Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football still has room for young skill-position players

Cyclones loaded on offense, but help may be needed

Iowa State wide receiver Sean Shaw Jr. (2) catches a pass for a 28-yard gain in front of Notre Dame cornerback Troy Prid
Iowa State wide receiver Sean Shaw Jr. (2) catches a pass for a 28-yard gain in front of Notre Dame cornerback Troy Pride Jr. during the first half of the Camping World Bowl NCAA college football game in December. (Associated Press)

AMES — College football is back.

Kind of.

Maybe.

In some places.

Big 12 schools have started voluntary workouts but it hasn’t been without its hiccups.

Texas had 13 players test positive for the coronavirus Thursday and Kansas State had 14 players test positive Saturday. Kansas State decided to suspend voluntary workouts.

Iowa State has had two football players test positive so far and those positive tests happened before the voluntary workouts began.

This is going to be a strange football season — assuming it happens at all. At some point during the season, a starter or key player is going to test positive for COVID-19 and they will have to sit out and quarantine.

Coaches rely on young players every season to step up and help fill the void left by graduating seniors or players that transferred. But this season, maybe more than any other, young players could have a sizable impact on how a team does throughout the year as they potentially fill in for players.

Iowa State’s offensive skill positions are mostly solidified with Brock Purdy at quarterback, Breece Hall at running back, Charlie Kolar, Chase Allen and Dylan Soehner at tight end and with Tarique Milton at receiver.

But there still is room for young guys to step up, step in and help take the load off the prime-time players or to even fill in if need be.

Sophomore receiver Sean Shaw is poised to take over La’Michael Pettway’s spot on the outside as Iowa State’s big-bodied receiver.

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Shaw had 15 catches for 231 yards last season as a redshirt freshman. But the 6-foot-6 receiver’s biggest area of production was in the red zone. One-third of his receptions last season ended in the end zone.

Joe Scates is another sophomore receiver who could have a true breakout season.

Scates was a 4-star recruit out of high school and Matt Campbell and his staff have touted how talented Scates is, he just hasn’t shown it on Saturdays yet.

Scates played in 10 games last season and had two receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown.

But if he puts it together and gets opportunities, he could be another weapon on the outside for Purdy.

“Nobody’s made more growth and change in the last 12 months at Iowa State than Joe Scates, but Joe is a young man that knows it,” Campbell said after the West Virginia game last season. “He knows that the structure and the discipline (is what) he needs and he’s been willing to listen. He’s been willing to use that to better himself to become the best he can be.

“I think Joe’s a super talent. I think he’s one of the most talented players in our program and just a young guy who’s craving to become the best version of him that he possibly can be. So it’s really fun and rewarding to watch him grow.”

In the backfield, running back is a position with a lot of depth for the Cyclones. Hall will be the bellcow, but Johnnie Lang and Kene Nwangwu also will get opportunities.

While Iowa State has three proven running backs, Jirehl Brock is a name that shouldn’t be left out of the mix.

Campbell and his staff were only going to burn one redshirt last season and Hall was the one who earned it but Brock was right on his heels.

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“Jirehl Brock is a guy that continues to make huge, positive steps forward,” Campbell said after the season.

Brock played in the Louisiana-Monroe game last season while redshirting and showed a glimpse of what he could be if he gets touches. He had five carries for 40 yards and his longest rush was 13 yards so he was consistently getting 6 to 10 yards per carry.

For comparison’s sake — and one-game sample sizes are nothing to make a judgment off — Hall had five carries for 35 yards against Louisiana-Monroe.

The tight end room is another position of depth for the Cyclones, it didn’t have a player graduate and all three of them earned All-Big 12 honors. In a normal year there’s probably not a spot open — but this isn’t a normal year.

If one of the three main tight ends gets sick or gets injured, converted quarterback Easton Dean will be the guy to step in.

Dean, a redshirt freshman, has the size at 6-foot-6 and he received a heaping helping of praise from Campbell after the season when Campbell said, “(Dean) will be the best tight end that we’ve ever had here.”

If he’s that good, Dean might get an opportunity even if everyone is healthy.

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