While most people are thinking about college basketball this week, there will be a group of guys at the Bergstrom Football Complex thinking about the gridiron. Iowa State opens Spring football practice Tuesday morning with an open practice at 8:30.
Of course, Cyclone Fanatic will have full coverage from that practice and Matt Campbell’s press conference afterwards. There are a lot of questions hanging over Campbell’s first practice as Iowa State’s head coach, and I’m here to take a look at a few of them.
Here are my three biggest questions before Iowa State starts spring practice:
1. I’m interested to see how the defense is going to look under Campbell and new defensive coordinator Jon Heacock.
Paul Rhoads and Wally Burnham took the ISU defense to a 3-4 look during their last season in Ames and you can expect that to change this season. Heacock’s defenses have been more multiple in the past utilizing several different kind of fronts instead of the three-man front Iowa State used last season.
I’m guessing the new staff will try to promote a defensive scheme that’s more about just attacking the football and playing with energy than a scheme that ties people into very specific jobs. That will allow players to just react to what’s happening on the field rather than having to think to play within the system.
This is a question we likely won’t know the answer to until the first real game next fall, but it will be something worth keeping an eye on through Spring practice and during the Spring game.
2. With the departure of Joshua Thomas, running backs coach Lou Ayeni will have the tough task of finding someone to fill the backup running back role behind Mike Warren.
Trever Ryen and Mitchell Harger are the only other returning backs that saw much time a season ago, and even at that they didn’t get a boatload of carries. Redshirt freshman Sheldon Croney is one guy I would imagine will step into some kind of playing time along with true freshmen Kene Nwangwu and David Montgomery.
The only problem for the two true freshmen is they weren’t early signees and won’t take part in spring practice. We most likely won’t have any idea what the running back rotation is like until fall camp, well, outside of the fact that Warren will get most of the carries.
3. The last thing I want to know is how much Joel Lanning has improved since we last saw him in Morgantown last November.
Campbell and his staff brought in two very solid quarterback recruits this season and both have the potential to push Lanning. True freshman Zeb Noland is on campus and will take part in spring practice and junior college transfer Jacob Park will be here for fall camp.
I don’t expect the offense to rely heavily on Lanning’s ability to throw the ball anyway, but it will be interesting to see how much he has been able to improve during the winter conditioning months.
There are so many other questions to be answered, including offensive line issues, which our Chris Williams addressed right here last week. There are concerns over depth at linebacker and in the defensive secondary. It’s unclear who will be the top tight ends and which receivers will step up behind Allen Lazard and Jauan Wesley.
I’m sure we’ll get some answers to those questions over the next couple weeks, but most of them we won’t.
Either way, it’s nice to have football back for a while.