Football

WILLIAMS: Thoughts on the progression of every position so far through camp

Fall camp is well over halfway complete. In addition to standard drills and conditioning, the Cyclones have had plenty of time to scrimmage as well. Who are some current standouts? What storylines are popping to those inside the program in the middle of week No. 2? Below are notes I have been taking over the last week and a half through conversations with folks in the know.

NOTE: I posted a handful of these on the Cyclone Fanatic football forum yesterday. Below will be in more detail with some extras, however if you’d like to join the conversation with other Fanatics, please do so by clicking here. 

OFFENSE

QB: It should be no surprise to anyone that Kyle Kempt is safely the starter for week one vs. South Dakota State. Simply put, the sixth-year senior just looks better out there because of his weight gain over the season. Zeb Noland is the No. 2 while Re-al Mitchell – in my opinion – will be used in some capacity this year as a wrinkle of some sort. What will be interesting with Mitchell is if it is for the minimum four games to save his redshirt – or if he full-out plays in 2018. Mentally and physically, blue-chipper Brock Purdy has by far been one of the most impressive true freshmen on the roster. 

RB: Pretty standard at this position. From top to bottom, it is as loaded of a group as I can remember at Iowa State – maybe ever since I started covering the team in 2004. The only group I can think of that would compare is Jake Knott, A.J. Klein and Jeremiah George – three future pros – at linebacker.

TE: This is one of the most interesting position groups to discuss regarding how the team has looked during camp. Charlie Kolar, the redshirt freshman out of Oklahoma, might be the best receiving prospect in the group. Chase Allen, a sophomore, is probably the most consistent of the three. Look for the staff to continue to find creative ways to use these guys. Dylan Soehner is the best blocker. They all do different things well, which is nice from a flexibility standpoint. 

WR: Tarique Milton was not just a spring ball story. He has carried it over to August in a big way. Milton, the redshirt freshman out of Florida, might already be one of the top big play threats on the roster. Numerous people have told me that Hakeem Butler – despite the high expectations for him to begin with – has been one of the most impressive Cyclones in camp. Matthew Eaton has stepped his game up a notch too. Sleeper: True freshman Joseph Scates. Due to the depth of the position, he probably won’t play this year but Scates has been identified as a high upside guy for the future. 

OL: A lot to chew on here as this is one of Iowa State’s biggest concerns heading into the season … Sounds like Colin Newell has all but secured the starting center spot. The redshirt freshman out of Ames is very consistent. Keep in mind that he goes up against Ray Lima every day so he’s being tested. That’s big because it opens up the opportunity to slide Iowa State’s best lineman – junior Julian Good-Jones – to left tackle. My guess is that sophomore Josh Mueller gets the nod at left guard with Josh Knipfel and Bryce Meeker filling things out on the right side. However this is fluid. A lot of guys will get reps up front offensively. There is more depth here than in years past but it isn’t exactly proven depth. Look for true freshman Trevor Downing to make a legitimate push to play in year one. 

DEFENSE 

DL: The best news to report here is that Enyi Uwazurike has continued to progress. He’s has always been a high upside prospect within the program and doesn’t appear to be stalling out, which is great. He can play inside or out, which is big in the mind of Matt Campbell. Another guy who has popped all camp long and appears to be building off of a solid 2017 season is Jamahl Johnson in the middle. Two true freshmen – Will McDonald and Zach Petersen – look like future stars. McDonald might be good enough to see some reps in 2018 but it’s best to bet on him taking a redshirt year considering there is depth on the line. Matt Leo and Kamilo Tongamoa continue to be wildcards as we inch towards Sept. 1. 

LB: Marcel Spears has taken over the role as Iowa State’s leader on defense. As linebacker coach Tyson Viedt pointed out last night, true freshman Mike Rose has stood out to everyone. My guess is that O’Rien Vance still wins the middle linebacker job though with a combination of Bobby McMillen, Reggan Northrup, Jake Hummel and Tymar Sutton backing him up. There are a lot of guys there. Somebody still needs to jump out and take the job. Vance is the clubhouse leader.  

DB: Don’t be surprised if Arnold Azunna or Datrone Young’s skills allow Iowa State to tinker with where it wants to play D’Andre Payne. That is all based on how the young safeties come along. Ideally, the corners are Payne and Brian Peavy, of course. De’Monte Ruth is one of the great stories in this program and will hopefully have a big senior year. 

In closing … The team’s concerns before camp are still the same concerns. Offensive line, middle linebacker and the safeties. There have been some positive signs but that is always the case when you are playing against yourself.

There is a real transition that fans need to make mentally going forward with Iowa State football. In the past, it’s been easy to get hung up on who is starting. While that’s still significant, what I’m seeing – and hearing – is more talk about matchups than starters. It’s because there is actually some depth here.

Don’t get me wrong: Iowa State’s roster is far from a finished product. But all three tight ends could play a lot this year. All of those linebacker mentioned could see significant snaps. Same goes with the offensive and defensive lines and in the secondary.

Campbell wants this program to be as “multiple” as possible. He hasn’t had the luxury to play that way the last two years. The hope is that 2018 can be just the start of that in Ames.

Chris Williams

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Chris was hired as Cyclone Fanatic’s publisher in the fall of 2009. He is Iowa State football's postgame show host on the Cyclone Radio Network and can be heard daily from 4-7 on Des Moines' top-rated sports station, 1460 KXnO. Williams, a 2007 graduate of Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism, is the former publisher of the old CycloneNation.com (Scout.com). He has also written for the Des Moines Register, the Ames Tribune, CycloneReport.com and is the former sports director at KMA Radio. When Williams isn’t working, you can usually find him doing something outdoors with his wife Ashley, daughter Camryn, and Golden Retriever Dierks. He enjoys golfing, boating, country music, the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Braves and is passionate about any and all motor sports so finding Williams at a local dirt track is very common.