116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell has talked a lot about A players who have played A football this season for Iowa State.
Quarterback Brock Purdy is having the best season of his career, running back Breece Hall is putting together another All America-type season, Xavier Hutchinson looks like the best receiver in the Big 12, Will McDonald leads the Big 12 in sacks and Mike Rose has been great.
But the Cyclones have had guys who weren’t necessarily expected to be A players, play A football.
The biggest, literally and figuratively, has been 6-foot-5, 310-pound sophomore offensive lineman Jarrod Hufford.
Hufford got his first taste of football as a freshman during the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon. Both of Iowa State’s right tackles at the time, Joey Ramos and Jake Remsburg, were out due to injury. Derek Schweiger moved from left guard to right tackle and Hufford moved into that left guard spot.
Hufford and the line blocked for the trio of Hall, Kene Nwangwu and Purdy and allowed them to gain a combined 228 yards with three touchdowns on the ground.
But once the 2021 season rolled around, Trevor Downing was back at his left guard spot and Hufford was once again a backup.
But a few weeks ago, Hufford got some time against Kansas. But not at left guard. At left tackle.
He played well enough that offensive line coach Jeff Myers told him that he’d be the guy going forward.
“Tackle is definitely different,” Hufford said. “At guard, I was always inside and usually I had a dude who was the same weight in front of me and it’s instant contact. At tackle, the guy is a couple feet out in front of me and he’s maybe not as heavy but he’s got long arms and he’s faster. That was the biggest challenge — how do I match their speed? How do I get inside against guys with longer arms before they can grab me? Derek Schweiger had the same problem because he went from left guard last year to right tackle in the Fiesta Bowl and this year. I’ve been working with him a lot on the transition from going guard to tackle.
“When I found out I’d be starting out there, I would spend an hour before practice and an hour after practice in the film room trying to figure out what I could do to get better and make the transition.”
That time paid off. Hufford has received nothing but rave reviews from the coaching staff and his teammates.
“He earned it,” Campbell said. “He went to work and he earned the right to be the starter and over the last two games, he’s been tremendous for us.”
Part of that work Hufford had to do was learning the intricacies of pass protection. Campbell said Hufford’s high school in Newark, Ohio, was a run-oriented team and Hufford had to build his pass-protection skills from the ground up.
“Some of the pass-game stuff was a little bit foreign to him early on,” Campbell said. “That’s been part of his transition process from high school to college. He has this ability to stay the course and really learn his craft and press forward, you saw that a year ago.
“He has really good length in his arms, he’s as physical as any of our offensive linemen and one of the things he’s possessed is that staying power where even though he wasn’t getting those reps early last season, when we needed him the most — and that’s in the Fiesta Bowl against an elite defensive line — he has to go step in and play. Then you watch how he played in that game, that was a huge moment for him in terms of our staff saying, ‘Man, I think this guy is really ready to take a huge step forward.’”
And he did take a huge step forward.
Defensive lineman Enyi Uwazurike has had a front-row seat to Hufford’s development.
“He’s been talented since he’s gotten here but one thing I like about Hufford is there have been a lot of older guys since he’s gotten here that were in front of him and all he’s done is waited until his opportunity came,” Uwazurike said. “He never whined. He knew his talent level and he knew he probably should’ve been playing, but he’s a team-first player. Now that he’s on the field, he’s doing really well.
“Football-wise he’s always been really strong and he finishes through his blocks. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. I really like Hufford.”