AMES — Iowa State had a winning season. It was also a disappointing season, which is something new for the Cyclones.
Iowa State lost the Camping World Bowl to No. 15 Notre Dame 33-9 and finished the year at 7-6 — a regression from the past two seasons when it finished 8-5.
So where does Iowa State go from here and what does the future look like?
“From my end of it, when the attitude, the effort and the character of our football team are still where they need to be and continuing to grow, I think we’re in a great spot,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “You’ve got to remember, this is a really young team and a lot of really young guys were forced into some really critical moments this year.
“I think the balance of what’s returning is what’s got me really excited about our future. I think we’re really close and I think being really close and doing it are two different things, and so we are going to have to figure out how to get it done.”
Graduating receiver Deshaunte Jones, one of the leaders of the 2019 team, isn’t worried about new leaders stepping up and pushing the Cyclones further.
“There are so many guys on the team that are going to go back to work and continue to expect greatness from everybody,” Jones said. “There are so many leaders in that locker room right now that are going to bring that team together. I don’t have any worry of what’s going to happen to the next team, the 2020 team.
“The leaders are going to control and take over — guys like Brock (Purdy), Lawrence (White) and Greg (Eisworth). That’s just a handful of guys right there that can lead that team and continue to push this program to a positive direction.”
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Campbell has said his favorite months are the winter months because that’s when the most development can happen.
He’ll need that developmental time to be impactful because Iowa State loses four of its five offensive linemen and both starting defensive tackles, along with All-Big 12 linebacker Marcel Spears.
Iowa State has talented players returning, but it has unproven talent in key spots.
“What’s important is figuring out where are some of your gaps?” Campbell said. “What do this upcoming team’s gaps look like? Last year’s gaps, I could have told you. You’re losing Brian Peavy, David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler and those guys who have been pillars of excellence in your program. And now you lose Ray Lima, Deshaunte and Marcel Spears. Those types of guys that have been pillars of success.
“But, you know, one of the things that I think we’re a lot closer to today than we were even a year ago is, we played a lot of guys. A lot of guys got an unbelievable opportunity to be able to point in critical situations, maybe better than we’ve ever been in our program. And so I think it is fair to say, man, those levels of expectations need to continue to be high. We want them to be high, and we’re not going to shy away from them being high.”