Sep 8, 2018; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell watches his team play against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — As Iowa State’s 2019 spring practice winds to a close, Matt Campbell is not concerned with his team losing accountability as they enter a period with little coach interaction prior to the summer.
The Cyclones will conclude spring drills on Saturday when they complete their 15th practice. This will mark the beginning of a stretch leading up to the end of school in which the players will be the driving forces in continuing to build on the progress made over the last month.
“With this team, there’s not a big rah-rah speech. Some years you’ve had to plead, ‘Hey, listen, you’re going to have to be disciplined, you’re going to have to be great in the offseason, you’re going to have to do those things.’ We’ll talk about those things, but I think we’ve got great player ownership right now,” Campbell said on Thursday. “I think there’s guys that understand what sacrifice you have to make from this endpoint to get to the finale of starting fall camp, where you want to be, to continue to take the next steps. I think that’s the thing if there’s one that I’m really excited about it’s the player driven leadership that’s in our football program right now and giving them the reigns to say, ‘Hey, the keys are yours now for the next eight to ten weeks. Who we become is going to depend on what you’re willing to put into it.’”
The Cyclones falling into a state of comfortability after going 8-5 in back-to-back seasons and bursting onto the national scene does not seem to be much of a concern at this point within the Bergstrom Football Complex. Sure, Iowa State was forced to replace some key leaders from last year’s team, most notably early NFL draft entrees David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler, but the wealth of experience returning has allowed the program to maintain momentum going into the summer.
Once the team returns to Ames after a short break following the end of school in May, it will become a balancing act for Campbell between continuing to foster that culture of player-driven leadership with some of the new rules the NCAA has put in place allowing coaches to lead some summer workouts.
“It makes you have to rethink how you do fall camp. It makes you have to rethink how you prepare for game one because with these new rules and allowing us to be available to those guys at times, kids are here all summer long, I think we have to be really cautious of not overdoing it with them,” Campbell said. “I want them to be excited to come back here for fall camp. I want our coaches to be excited to come back for fall camp. I think that’s a great balancing act from my end.”
Regardless, the Cyclones leave spring practice in as good of a spot as they have in many years. That is largely due to the momentum built during consecutive successful seasons, but also the culture of player accountability that has been fostered by guys like Montgomery, Butler, Willie Harvey, Joel Lanning, Allen Lazard and many others.
Campbell has preached the need for player-driven leadership since his first day on the job in Ames. The next few weeks will be a test of how strong that foundation truly is entering what could be one of the most hyped off-seasons in the program’s history.
“I think our kids know that,” Campbell said. “To be honest with you, I’m really excited to go watch them take hold of what they’ve already started.”