AMES — Sometime within the next week to 10 days, Paul Rhoads and his staff will likely face a momentous decision.
The reason for the possible crossroads-moment: Defensive lineman Gabe Luna’s back injury, which has shown mild improvement lately, but not enough to make taking a redshirt year escape the realm of possibility.
“(He) has not even stepped on the practice field,” Rhoads said after Wednesday morning’s practice. “Still getting treatment. It’s ongoing. No decisions made on what we’ll do with him. We have that flexibility as he’s got three years to play to. But we’ve seen improvement here recently with a change of modalities and we’ll just see what happens.”
Luna, a 6-2, 251-pound junior out of Butler (Kan.) Community College, is currently listed as the No. 2 right end, behind senior captain Cory Morrissey, with recent JUCO arrival Dale Pierson currently tabbed as a third-teamer.
That mix would obviously change if Luna’s unable to perform during camp, but plenty of other variables will impact whether or not he’d redshirt if the injury doesn’t begin healing up quicker.
“If we’re not coming out of training camp with him being out there and starting to get exposed to it a little bit, then you’ve got to see what happens in front of that as far as injuries and go from there,” Rhoads said of Luna, who hurt his back during summer weight-lifting workouts.
Down to the wire?: “No,” Rhoads said when asked if there’d been any change regarding the competition between Sam Richardson and Grant Rohach for the No. 1 quarterback spot. “I’ll just leave it at that. No.”
True freshmen prospects: Rhoads reiterated that punter Colin Downing and wide receiver Allen Lazard remain the two true freshman most likely to see any playing time — and possibly significant chunks.
“Colin has that personality and that mental toughness we looked for in the recruiting process as we always do with a punter and a kicker and he’s displayed that on the practice field,” Rhoads said. “Allen has jumped in and he’s a competitive kid. He’s been playing against a higher level of athlete because of all of his travels, in AAU things, whether it be basketball or football, and 7-on-7. I think he’s benefited from that going into camp. He’s been welcomed by his teammates and that’s a boost to you mentally, also.”
More on the MIKEs: Rhoads said MIKE linebackers Alton Meeks and Kane Seeley continue to battle hard for the starting slot.
“I think they feel the heat a little bit, which is important,” Rhoads said. “And sometimes with that, someone will spiral out a little bit because they can’t take that and that’s something we have to find out sooner rather than later. That’s not the case (with Meeks and Seeley). I think both of them have stepped up their game. There’s no problem with these kids being physical. They’ll hit you. They’ll put the pads on you, but it’s being where they’re supposed to be. On the defensive side of the ball there’s no player that has to understand the game and have a feel for the game more than your MIKE linebacker.”
Dinged up: Rhoads said that offensive lineman Ryan Glenn is currently day-to-day because of a deep thigh bruise.