Matt Campbell watches his former players at Iowa State Football Pro Day on Tuesday. (Photo credit: Connor Ferguson for Cyclone Fanatic)
AMES — For the first time since Matt Campbell arrived in Ames, the Cyclones’ head football coach feels like his team has defined leadership roles entering the heart of spring camp.
Campbell, who enters his fourth year as the head man at Iowa State, met with the media following his team’s open second spring practice on Tuesday. He noted the growth of the team’s leadership over the past several years as one of the things he is most excited about this team early on.
“We’re really fortunate. This is the first time since I’ve been here that I really feel we have such a strong group of leaders coming back,” Campbell said. “You talk about guys like Ray Lima and Marcel Spears, I think you can almost go to every position group. Yeah, we lost some good players but I think the leadership, the accountability, the self-ownership in this program, maybe as good as I’ve ever had coming back into a football team.”
The Cyclones are tasked with replacing stars Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery as well as a host of key figures during Campbell’s first three seasons in Brian Peavy, Willie Harvey, D’Andre Payne and Sam Seonbuchner.
Luckily, Iowa State is deeper as a program than it has been in quite some time with players Campbell feels are ready to step into those shoes left open. Plus, they have guys like Lima and Spears to help bring any newbies along during the spring and summer.
“That part is what I think excites you. You do see that start to come into the fold. It starts with the winter workouts as we start to come back together. Personal accountability, I think you look at this group and you can see that bodies have changed around here,” Campbell said. “You start to get into some of these team settings and you start to see guys take great ownership of what’s going on. I think it will only continue to happen because in a lot of ways we’re still really young in some places. To watch that accountability come into the fold is really fun.”
Some Notes From Practice
*** The starting group offensively was largely unchanged outside of the losses of Butler and Montgomery. Redshirt junior Jalen Martin took the majority of the first-team snaps at the x-receiver position left open by Butler. Redshirt junior Kene Nwangwu and redshirt senior Sheldon Croney were the top tailbacks.
*** The No. 1 offensive line group was unchanged from the one the Cyclones used the majority of last season with Julian Good-Jones (LT), Collin Olson (LG), Collin Newell (C), Josh Knipfel (RG) and Bryce Meeker (RT) in front of quarterback Brock Purdy.
*** Junior linebacker Jake Hummel missed Tuesday’s practice with the flu. Redshirt sophomore running back Johnnie Lang and redshirt senior defensive end Matt Leo were limited in practice due to what Campbell termed “getting something cleaned up.” Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Zach Ross was limited as well with a toe injury.
Campbell said he expects Leo to be back at full-go by the end of spring practice.
*** Redshirt freshman Chandler Pulvermacher rotated with classmate Gerry Vaughn at the third linebacker spot vacated by Harvey alongside sophomore Mike Rose and redshirt senior Marcel Spears. Hummel will surely factor into that equation as well once he returns to the field.
*** Unsurprisingly, redshirt sophomore Datrone Young and true sophomore Anthony Johnson, Jr. were the No. 1 cornerbacks. Jatairis Grant played one of the safety spots left open by D’Andre Payne’s graduation.