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 — Julian Good-Jones knew he couldn’t waste any time.
His number would be called sooner or later.
Working behind the scenes with the scout team last season as a redshirt, Good-Jones spent the bulk of last year learning how he could improve. Picking the brains of other linemen was an important part of that, but he also went to the other side of the ball for some help.
“I was always talking with the D-ends and they were really coaching me up,” Good-Jones said. “They really helped me a lot and told me moves they hate when O-linemen do it to them.
“I’m always trying to get the best look possible all the time, so we’re always going really hard and competing every time, so that’s helped me a lot.”
All of it paid dividends for the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder from Cedar Rapids Washington. He’s slotted in as the favorite to be the starting right tackle for the Cyclones after junior Jake Campos broke his leg in a fall-camp scrimmage after competing for the starting center job with sixth-year senior Brian Bobek.
Good-Jones spent most of the spring at right tackle too — Campos missed those 15 practices recovering from hip surgery — and has been taking reps on the outside even while he was adjusting to playing center.
Iowa State offensive coordinator and line coach Tom Manning has tried to take a holistic approach with the linemen and many of them are capable of playing several spots on the line. That approach — along with a somewhat concerning lack of depth — has put Good-Jones in a position to be a potential four-year starter.
“When you look at Julian he’s such an intriguing guy and can do so many different things and give you that flexibility,” Manning said. “I think he’s a very good football player. He’s going to have an opportunity to continue to compete at (right tackle). But I’m very impressed with him. Very, very impressed.”
The offensive line helped sophomore running back Mike Warren run for 1,339 yards last season, but it will be many new faces trying to help him get there again. Left guard Nick Fett is the lone returnee with starting experience under his belt with one. Left tackle Jaypee Philbert was a reserve, but played sparingly.
Iowa State will have former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Bryce Meeker, junior college transfer Oge Udeogu and true freshman Sean Foster in the mix as backups, but can’t suffer many more guys going down. All of those starters and reserves been versed in more than just one position, particularly with the lack of depth.
“I think it allows us to handle this situation and it’s not panic mode in our locker room or on our staff,” said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. “I feel bad for the kid but it’s football and we’ve got to be able to handle this. It’s a situation where we’ve got to do a really good job of making sure we put the best five guys out there.”
Manning called Good-Jones a steady presence amidst the chaos of losing an offensive lineman like Campos, who has 23 starts to his name. Filling the void isn’t a one-person type of fix, although Good-Jones is up for the challenge of being part of the solution.
“I think it’s just an opportunity to help the team in any way I can,” Good-Jones said. “That’s all I really want to do. If I can step up and help the team that would mean a lot.”
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