Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football: Position battles to watch entering fall camp

Iowa State’s Willie Harvey runs the ball in for a touchdown after an interception during a 2017 game against Northern Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. Harvey is expected to be a leader on the ISU defense in 2018. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)
Iowa State’s Willie Harvey runs the ball in for a touchdown after an interception during a 2017 game against Northern Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. Harvey is expected to be a leader on the ISU defense in 2018. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)
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AMES — Iowa State football players report to fall camp Thursday and the first practice is on Friday. The Cyclones know what they have in quarterback Kyle Kempt, running back David Montgomery and cornerback Brian Peavy. But some spots are still up for grabs.

Maybe Iowa State’s weakest area from last season, the offensive line, now has the depth Campbell wants, but he just needs to figure out which five are going to be his five to start the season.

“One thing that I’m excited about is there are more names and guys that deserve the right to be mentioned that are fighting for those spots,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t tell you who the five starters are, but I think that’s going to unfold itself over the next three weeks.”

Moving to the other side of the ball, the middle linebacker position is a hotly contested one after the departure of Joel Lanning.

Campbell said senior Reggan Northrup and Cedar Rapids native O’Rien Vance are the two to watch. Campbell even said that Vance probably would have played last year if the new freshman eligibility rule was in place last season.

“Both guys have done great things and it’s good to have talks there,” Campbell said.

Campbell also mentioned the possibility of moving Willie Harvey inside and having Northrup on the outside, where he’d be a more natural fit.

Ultimately, what the battle will come down to is consistency.

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“I’ll have this speech (Thursday) for our football team: We’ll play who I trust,” Campbell said. “That comes from earning it over the next couple of weeks and earning it from what they’ve done over the last six months. That’s what’s great about having competition in your football program — it brings the best out of everybody.

“I think (middle linebacker) is unique, but the consistency — especially at mike linebacker, that guy not only has to be a consistent performer, but that guy also has to be a consistent leader on that football field. He has to be a great communicator and he has to set the tone.”

The last position group are the safeties. Campbell all but said juco transfer and former Ole Miss player Greg Eiesworth impressed enough during the spring to be the Week 1 starter. But the other safety spot is still up in the air.

“I think we feel really comfortable with what Greg Eisworth did, but certainly the rest of the group and what some of the young guys have done to improve,” Campbell said. “It’ll be a really fun competition through the fall to see what unfolds there as well.”

New freshman eligibility rule

Speaking of the new rule, which allows freshmen to play up to four games without losing their redshirts, Campbell was asked his philosophy on the new rule.

Would he like to play the freshmen early to see if they could use them the rest of the season, or would he rather develop them and use them down the stretch?

“I’ve said this to every recruit and in every team meeting, ‘I’d rather play you too late than too early,’” Campbell said. “And that’s for the benefit of the team and you. You have to show and prove that you are ready to go help our football team be successful, rather than just the opportunity to put you in a football game and potentially burn your redshirt. That’s not good for you and that’s not good for the health of our football program.”

So, Campbell will likely wait. On that same token, he is excited about what he’s seen from the true freshmen.

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“It’s a little too premature to name names,” Campbell said. “But I will say this: I really, really like this freshman class. The bulk of this freshman class are the skill positions. Sometimes when you have a high-skill group coming in, those guys can emerge to the forefront quicker than an offensive or defensive lineman can.

“The neat thing about freshmen today is they’ve been on our campus since June 8, 9 and 10. The homesickness, the jitters — those are gone a little bit. And now, you can actually prepare them to compete in camp. How quick can they start to understand the verbiage? Who can adapt and who can conform to our culture. That’s the neat thing about a program that has a culture.”

Jack Trice Stadium field gets a new name

On Wednesday, Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard announced a partnership with MidAmerican Energy to name the field MidAmerican Energy Field at Jack Trice Stadium.

MidAmerican Energy is committing $1.5 million annually over the next 10 years, Pollard said.

Pollard said the increased contribution will help when Iowa State presents its funding model to the board of regents for Iowa State’s planned new north end zone and student academic and wellness center project. Pollard said that project will likely start in spring 2019.

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