AMES — Iowa State football wraps up fall camp on Saturday and head coach Matt Campbell is excited about how his team has progressed.
“We don’t waste days,” Campbell said. “(Friday) was our 16th practice and I haven’t seen this team tail off, and to be honest with you, I’ve seen this team grow. Part of that was it was structured that way. I hope I continue to improve, too, as a coach.”
The last two years, Campbell has worked to build Iowa State’s foundation during fall camp, and now he feels that foundation is finally in place.
“We’re a totally different team right now than we were back then,” Campbell said. “We’re trying to grow them into playing really well from the beginning of the season, whereas the past couple of years we’ve been trying to build our foundation and figure out what we’re going to rely on. This team already has that foundation underneath them to where we’re able to build into fall camp.”
Part of that foundation is the physicality Iowa State plays with. The Cyclones boast the best defense in the Big 12 and the offensive line appears to be finally living up to the coaching staff’s expectations.
“This has been the most physical camp that I’ve been a part of — and I thought we were a pretty physical team at Toledo,” Campbell said.
With that physicality comes injuries. Running back Kene Nwangwu and tight end Chase Allen are both dinged up, but Campbell believes they’ll be back sooner rather than later.
“We’ve had a couple guys get dinged up, but the great thing is we’ll be 100 percent come Monday,” Campbell said. “Honestly, I don’t know when the last time that’s happened. To be able to be this physical and to be — knock on wood — this healthy, we’re in great shape.”
Last season Iowa State had a couple true freshmen step in due to injuries in quarterback Brock Purdy and cornerback Anthony Johnson; Campbell is excited about the freshman class he just brought it.
Running back Breece Hall is competing for a starting spot, defensive backs Kym-Mani King and Virdel Edwards have both impressed the staff, offensive lineman Grant Treiber has shown a lot of potential and defensive linemen Corey Suttle and Blake Peterson have been impressive during fall camp.
“This is, bar none, the best class of freshmen that we’ve brought in here,” Campbell said. “The defensive backs and the offensive linemen that came into this class, I would say collectively, are the best that we’ve brought in. That part’s exciting, but it’s way too early to tell if those freshmen help us this year.”
Iowa State still has a couple questions left, like who will be the starting running back. The other position battles to look for as the calendar gets closer to Aug. 31 are receiver, offensive line, one of the safety spots and sam linebacker.
Campbell doesn’t expect to have any of those battles decided before the game against Northern Iowa.
While some players have impressed during practice, he wants to see how they perform when the lights come on against another team.
This week, Iowa State started transitioning from the grind of fall camp into game preparation for Northern Iowa.
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“It was 60-40 Iowa State to UNI this week,” Campbell said. “The last three practices were really heavy UNI focused. One of the positives for us is we know what that team looks like and feels like. So, we know we better be ready to play football because they’re a football team about attitude, effort and they resemble some of the things we do.”
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