AMES — The Iowa State offensive line only returns 24 total starts this season, with 23 of them coming from one player. That one player is junior tackle Jake Campos and he will miss the beginning portions of spring practice after having hip surgery during the winter.
He’s still been active during his rehabilitation and was seen jogging, jumping rope and doing other exercises during the team’s opening spring practice on Tuesday. Even though he hasn’t been fully capable to showing off to the new coaching staff, Campos is still making an impression on new head coach Matt Campbell.
“I think he’s done a really good job in terms of catching up. He’s another, I’d say, a football junkie,” Campbell said during his press conference after practice. “He’s in the film room when we’re in the film room. He’s around all the time, and I appreciate that about him. I think him and Coach (Tom) Manning have really developed a great relationship. I’ve seen him in some areas that I challenged him with this injury.”
Nick Fett is the only other returning Cyclone offensive lineman that has started a Big 12 game, which leaves the door open for some young guys to step up. Campbell said a lot of guys have stood out to him during the winter and first practice but wasn’t ready to single anyone out just yet.
“I think repetition and opportunity are at a premium right now at that position,” Campbell said. “I think, really, it’s a matter of starting at square one. It’s ironic because we kind of did the same thing a year ago at Toledo. We’ve been down that road and we’ll just take it one day at a time. You know, the key for us is to go as that offensive line goes in terms of how we install plays, and that’s okay. I’d rather come out with a great foundation to who we are offensively coming out of spring practice rather than trying to do too much all at once.”
There aren’t any worries about Campos missing any time during the fall, and Campbell even hinted at him working back into drills late during the spring. A lot of the offensive line’s work during spring drills will be just finding the right positions for guys.
It also seems clear that an ability to play multiple spots along the line could be a deciding factor when Campbell and his staff are putting together a rotation in the fall.
“I think if you look at our history of our o-line, that’s always been the case,” Campbell said. “The reality of it, anybody should be able to play anywhere, any of the five spots. So I think that’s big. I think we’ve already addressed that and talked about it through the winter with the young men.”
No depth chart
It may come as a surprise to some that Campbell didn’t release a two-deep with the start of practice, but there’s a method to the madness.
“There’s really not even a depth chart right now, and you saw I didn’t even put one out. I told our guys its a rep chart quite honestly,” Campbell said. “We’ll sort it all out. We’ll see what guys skill sets match our expectations for each position. That’s not just on the o-line, it’s really across the board right now, then we’ll make our decisions based off of that.”
Jones moves to cornerback
Jay Jones was impressive at times last season, his first at Iowa State, but he was also incredibly inconsistent while playing the nickel/strong-side linebacker position in Paul Rhoads’ defense. That inconsistency, coupled with his physical attributes, has led to a new position for Jones — cornerback.
“I think that’s our starting point right now,” Campbell said. “I’m a big believer in length in terms of cornerback play. Jay is a guy that, again, had a phenomenal winter for us. We kind of said as we really evaluated the video tape, ‘is he better off close to the football or is he better off farther away from the football where he can use his length and his skill?’ Obviously, Jay might not be the fastest corner that we have but his length and his power and his strength and he is loose. So it’s kind of a starting spot. Probably a little bit exploratory from our side of things.”
West and Dunning on medical hardship
Our Chris Williams reported a couple weeks ago that offensive lineman Jacob Dunning would be put on medical hardship, and you can now add senior receiver Quan West to that list as well. That news comes one day after Levi Peters announced he was hanging up his cleats for health reasons as well.
“We picked up some great assistant coaches,” Campbell said. “I’m really fired up about those guys. They’ve done a great job. Matter of fact, they were all here ready to rock and roll this morning with our coaching staff, so it’s great to have their leadership still in our program.”