Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State still evaluating offensive line for best combination

Cyclones struggled in season-opening loss at Iowa

Iowa State Cyclones offensive lineman Bryce Meeker (74) blocks Iowa Hawkeyes defensive end Anthony Nelson (98) from Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) in the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa State Cyclones offensive lineman Bryce Meeker (74) blocks Iowa Hawkeyes defensive end Anthony Nelson (98) from Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) in the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell didn’t mince words Saturday after a 13-3 loss to Iowa.

The offensive line needs to be better for the Iowa State (0-1) offense to succeed.

Campbell indicated during fall camp the offensive line competition might leak into the season. The first game getting canceled has prolonged that battle.

Now, Campbell has to figure out what he wants to do coming off a loss to an in-state rival with No. 5 Oklahoma (2-0) coming to town Saturday.

“Every practice is getting evaluated as if it’s gameday right now,” Campbell said. “I think a lot of the (competition) is trying to settle in on what exactly is the right fit for that group. I think that will be consistent, but once we know, we know, and we’ll continue to build and grow with it.

“I think we have capable guys, just their growth — they need the reps, they need to play under the lights and the need to make mistakes. That’s the only way to be a good offensive lineman is to grow that way. Sometimes that’s painful to deal with, but I think it also will benefit us in the long run, for sure.”

Campbell is pointing to whatever positives he can in terms of the offensive line.

He was pleased with how the guards, Josh Mueller and Josh Knipfel, played.

“Where you leave that game and you feel really confident is the interior of our offensive line,” Campbell said. “I thought maybe that’s the best we’ve played inside since we’ve been (here). Josh Knipfel, I think his growth has been outstanding. I thought Mueller played really good in that football game, comparable to maybe even where we were the last two years. It’s a matter of shoring that whole thing up and then continuing to find ways to create space.”

Usually the biggest growth from a football team comes from Week 1 to Week 2 because teams actually have game film to use.

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“We needed a game,” right tackle Bryce Meeker said. “Practice only shows so much, but I think having it on film now is going to help a lot. We’ll know where our kinks are and we’ll be able to fix them.”

While having film helps, Campbell wants to keep a level head about making decisions along the offensive line.

“I certainly don’t want to limit anybody and making a one-game snapshot, I think it’s unfair,” Campbell said. “But I do think there’s been a lot of practice from spring to fall camp to continue to make great evaluations of where we’re at and what we’re doing. The nice thing is that we do feel confident that some of these guys can go in and play.

“As a coach, you’re always like, ‘What could we have done better and how could we have done it better?’ But I think we’ll evaluate practice this week and make great decisions for us and continue to move ourselves forward.”

For the Iowa game, Campbell switched up his offensive line from what it showed on the depth chart. He moved left tackle Julian Good-Jones to center, where he played last season and inserted Sean Foster at left tackle. On the depth chart, redshirt freshman Colin Newell appeared as the starting center.

“Colin’s certainly a guy that, hindsight 20-20, would we have loved to get in the game to play some more? I think, sure, absolutely,” Campbell said.

The third-year head coach believes his offensive line can be good, but he is certainly behind the 8-ball coming off a loss where he shuffled the line around, and with the No. 5 team in the country up next and having no concrete plans to start the week of preparation.

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