into building his culture in Ames, Campbell’s evaluation of his team hasn’t been fully determined. It won’t be until adverse situations arise and he’ll fully be able to see how much his culture has been brought along.
“What’s it going to look like here in two days or three days when the grind of camp has set in?” Campbell said at his media day press conference Tuesday. “I just got done meeting with our leadership council this morning and I said, ‘What’s defining is we’re really good when things go well, but here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to create chaos the next three days. Things aren’t going to go well.’
“I want to see how we respond to adversity.”
For Campbell, building a culture hasn’t been about the Cyclones increased social media presence or recruiting triumphs. Establishing a program’s foundation is taking the onus of accountability off just the coaches and spreading throughout the team.
Guys like quarterback Joel Lanning, running back Mike Warren and wide receiver Allen Lazard are the faces of bringing along that change.
Lanning came onto the scene in a loss at Baylor last season and started the last five games of the year, including a 24-0 home win against Texas.
His 107-for-193 passing output for 1,247 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with 330 rushing yards showcased him as a dual threat, but his hope in a new offense is to up the ante. As far as what he hopes for the offense, faster is always better.
“We’ll slowly get there then try to go as fast as we can and get ourselves in football shape so when we get out on the field, it’s not even fast,” Lanning said. “It’ll be like normal tempo for us.”
Lazard is coming off a sophomore season where he caught a team-leading 56 passes for 808 yards and six touchdowns. Individual numbers are nice, but ask the Urbandale native about them and you’ll likely get a pretty short answer. His focus is primarily singular.
“Win,” Lazard said. “Whatever we’ve got to do to win.”
The ‘how’ as it pertains to winning could go in a lot of different directions, but Warren provides a blueprint. His 1,339 yards as a redshirt freshman took him from being an unknown to being a guy defensive coordinators spent hours game-planning against.
As quick and efficient as Warren was out of the backfield, expect him to show a few more skills in his repertoire. Iowa State won’t be strictly a spread offense, but will have spread offense-like tendencies.
“I think you expect him to up his catch total and do some more things in the pass game,” said running backs coach Lou Ayeni. “He’s had a really good summer, he’s had a really good spring and winter. He’s better than he was last year and he was pretty good last year, so I’m really excited to see what he does on Saturdays.”
Additions to the Iowa State secondary have also bolstered a defense that hopes to slow down the Big 12 passing game, which featured four of college football’s top 10 offenses last season.
Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is the anchor, along with Jomal Wiltz and Brian Peavy at cornerback — senior Nigel Tribune continues to be indefinitely suspended after an OWI charge last month.
D’Andre Payne, Thadd Daniels, Mike Johnson and Evrett Edwards all enter the mix at defensive back and with Demond Tucker in the fold at defensive tackle, Campbell hopes the additions will give the Cyclones some flexibility.
“We’ve added a lot of guys we at least think can help us in terms of coverage. That’s really, really important to us,” Campbell said. “We can to continue to see where we’re at as fall camp goes who plays where and even the positions like corner or safety. I think the starting point is coverability and the top-five cover guys are going to play for us. We’ll worry about everything else down the road.”
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