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Football

WILLIAMS: Five takeaways from Matt Campbell’s pre-UNI press conference

AMES — It’s game week.

Matt Campbell held his first Monday press conference of the 2016 season on Monday morning. With that, Iowa State released its week one depth chart as well.

Below are five takeaways from the day that was up at Iowa State.

Nine true freshmen on the depth chart

That’s a lot of youngsters that will see playing time for the Cyclones this season.

Some notables to touch on…

— The two running backs, David Montgomery and Kene Nwangwu.

“Make me play you,” Campbell often tells his rookies.

That’s exactly what these two did.

“It doesn’t bother me if you are a senior or a freshman, the best player is going to play,” Campbell said in reference to his days at D III powerhouse Mount Union. “If you were the best player at your position, you were going to play. That’s the fair way to do it. That’s honest.”

JaQuan Bailey is listed as a backup to Gabe Luna at Leo. He’ll see significant snaps as a pass rusher.

“This is a really talented freshman class,” Campbell said. “Regardless of how you want to say depth, I still think it’s impressive for a young man on a big 12 football team to earn his way onto the two deep.”

Sean Foster is listed as a backup left tackle behind Jaypee Philbert.

— Somewhat surprisingly, Arnold Azunna is listed as Jomal Wiltz’ backup at left cornerback, although that is expected to change when Nigel Tribune’s suspension is up.

— Other freshmen in the two deeps: Chase Allen at tight end, Jamahl Johnson at nose guard, and Deshaunte Jones at wide receiver.

Campbell referred to Joel Lanning as an “elite leader”

Iowa State announced its captains on Friday and refreshingly, junior quarterback Joel Lanning was one of them.

You always want your quarterback to be voted as a captain.

Campbell referred to No. 7 as an “elite leader” on Monday, saying Lanning is the first guy in and the last one to leave, while noting that he’s constantly winning sprints during practice.

No Allen Lazard on kick or punt return, but…

I am obsessed with special teams play for some reason.

It stood out to me that Allen Lazard, who was listed as Iowa State’s starter at kick and punt return in the season’s first depth chart, is nowhere to be found in the new one.

I asked Campbell why:

“I don’t know if you will or won’t see Allen there,” Campbell said. “He is certainly back there at times in the punt return game. Right now he is starting on our kick return team. It’s just a matter of, Trever is a guy who has certainly been dynamic back there. He had a good fall camp in a multitude of different ways. I don’t know if it is a plus or a minus or I don’t know if you won’t see him back there. That depth chart, especially on the returner piece of it, I think is a little bit fluid still as we start the season off.”

Basically, stay tuned.

Joining Trever Ryen at kick return is true freshman Deshaunte Jones, who has reportedly had an awesome camp.

Campbell’s respect for UNI

As expected, Campbell had nothing but great things about Iowa State’s week one opponent, the fifth-ranked (FCS) UNI Panthers.

“What you know from my end of it as I look at it is, I couldn’t be more impressed with the opponent that we are playing,” Campbell said. “Their culture is right. They have won big football games. They play deep into the postseason. They don’t rebuild, they reload.”

Where’s Cliff Fernandez?

Another quick depth chart jotting: I was surprised that junior Cliff Fernandez wasn’t listed at tight end. He had supposedly been having a decent camp and was even made available to the media a few weeks ago.

Senior Justin Chandler is listed as the starter there, with Sam Harms and Chase Allen backing him up.