AMES — Take it from Iowa State’s standout center Tom Farniok.
His offensive line mate, Jake Campos, is going to be something once a bit more polish shines up his already intense trenches-based demeanor.
“Obviously there’s a lot he’s got to work on and he’d the first to tell you that, which is why he’s going to be a good player, probably a great one by the time he’s done here,” said Farniok, who will line up two spots down from Campos when they Cyclones (0-2) take on Iowa (2-0) in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. Cy-Hawk Series showdown in Iowa City. “High motor. Gives it his all he’s got every single snap and that’s all you can ask for.”
Campos — a four-star recruit and redshirt freshman thrust into the starting lineup last week when senior Jacob Gannon quit the team — readies for start number two knowing he can hold his own against the best.
His first start at right tackle came opposite all-Big 12 Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller.
And for the most part, the 6-8, 291-pound Campos played well — though, as ISU coach Paul Rhoads said, he didn’t necessarily grade out great, given the level of competition.
“Gives him confidence,” Rhoads said. “Let’s him understand, ‘Hey, I can play at this level and I can play at this level right now.’ And I guy like that won’t hold himself back heading towards his potential.”
Mueller shot in for a key third-and-one stop in the third quarter of last Saturday’s 32-28 loss and teamed with Elijah Lee for a sack to snuff out the next drive.
But Campos kept grinding, improving.
The butterflies he felt early in the day had long since been swapped out for adrenaline.
“I was real nervous going in (early) Saturday morning and Friday night,” Campos said. “But right before the game it was less nervous, more anxious to get out there. I was pumped going to Jack Trice (Stadium) for the first time. Just awesome.”
Campos is similarly excited to be making his first start inside Kinnick Stadium — a site he’s attended a few games in the past.
And if Hawkeye fans let him hear it — heckles, cat calls and all, he’ll smile and grit his teeth with one mission in mind: Banishing the noise.
“I love that, especially when you’re driving and the crowd gets quiet,” Campos said. “That’s the best feeling, when we’re playing in silence somewhere else.”
Campos experienced that feeling often as a star at West Des Moines Valley High School.
Saturday offers him a chance to strive toward silence in college for the first time — and he’ll likely get the same pre-game advice from Farniok and fellow tackle Brock Dagel as he did last week.
“‘You’ve got this, relax, you’re Ok,’” Campos recalls them saying. “‘Just breathe.’”
Coupling calm with the “mean and nasty” qualities required to excel at the point of attack requires discipline and experience.
Campos is on his way, but knows from a technique standpoint there’s lots of work to be done.
“I think a lot of it is pad level; I was playing too high, especially against a guy like Mueller,” he said of his first game as a starter. “You can’t do that. Then my feet, I really need to work on my feet — getting bigger first steps and then good spacing on my steps.”
Farniok said, in the broader sense, Campos’s first true step left a pretty big footprint.
The key to making subsequent leaps lies as much in his head as his hands, shoulders and on-the-field maneuvering.
“I know some of the struggles he goes through,” said Farniok, who also made his first Cyclone start as a redshirt freshman. “You’re just physically outmatched sometimes. I mean, there’s no way. You’re best will not be good enough, which stinks sometimes, but his effort and intensity will make up for that, hopefully.”