STANZ: Five things to watch in this weekend’s spring game

Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Jaylin Noel (13) runs with the ball after making a chatch around West Virginia Mountaineers defensive back Aubrey Burks (2) during the first half in the Big-12 showdown at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday, Nov. 5. 2022, in Ames, Iowa.

Spring football is coming to a close, and for the first time in six years, that close brings with it a spring football game. Too bad it is expected to be 40 degrees and windy.

Knowing Iowa State fans how I do, I don’t expect the bad weather to keep them away from a chance at a football party.

Here are five things to keep an eye on while at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday…

The offensive line

I wrote about my early cautious optimism surrounding Iowa State’s offensive line earlier this week, but I’m looking forward to seeing this group in action even in a practice-type setting.

Ryan Clanton says his group has made major strides, and veteran tackle Jake Remsberg says the same. He’ll be one of the leaders of a group that also returns Tyler Miller, Jarrod Hufford and Darrell Simmons.

Guys like Jim Bonifas, Deylin Hasert, James Neal and Oluwafunto Akinshilo have been mentioned as standouts this spring, as well.

We won’t truly understand this group’s growth until the fall, but we should get some hints on how things are coming together on Saturday.

A new-look group of linebackers

For the second straight year, there are some big shoes to fill on the second level of Iowa State’s defense. O’Rien Vance and Colby Reeder are gone, but Gerry Vaughn returns as a veteran presence in the room.

Missouri transfer Zach Lovett figures to play a significant role in filling the gaps. So does the talented group that joined the program last year in Will McLaughlin, Jacob Imming and Carson Willich.

Carston Marshall came on strong last season, and Cole Pedersen is another veteran with significant experience playing special teams.

There is a ton of talent in this room.

Who is catching passes?

We know Jaylin Noel will play a significant role in filling the loss of Xavier Hutchinson, but who else steps up to play a bigger role? Former Colorado transfer Dimitri Stanley, who caught 33 passes for 420 yards last season, will be expected to step up.

We’ll also get our first in-person look at Eastern Kentucky transfer Jayden Higgins, who people inside the program believe has the potential to be a star for the Cyclones.

Daniel Jackson and Aidan Bitter have both shown flashes of their potential and there’s a talent group of youngsters, including Greg Gaines and Beni Ngoyi, battling to carve out their own niche.

Who is rushing the passer?

The interior of the defensive line is strong with Isaiah Lee, J.R. Singleton, Tyler Onyedim and Domonique Orange all returning. Questions arise once you start looking at the edge, where Iowa State lost star pass rushers Will McDonald and MJ Anderson to the NFL Draft.

Ikenna Ezeogu is a name that has come up with consistency. Myles Mendeszoon and Joey Petersen both have experience in the defense.

This position feels like one of the most wide-open going into the summer.

The back-up quarterback battle

How does J.J. Kohl look in his first live collegiate action? What did a year of development do for Rocco Becht?

The reality is Hunter Dekkers will be the starting quarterback for Iowa State when Northern Iowa visits on Sept. 2, but the Cyclones need someone to step into the role behind him.

Becht seems like the obvious choice having spent a year with the program, but Kohl has big-time talent.

I’d expect we’ll get to see a healthy dose of them both Saturday afternoon.

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.