AMES — Iowa State has played in two games where it has had a lead big enough to let freshmen get experience.
In both games, Coach Matt Campbell has been impressed with what he’s seen.
Quarterback Hunter Dekkers has completed five of his seven pass attempts for 118 yards and a touchdown. He’s also rushed once for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Receiver Aiden Bitter had an impressive 38-yard reception against Kansas State for his first career catch.
Defensively, safety Mason Chambers has three tackles this season and defensive tackle J.R. Singleton was able to get some reps against Kansas State.
“I think they’ve been exceptional,” Campbell said. “I think this group has been a really neat group. They’ve come in here under very different circumstances. For every one of our true freshmen, this has been a very challenging experience. It’s a challenge anyway as a true freshman, but to go through it like this has been unique.
“It’s such a credit to our culture and the senior leadership our upperclassmen have provided because there’s almost been a seamless transition in a lot of ways. Maybe my favorite part of what I saw at the end of the game is the standard of how we play was continued by a lot of young, really talented players who have continued to improve as the season has gone on.”
Many of the true freshmen don’t travel to away games. Kansas State Coach Chris Klieman said part of the reason for their COVID-19 outbreak was because some of the younger players who don’t travel broke protocol.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I don’t know that you do know whether or not they’re following protocol,” Campbell said. “At the end of it, you hope they’re willing to stay the course. That’s why our sport is special. It’s a football team. Not a football individual. If you want to do anything, especially at a place like ours, it has to be everybody going to the same place at the same time.”
Senior linebacker Jake Hummel has been just as impressed as Campbell. Hummel’s younger brother, Levi, is a redshirt freshman who doesn’t travel so Jake might be a little more tuned into what the freshmen are doing during away games.
“I have a lot of respect for the freshmen,” Jake said. “They help this team out as much as anyone who travels. My brother Levi is one of those guys and they’re always doing whatever’s best for the team and that’s obviously been the case when they’re here and not around us.
“From what I know, they just stick with each other when we’re away and do things on their own. They keep this team where it needs to be in terms of COVID cases. I give them all the respect they deserve.”
Mick McCall brings veteran presence
Campbell brought in former Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall to coach running backs.
Breece Hall is having a historically great season, rushing for 1,169 yards and 15 touchdowns in just eight games. His production has garnered national attention and even Heisman consideration.
“In some ways you’d say Mick is the luckiest guy in the world,” Campbell said with a chuckle. “He’s a veteran voice in our coaching staff and that’s been hugely positive. It’s powerful for a guy like Breece.”
Offensive coordinator Tom Manning was the running game coordinator last season, but moved to coaching the tight ends after former tight ends coach Alex Golesh departed for the offensive coordinator position at Central Florida.
Hall has taken note of all the experience the 41-year coaching vet has brought.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“He really knows the game,” Hall said. “Having him come in and the way he runs the running back room — he kind of lets us run it ourselves. He gives us help when we need it but at the end of the day, I feel like we have a lot of leadership in the room and we have him as well.
“He brings a lot of knowledge to the team — he was really successful at Northwestern. To have a guy like that come in has been big.”
We’re talkin’ about practice
Because of Iowa State’s short week, Campbell has had to alter the practice schedule.
It started on Saturday after the win over K-State. The players had to do more treatment than usual.
Sunday was a normal game-planning and treatment day and Monday was a typical walk-through. But normally Tuesday and Wednesday are the two big practice days.
This week, it’s just Tuesday. Wednesday will be a lighter practice and Thursday will be the final walk-through before they get on the plane to Texas for Friday’s game.
“It’s late in the season no matter how you approach it,” Campbell said. “The health and safety of our team becomes priority No. 1. The schematics are the schematics. It’s more about the fundamentals and the techniques and the health and safety of our players. It’s our job and our responsibility to take care of our kids so they can be at their best when their best is needed.”