MONDAY MUSINGS: Understanding the Campbell recruiting philosophy

Nov 26, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell talks with kicker Cole Netten (1) before the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It has been about a year since I truly covered Iowa State football recruiting. For one reason or another, I have been back on the beat for about a week now, which means this has been the first chunk of time that I have truly spend closely following Matt Campbell’s staff’s efforts.

I could not be more impressed so far because of two main reasons.

Now be prepared: This is some pretty “inside baseball” recruiting stuff, but I do believe it will help fans understand the inner-workings of the program.

No fear: I have covered Iowa State football recruiting for almost 15 years\ and I cannot tell you how many times I have heard something along the lines of, “We don’t have a chance,” when top competition jumps in on a recruit.

You have probably seen the Campbell staff tweet #RaiseTheStandard lately. It’s their motto heading into the 2018 recruiting cycle. From what I have gathered, this isn’t just a slogan.

I was talking with a source on Saturday about 2018 offensive lineman Marquan McCall, who was in Ames on a visit. This is a four-star offensive lineman from the state of Michigan, who currently has offers from Michigan and Michigan State among many others.

That’s a tall task, right? Sure seems like it to me.

“We’re going to go hard after everybody we want,” a coach said to our crowd last week at the Cyclone Fanatic Recruiting Party in reference to philosophy. “It’s the only way we know how.”

I guess my point is – and this is something that I really learned myself over the weekend – is that these guys simply do not care who the competition is in recruiting. They are going after the guys they want.


Campbell’s philosophy is that while facilities, uniforms, academics and other aspects absolutely matter to recruits, a personal connection with the prospect is what’s most important. It’s why he is tirelessly working on the trail to develop relationships with these prospects.

At a job like Iowa State, it’s tough to win with a head coach that sits back like a CEO while not being active on the trail.

Team: This is hard for a lot of fans to understand, but it is 100 percent accurate with MOST coaches staffs that I have been around.

In recruiting, assistant coaches act more like independent contractors when it comes to acquiring talent. This means that snagging a prized recruit is more of a notch on their own individual belt than it is a great pickup for the team/program.

The reality is that this is how assistants move up in college football – recruiting.

Also, good luck finding a young assistant coach who isn’t constantly thinking about his next job. It happens all of the time.

This Campbell staff doesn’t seem to work that way.

Most of the time, I am skeptical of a guy getting a job and hiring a bunch of his buddies. The Gene Chizik era (Wayne Bolt as DC?!?!) in Ames left a lasting impact on me at the time.

However Campbell’s staff has shown me another side to this argument. The fact that these guys are all so close off of the field makes them more loyal to each other on it – and on the trail.

Everything that this staff is doing is part of a master plan. I cannot in good conscious write today that the plan will work.

Talk to me in three years or so about that.

A 2019 quarterback commit?

It’s a little bit early but what the hell, might as well ride the momentum.

I have no idea how to analyze the Sunday commitment of Dwan Mathis, other than he is a nice looking player and that I hope it sticks.

Biggest thing here right now: Mathis is very tight with the offensive linemen I mentioned above, Marquan McCall. They go to the same high school, visited this weekend together and are very good friends.

What a packaged deal that could be…

A good feeling about Solomon Young

I loved Steve Prohm’s answer following the game on Saturday when I asked him about how he planned on dishing out minutes at the five-spot the rest of the year.

“It’s February,” Prohm said. “If you’re doing what I am asking you to do, you’re probably going to play. If you’re not, you’re probably not helping anybody.”

Freshman Solomon Young is far from a perfect basketball player but he also doesn’t strike me as a defiant young man. I think that Young will be an upgrade compared to what Iowa State has had at the five for the majority of the season.

A fully bought in and bruising Merrill Holden chipping in 10-15 minutes would also be nice.

Keep an eye on this story…

The status of Kansas State big man D.J. Johnson, who missed Saturday’s loss at West Virginia due to an injury.

Iowa State is expecting Johnson to play on Wednesday, but exactly how healthy will he be? Stay tuned.

Cyclone shout outs to …

…Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard, who tore his ACL in Hilton last Saturday.

… Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, who was recently diagnosed with throat cancer.