AMES — Defensive end Enyi Uwazurike injured his leg early in Iowa State’s win over Texas Tech and will miss the rest of the season.
Cyclones Coach Matt Campbell announced Tuesday that Uwazurike had surgery on his hamstring and will be out eight weeks.
“The biggest piece of it is that Enyi was playing good football for us,” Campbell said. “You hate to see a young guy that’s playing his first full season as a starter get that season cut short. I do think for our football team, it is an area we have good depth amongst that group.
“We’ll have to ask Matt Leo to step up in a more critical role, Spencer Benton, continue to flourish for us like he has all season and then what combination steps up? Will (Kamilo) Tongamoa step up and play for us more? Zach Peterson is a young freshman that has gotten a lot of playing time over the last couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what we do with that and what happens. We’re fortunate that that is an area that we do have depth.”
Leo is a player who has all the physical tools. He’s 6-foot-7 and 276 pounds. The former rugby player looks like he’s made of muscle.
The Australian still was learning the game last season but seems to have found his footing.
When Uwazurike got hurt, Leo came in and recorded two tackles and had two quarterback hurries in 62 snaps.
“I think Matt has really played good football this year,” Campbell said. “You talk about the same consistency that Enyi has brought — and, again, I think if you ask anybody in our defensive staff room, Enyi has been tremendous, but Matt has probably been step-in-step with him in his play all season long. I thought it showed on Saturday. Matt didn’t miss a beat.
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“I think what Matt has done, probably more than anything over the last year, is really (become) confident in his play and what’s being asked of him, what his responsibilities are and then playing to it. He’s done a great job and obviously now that workload is only going to go up a lot for him, but I think he’s ready to handle those duties.”
Zeb Noland transfer impact
On Monday, Cambpell announced redshirt sophomore quarterback Zeb Noland was going to transfer so he could get playing time.
True freshman Brock Purdy is the clear-cut starter at this point in the season, so who backs him up the rest of the way?
Luckily for Campbell, sixth-year senior Kyle Kempt is finally back from the injury he suffered Sept. 8 against Iowa.
“Kyle could’ve played last week,” Campbell said. “If he’s not totally back, he’s somewhere in the 90-95-percent range.”
Another true freshman also making noise in the quarterback room is Re-al Mitchell.
“Re-al is the interesting guy because Re-al has really improved,” Campbell said. “He’s really taken advantage of that bye week and some of the weeks we’ve had. I know he’s really close to putting him in some situations where he can impact our football team somehow, someway.
“He’s a really talented football player and a guy that I think will help our football team sooner rather than later.”
Fixing special teams
Iowa State special teams have left a lot to be desired in recent weeks. They’ve allowed a blocked kick return for a touchdown and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.
As a coach who preaches being great in all three phases of the game, Campbell wants this fixed.
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“It’s one of those situations where fundamentals and detail are really critical to our success,” Campbell said. “The thing that’s hugely positive is our kids are playing really hard. No, 2, we’ve got capable players that are able to go do it. And No. 3, I think — if those are the case — then how do we simplify whatever we’re asking them to do so they’re at their best. I think that’s the biggest thing, especially when you’re in a situation where you’re not executing the way you want to, or you feel like you have the ability to do it, you kind of start back at square one and rebuild it back up.”
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