WILLIAMS: Analyzing Campbell’s spring standouts

Nov 18, 2017; Waco, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Sheldon Croney Jr. (25) is tackled from behind against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to giving information to the media, Matt Campbell is usually very calculated. Rarely, if ever, does he slip up. He will often plant things that he wants “out there.” Campbell can be a great quote if you get him in the right setting but it’s generally tough to get solid information from him in the form of a press conference.

I thought that we learned a lot about the 2018 version of Iowa State football from Campbell on Monday afternoon.

Iowa State’s third year head coach was asked about spring standouts. Not only did Campbell mention some names, but he raved about certain guys. Some were surprising, others were not. The position that a few of them play absolutely got me even more bullish on next season though.

Below is who Campbell singled out, what he said and my reaction to it.

O’Rien Vance, Fr. LB

Since the day he stepped on campus, this is a guy who Iowa State’s development staff has raved about. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder out of Cedar Rapids hasn’t played a snap yet but he’s a guy who absolutely passes the eye test with flying colors. He’s a guy who Campbell had hoped to see progress out of this spring.

“O’Rien’s a guy that’s really done a great job in terms of continuing his development in much-needed reps that are competitive, so I think he’s certainly doing a great job and I think that’s still a wide-open race right now,” Campbell said, while noting Vance’s stand out play in select scrimmages.

My guess is that Vance and fellow redshirt Jake Hummel come together to split a lot of what Joel Lanning did last year inside.

Greg Eisworth, Jr. SS

“Greg Eisworth is kid that’s really done a great job,” said Campbell.

It wasn’t much of a quote but the mere fact that Campbell mentioned junior college addition Greg Eisworth at strong safety is big. First impressions are really important. It’s usually hard for a JUCO of any type – spring or summer – to make a good first impression at this level.

The phrase, “work the JUCO out of them,” exists for a reason. There isn’t much JUCO in Eisworth, apparently. He will push for that starting spot – if he isn’t the favorite already – this fall.

Colin Newell, Fr. OL

We’ve been hearing a lot about this guy behind the scenes over the last two weeks.

“Right now, he’s doing a lot of center,” Campbell said of Newell. “He kind of feels comfortable there. I think that’s kind of maybe home, but he’s also played a little bit of left guard. He’s also played a little bit out at tackle. That’s the one thing I really like about Colin, he’s got position flexibility, but has been really consistent for a young guy so far as well.”

I’ve heard that Newell, an Ames kid who’s listed at 6-4, 282, could be pushing for a starting spot at center, which would allow new offensive line coach Jeff Myers to move perhaps his best lineman, the versatile Julian Good-Jones, to wherever the biggest hole is.

Newell has been so good that Campbell doubled down and referred to him as one of Iowa State’s best four linemen at this point.

“You’ve got Meeker, Knipfel, you’ve got Good-Jones and, you know, like I said, I think our young guy here from Ames has done a great job, so I think those four have been the most consistent so far and everybody else is trying to fight for that fifth spot.”

Tarique Milton, Fr. WR

A source within the program told me two weeks ago that Milton would eventually be a “superstar.”

“He’s a guy that I think the best (way) to describe him is elite speed,” Campbell said of the 5-foot-10, 165-pound redshirt freshman. “He’s a guy that can make plays down the field and he can do it outside, he can do it inside. And Tarique’s just a young guy. You’re still talking about trying to find that consistency every day, but when you talk about big moments in scrimmages, he’s a guy that’s certainly popped off the screen, because in critical situations he’s been able to make some big plays.”

Shelcon Croney, Jr. RB

More depth at running back!

“Sheldon Croney has had really two outstanding scrimmages,” Campbell said. “Really proud of him.”

It probably got overlooked late last season, but I thought that Croney was outstanding in his brief relief of an injured David Montgomery. In the win vs. Baylor, Croney averaged 11.3 yards per carry on only four carries. The next week, he ran for 63 yards and 4.8 yards per carry in the loss to Kansas State. He’s actually the perfect backup to Montgomery, considering the two run with very similar, bruising styles.

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