Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State 'mixing and matching' on offensive line in spring practice

Cyclones searching for right combinations

Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) shouts at the line during the third quarter of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) shouts at the line during the third quarter of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State’s offensive line is in a fluid situation this spring.

It returns four players who started games, but offensive line coach Jeff Myers and head coach Matt Campbell want to find the right combination that works well together.

They also want the players getting comfortable playing in different spots next to different people for emergency situations.

“We’re mixing and matching right now,” Myers said. “We say we have a left guard position open, but in my opinion, we have five positions open. And I’m challenging those guys to fight for those jobs and to challenge each other within the room. We swung (center) Julian (Good-Jones) to left guard today and (redshirt freshman Jacob) Bolton was taking reps with the ones. Things like that, we’re going to continue to mix and match so that those guys are comfortable to plug in at any point.”

Good-Jones started his career as the right tackle and moved to center last year. He’s used to moving to different spots on the line. And while he’ll likely continue playing center, he believes moving around the line can do nothing but help. Because of his ability to play every position on the line, he also knows each guy’s responsibilities.

“I know what’s going on with all five guys on any particular play,” Good-Jones said. “I know what all five are doing, I know where the ball is trying to hit and that really helps me conceptually.”

Myers feels confident in eight guys right now, including redshirt freshmen Rob Hudson, Colin Newell and Bolton.

When Good-Jones slides over to guard, Newell usually takes over for Good-Jones at that center spot.

“I kind of got thrown into the fire and I don’t know if I was necessarily ready when I was a freshman, but I think those guys will be ready,” Good-Jones said. “I’ve taken Colin under my wing a little bit. I’m helping him understand concepts and plays. We’re kind of attached at the hip at practice.”

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Good-Jones said it’s up to himself and fellow redshirt junior Bryce Meeker to help the development of the young guys.

“You see growth in our depth. We have a lot of guys that are able to play now. I feel very confident in saying we could put them in and they would be efficient and be able to play for us. Going forward, we can grow in continuing to understand our scheme inside and out. Understand what the defense is trying to do to us, and our ability up front to take the adjustments and take advantage of what they’re showing us.”

Part of that scheme is the run game. Last season, Iowa State was successful in the run game in large part due to running back David Montgomery’s ability to improvise.

Now, the offensive line wants to get a vertical push and make gaps for Montgomery so he can be even better.

“Last year, we couldn’t run the ball in the fourth quarter, and I think that’s huge in our game plan,” Meeker said. “That’s going to be our biggest progress this year, running the ball all four quarters and controlling the game.”

Iowa State is at a point where its linemen look the part, now it’s getting them to buy in.

“Right now, we’re trying to create the run-first mentality,” Myers said. “That’s the biggest thing, the way we drill it, the way we put the priority on the run game — those guys understand that the run does come first. We need to be better for our offense to be better.”

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