Nov 26, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell reacts to a call during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Matt Campbell has previously mentioned a handful of true freshmen who stood out during fall camp, but on Wednesday it became clear which of them have the potential to play in Saturday’s season opener.
To no surprise, running back Johnnie Lang seems to be the most surefire of the group to see snaps in some form when Northern Iowa visits Jack Trice Stadium (7 p.m. on Cyclones.tv). Campbell also listed cornerbacks Richard Bowens, Keonte Jones and Datrone Young while offensive lineman Rob Hudson remains in the mix.
“Richard’s had a great camp,” Campbell said. “Really finished spring ball really well. Has really had a great camp. I expect Richard to play for us come Saturday night. Keonte Jones continues to push. Datrone Young is right in that mix a little bit. I think those guys certainly fit the mold of that. We’ve talked about Rob Hudson. I think Rob’s a guy that continues to showcase himself getting better. Will he play, will he not play, I think it’s all circumstantial right now.”
It is encouraging to see Bowens, Jones and Young push their way into possible playing time considering the depth of Iowa State’s veteran defensive backfield. Although, a lot of the same things were said about redshirt freshman Arnold Azunna last year during his first season on campus, but he never saw the field.
Even if any of those handful of guys do not see the field right away in week one, it does not mean they will not have an opportunity to earn playing time over the next several weeks.
“I think it’s fun to watch those guys push and continue to improve,” Campbell said. “I said this about this freshman class, what will be interesting will be what happens the next two, three, four weeks with that freshman class because there’s a lot of guys that continue to get better and showcase themselves. So I think we’ve got some guys if we’re forced in a position, we feel comfortable playing with them, but if it’s a situation where they’re not ready, we’re certainly not going to push them too fast.”
Another Kamilo update
Campbell is also leaving the door open for the possibility of JUCO transfer defensive tackle Kamilo Tongamoa seeing the field on Saturday. The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder arrived in Ames late last week then went through his first padded practice on Tuesday.
The decision of whether or not the highly-touted JUCO prospect gets snaps will depend on his performance in practice throughout the rest of the week.
“Again, I think you’ve just got to be really smart in this situation,” Campbell said. “Obviously would we have wanted him back earlier? Sure. But has he done a great job since he’s been here? He has. I think he put in a little work as he was working really hard to get his grades up and get his grades to where they needed to be, but I’m excited about Kamilo. Will you see him Saturday night? I think really depends on how he finishes the week, but I think he’s had a really good week for Kamilo especially just being here a week and a half now.”
Alexander out for Saturday’s game
Unsurprisingly, redshirt senior defensive back Mackenro Alexander will not be available for Iowa State on Saturday. The former Auburn transfer is essentially suspended indefinitely while the situation surrounding his arrest for multiple charges of assault causing injury is sorted out.
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“Mackenro was a guy that was backing up on some special teams and had the ability to back up defensively,” Campbell said. “I can tell you right now he won’t be available for this football game. As we continue to find out the details I’m not going to make any long-term or short-term decisions until I know all the facts and those facts get straightened out, but right now he won’t be available for Saturday night.”