NOTEBOOK: Iowa State’s situation at quarterback, running back & Greg Gaines

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell addressed media members on Tuesday at the Stark Performance Center in Ames, previewing this week’s season opener against UNI.

Some takeaways from this afternoon:

At the quarterback spot, Campbell held his cards close to his chest once again, saying that both Rocco Becht and J.J. Kohl could see the field on Saturday.

“I think that’ll be throughout the week – that will probably help decide that,” Campbell said. “I would expect that you’re going to see certainly both Rocco and J.J., and maybe even some opportunities for Tanner (Hughes) in this football game.”

The ‘certainly’ in that quote holds quite a bit of weight.

Whether that holds true for Saturday’s game will only be answered on the field. Campbell expanded on his answer, as well.

“I think all three guys have had really good camps,” Campbell said. “They’ve grown forward. Do I feel like any one has separated themselves from the other? I would say probably right now, no. But I think one of the things that if you asked our kids in our locker room, our kids have elite belief in what’s going on a quarterback, and I think we all do too. So I think no different than I would say every other of those positions, ‘man, what’s it look like on Saturday? What’s the game day feel like and look like? But you know, I think we’re really excited about what that group looks like. Practice will continue. We already had Tuesday practice, which was great at that both guys had a really good day. You know, what’s Wednesday, Thursday look like? Then (we will) define exactly how we’ll try to execute the quarterback position throughout the game on Saturday.”

“Yeah, I think that’s a great thing about both those guys,” Campbell said. “You don’t have to change. I think both (Becht and Kohl) guys have mobility. Both guys can make all the throws, and certainly, both guys have great leadership ability. And, you know, I would kind of go back to what I said at the beginning of fall camp. What we’re looking for the quarterback position to start things off is number one, you know, lead the football team first number two, take care of the football. And then obviously, number three, execute the operation on the offensive side of the football. So, you know, what’s been fun is to watch those guys really grow over camp.

The same could be said at running back.

When that deep position group was brought up to offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase in a press conference two weeks ago, the coach in a new spot told reporters that they could see five different players start at the running back position.

Then the depth chart was released and his words got backed up – those five players were each listed with “OR’s” following four of their names.

Campbell echoed that at the press conference, saying that everyone watching on Saturday is going to see how the approach works during its first appearance, including himself.

“Yeah, it is a lot to be honest with you,” Campbell said. “I don’t know how it’s gonna sort out. I think you’ll watch it as I watch it, to be honest with you, I mean, you’re gonna have to earn the right to get the ball and you got to earn the right to stay in the football game.”

Returning players Cartevious Norton and Eli Sanders, or Stanford transfer A.J. Harris, or the pair of true freshmen in Carson Hansen and Abu Sama could all see the field, especially on Saturday.

That’s not a negative in Campbell’s eyes.

“To me, it’s not one ounce of a negative, it’s a huge positive,” Campbell said. “I think these guys have really had a good fall camp. There’s a lot of talent in there more than we’ve had at one place at one time since I’ve been here. And again, when the lights come on, and the moments come, who’s going to be the guy that’s going to make the play, you know, and that’s not just the 20-yard run, that’s the third-and-one. Who’s gonna stick their foot in the ground and get a first down? Who’s going to be the guy in the goal line that’s going to stick their foot in and score when it matters the most? Who’s going to take care of the football? All that stuff’s easy to say right now, but when it gets hot and heavy, who’s going to be the guy?”

“What I would say is they’ve all deserved the right to be on that sheet,” Campbell said. “You know, we’re fortunate to have some veteran guys there that have at least felt the moment before. But you got some talent here that that, you know, stepped into the competition in fall camp. And what they’ve done is they’ve raised a level so it’s gonna be gonna be really interesting to watch to be honest.”

And I’ve had a few people reach out asking where wide receiver Greg Gaines is and why he wasn’t listed on Iowa State’s depth chart?

Campbell touched on him as well during his press conference.

“You know, I (will) talk about Greg Gaines,” Campbell said. “I think Greg – a freshmen – and Greg would tell you, I thought his spring was okay. I thought really, what he did going back to work in the summer, to get himself ready to go for the season was really awesome. He’s a big physical presence – a guy that I think can can certainly has had a really good camp, I think will do. Great job.”

Iowa State and UNI will kick off at Jack Trice Stadium at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN+. CycloneFanatic will have comprehensive coverage previewing the game throughout the week.