AMES — Over the last two seasons, Iowa State’s quarterbacks have had either 6-foot-5 Allen Lazard or 6-foot-6 Hakeem Butler to throw to in the red zone.
In 2019, the tight ends will have to play a bigger role in Iowa State’s offense.
It’s not that they haven’t done anything — Charlie Kolar had 11 receptions for 137 yards and three touchdowns and Chase Allen caught five passes for 41 yards in the first two games of the seasons before an injury that required offseason surgery. Allen tried to keep playing, but he wasn’t the same the rest of the season.
But Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell expects that group to emerge this season and help out in the absence of a proven big-bodied receiver.
“That’s an area where we’re fortunate to have depth and fortunate to have experience,” Campbell said. “You talk about Chase Allen, he couldn’t have gotten off to a better start last year. He played really good football until he got hurt in the Oklahoma game. Then he had the toughness to come back and help our team late in the season. That showed who he is. Then Charlie Kolar had his opportunity to come in and take the bulk of the opportunities in big moments.
“What’s the next step for them? Can they be the X-factor? Can they be consistent in those critical moments? It’s going to be really fun to watch that. I thought those guys had great springs.”
Cambpell also mentioned Dylan Soehner, who will take on a Sam Seonbuchner-type role in 2019.
“Dylan has a very similar growth pattern to what (linebacker) Marcel Spears had,” Campbell said. “Dylan started on all four special teams — easily could’ve been our special teams MVP a year ago. What that’s done for us is it’s allowed us to trust him. How do we enhance him and how does he enhance our team?
“I think it’s a unique group that plays a lot of different rolls. That’s what’s great about the tight end position, you’re a receiver and you’re a blocker. You create gaps in the run game, but you also can create mismatches in the passing game.”
Iowa State’s starting cornerbacks, barring injury, will be Datrone Young and Anthony Johnson.
The two sophomores each had breakout seasons last year.
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“That’s where playing Datrone and Anthony a year ago will help us have confidence,” Campbell said. “They’ve been in big-time moments and made big-time plays. Datrone Young was playing great last year until he got hurt at Kansas. Anthony Johnson was in some of the biggest moments we’ve had and played really good football. At the top, you’re confident in knowing what you have.”
After the top two, it’s wide open. Campbell mentioned Amechie Walker, Tayvonn Kyle, Keonte Jones, Jaeveyon Morton as contenders to back up those two.
“We’re confident that there are good bodies, but are we confident in what that two-deep is going to look like? No,” Campbell said. “And it’s going to be really fun to watch the competition of that group.”
Iowa State starting punter Corey Dunn tore an ACL in the offseason, so Campbell and his staff will need to find a backup punter.
The primary contender is Joe Rivera, who recorded two punts last season against Drake with a long of 46 yards.
“Joe Rivera is a guy we’re really excited about,” Campbell said. “You never want to lose a really good player, but sometimes those things happen. One of the things I like about Corey is he’ll be one of the best specialist coaches out there because he’s going to do a great job of helping our guys out until he can get himself back. Joe was the holder a year ago, so he has a great sense of trust from his coaches and his teammates. His ability is outstanding. What you want to see from him, just like any other position our team, is consistency.”
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