AMES — Iowa State canceled its spring game, but here are five storylines to keep in mind as spring football practice comes to a close.
1. No offensive coordinator
When Tom Manning left for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell didn’t name an offensive coordinator.
He said in March a decision could come later in spring. The play calling duties would fall on himself in the spring and he’d take input from the other offensive coaches.
“I’m still doing a good job, so right now I’m not going to fire myself,” Campbell said. “We’ll keep going how we’re going and we’ll see what transpires. It’s been such a team effort, that I don’t know if there will be a definitive (offensive coordinator). All the things that happen offensively — positively and negatively — roll through me right now.”
Campbell had play-calling input last season with Manning as the offensive coordinator, too.
2. Colin Newell emerges on the offensive line
Campbell feels good with four offensive linemen at this point in the spring. Julian Good-Jones, Josh Knipfel and Bryce Meeker all started last season. But redshirt freshman Colin Newell has separated himself from the pack.
“Right now, he’s doing a lot of center,” Campbell said. “That’s maybe home, but he’s also played guard and some out at tackle. That’s one thing I like about Colin, he has position flexibility.”
Good-Jones played center last season, but he played tackle the season before and he said earlier this spring that he was taking reps at guard.
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Offensive line coach Jeff Myers said he wants the five toughest guys on the field, and they’ll figure out positions later.
The fifth spot appears to still be up for grabs. Campbell said Oge Udeogu and Jeff Nogaj could compete for that spot, but they need to get fully healthy first. The third person he mentioned was Josh Mueller.
“Four have certainly emerged and we’re looking for the fifth, which will be a really good race, probably, all the way through fall camp,” Campbell said.
3. The next Mike?
Joel Lanning switched from quarterback to Mike linebacker last season, and exceeded everybody’s expectations.
Iowa State won’t be switching another quarterback to linebacker this year, but earlier this spring linebackers coach Tyson Veidt said four guys are competing for the middle linebacker spot, and at that point he said he wouldn’t feel comfortable starting any of them.
On Monday, Campbell said former Cedar Rapids Washington standout O’Rein Vance has put himself in the lead.
Vance separated himself in Iowa State’s two scrimmages.
“He took advantage of some reps on Saturday’s scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said. “He did a great job again on Monday. There was an open door for him to play and he’s playing like crazy. He’s really stepped up his practices.”
He hasn’t won himself the spot, but the freshman is certainly the leader at this point.
“That’s why having this 15th practice and scrimmage day is so important for us,” Campbell said. “There is still so much competition. O’Rien’s a guy that’s really done a great job of continuing his development and getting much needed reps. I think he’s doing a great job, but that’s still a wide-open race.”
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4. Open safety spots
Iowa State graduated all three of its safeties that saw significant playing time, leaving plenty of opportunity for younger guys.
Former Ole Miss player Greg Eisworth has led the way in the defensive backfield.
“He’s really kind of a veteran guy,” Jon Heacock said. “He has a sense of maturity. He’s in the office every single day begging to watch film and learn the game.”
Braxton Lewis and Lawrence White both saw time last season and are competing for the other safety spot.
5. Running backs room getting deeper
Iowa State fans know what David Montgomery can do — which is just about everything.
Mike Warren is also a former 1,000-yard rusher. Kene Nwangwu has received rave reviews this spring.
But Campbell specifically mentioned Sheldon Croney as a guy that’s had an impressive spring and two impressive scrimmages.
Croney ran for 159 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry last season.
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