Iowa State Cyclones

Development of Iowa State offensive line will be 'critical' in 2020 season

Cyclones have young, breakout candidates up front

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, left, and offensive lineman Colin Newell, right, run drills during warm ups before
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, left, and offensive lineman Colin Newell, right, run drills during warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Ames, Iowa. (Matthew Putney/Associated Press)

AMES — Iowa State’s offensive line has been serviceable in recent years, but it’s never been a dominant position group while Matt Campbell has been the head coach.

The offensive line took a big jump from Campbell’s first to second year, but hasn’t made another significant improvement since.

In 2016, the offensive line gave up 32 sacks, which ranked 101st in the nation. In 2017, the line took a massive leap and only allowed 19 sacks, which was 25th in the nation, while blocking for David Montgomery, who rushed for 1,146 yards.

The problem is, the Cyclones’ offensive line has plateaued since that initial jump.

Campbell cut his proverbial coaching teeth on the offensive line.

Offensive coordinator Tom Manning coached offensive lines from 2011 to ’17.

Jeff Myers has coached the offensive line at Iowa State since 2018 and has been on the staff since 2016.

The staff’s history is centered on the offensive line, so another jump from that unit shouldn’t be out of the question.

This season will be the first the line will consist of solely Campbell recruits. They are players he and his staff identified in recruiting and they are players he and his staff developed.

While the group may lack experience, it should benefit from being in Campbell’s system from the start.

Two players who have already benefited are junior Colin Newell and sophomore Trevor Downing.

Downing made an immediate impact on the offensive line when he began starting in Iowa State’s second game last season.

“The thing Trevor brings to our offensive line is physical and tough and a guy that absolutely loves football,” Campbell said last season. “We knew that about Trevor. He loves to play offensive line and he has a passion for football. He put himself in positions to maximize his opportunities.”

Newell was injured in Iowa State’s first game last season against UNI and missed most of the season, but got back on the field toward the end and should be 100 percent in 2020.

“We have two starters coming back that we’ve been able to develop from within our program from day one,” Campbell said. “Those are two guys that have been our highest-rated offensive linemen in terms of consistency of production from game-to-game.”

The other three spots along the offensive line will all need to be filled by players who are largely unproven.

Campbell has routinely brought up guys like redshirt freshmen Grant Treiber and Jake Remsburg as well as juniors Rob Hudson and Derek Schweiger. Last season, left tackle Julian Good-Jones said sophomore Joey Ramos is one of the most talented offensive linemen he’s ever seen.

The Cyclones have plenty of opportunities for guys to have breakout seasons along the offensive line.

“Now, we have a good chance to look at the rest of this group,” Campbell said. “We have a good group of nine or 10 guys fighting for three spots.”

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Iowa State’s skill positions are mostly set and the Cyclones have skill and depth at most of those positions. The success of the offense next season will hinge on the offensive line and the coaches’ ability to bring it along.

“We’re going to usher in the most talented offensive line we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Campbell said.

But, as Campbell likes to say, “Talent, until developed, is just talent.”

“Their development will be critical to our success but we’re really confident about what that group looks like,” Campbell said.

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