116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State had one of the best offensive lines in all of college football last season.
They blocked and made holes for running back Breece Hall, who led the nation in rushing. And they protected quarterback Brock Purdy, who took the fewest sacks in the Big 12 last season.
Phil Steele tabbed Iowa State’s line as the No. 4 preseason offensive line in the country.
It wasn’t a spot a person would’ve expected much change besides Trevor Downing being reinserted at left guard after missing last season due to injury. But last Saturday, Coach Matt Campbell made a change.
He started sophomore Jarrod Hufford in place of senior Sean Foster at left tackle.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Hufford was listed as Downing’s backup at left guard on the depth chart before last week.
All the line did with Hufford inserted into the lineup was allow Hall to rush for a career-high 197 yards and not give up a sack.
It was a move that paid dividends immediately.
“I thought it was a really positive performance,” Campbell said. “All five guys graded out as winning for us in terms of the grade sheet, but Jarrod, not perfect, but man, there (were) a lot of really great things that we saw from him. I think really what we're excited about with Jarrod is just the immediate growth we saw.”
Offensive line coach Jeff Myers preaches to his players that positional versatility is important for injury situations and situations like this. He wants his players to be comfortable wherever they’re needed so he can get the five best offensive linemen on the field.
That’s why Hufford, a left guard on the depth chart, was able to step in and play left tackle so well on Saturday.
“I think that’s really hard to ask him to go off and play left tackle, but boy, he did a great job of it,” Campbell said. “I think the best thing that he did was he was physical at the point of attack. So if he can continue to do those things and continue to improve, we'll be really excited to see where it's at by the end of the year.”
For Foster, his circuitous journey continues.
He started a few games as a freshman before Julian Good-Jones took over for him at left tackle. Then last season, with Good-Jones graduated, Foster took control of the position and played well throughout the season.
Now that he’s lost his job again, it would’ve been easy for him to hang out in the background and run out the clock until the end of the season.
But that didn’t happen. Foster is one of the captains of the team, after all.
“I don't think any of these decisions are easy, especially when you have so much care and pride in the people that are playing for you,” Campbell said. “And yet, even though he was replaced, Sean’s down there helping Jarrod and our offensive line as almost like an assistant coach during the game.
“I think when you have that kind of buy-in value from your football team, you can do special things. And I think that buy-in is what's really hard. It's certainly hard in football, where you don't get what you want, but you're doing what's in the best interest of the team, anyway.
“When you can have that buy-in from the top down, I think that gives you a real chance. We're really fortunate that we have that kind of leadership from the top down that maybe sometimes you're not always getting what you directly want, or maybe that serves you the best, but what you're doing is in the best interest of the team for the time being.”