116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Matt Campbell felt the time was right for a change.
Iowa State’s head football coach — who notably eschews the playing of a spring football game — decided as the calendar turned from winter this season the Cyclones would compete in three public practices.
That plan was trimmed to two because of extra-frigid conditions on April 8, but as Campbell and ISU wrapped up spring ball on a chilly night last Friday at Gilbert High School, he explained why he took his team on the road in the spring for the first time in his six-plus season tenure.
“Like I’ve said, I think every team needs a little bit of something different,” Campbell said. “I’ve never been shy about that. I’m not trying to hide anything and we’re not really either, but I think coming out — and I said this maybe two weeks ago — it’s just great for us to be out in our community (Ames and Gilbert).
“But I think it’s been even better for our kids to get out and you still don’t know what you have until the lights come on. There’s people in the stands and you have a success or failure and everybody sees it.”
Campbell — like all coaches — chose to stress the successes of this spring. The Cyclones, he said, are mostly healthy other than running back Deon Silas, who was “dinged up” early in spring ball and sat out the remainder of it. There’s a burgeoning competition for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Hunter Dekkers and true freshman Rocco Becht and former Iowa City Regina star Ashton Cook are likely contenders to fill that spot.
ISU’s fresh batch of veteran leaders have dug into the details — and a handful of early enrollees began turning heads on the practice field, as well.
“Boy, I think we like those guys,” Campbell said. “We didn’t get to see (running back) Cartevious (Norton at Friday’s practice), he got a little dinged up, but he’s had a great spring camp. I think some of those guys really showed up (Friday).
“Rocco had a really good day and he’s just continued to do that for us. There’s some really high-end talent in this group. (Wide receiver) Greg Gaines had another really good day. It will be fun to get the rest of those guys coming in in June.”
That’s when the Cyclones will be in the midst of summer workouts that Campbell dubbed “critical” to the program’s potential for ongoing success after losing top talents such as Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, Charlie Kolar, Greg Eisworth and Mike Rose, among others.
“These guys have worked through some really hard, adverse situations already,” Campbell said. “With a young team, you want to put them in as many tough and trying times (as possible) and try to create and replicate because the fall’s coming fast.”
Not fast enough — especially in terms of the outside temperature. But despite cold and sometimes windy conditions, linebacker O’Rien Vance — a sixth-year senior from Cedar Rapids Washington — relished practicing in public in the spring for the first time in his career.
“We get to see who’s really ready to come out here and play,” Vance said. “It was fun. Just to be back in a high school stadium is something that you don’t ever really get to do as college players.”
As for the blustery weather?
“This is football weather,” he said. “Anybody can play in 90-degree weather.”