Two compelling “V” words fuel renewed optimism along Iowa State’s offensive line

 AMES — “Violence and Versatility.”

 Those two words form the framework of Iowa State’s first-year offensive line coach Ryan Clanton’s physical and philosophical approach to his craft. They collide and commingle, creating a powerful condition that makes his linemen smile from ear to ear.

 “I could play right tackle tomorrow and then the next day play left guard, and the way he teaches things, I could violently go out and do the same technique over and over again,” senior offensive lineman Jarrod Hufford said during Friday’s media day at Jack Trice Stadium. “Once you break down offensive line play, it’s a very simple game in (terms of) how things are done.”

 Simplicity along with infectious tenacity have helped Clanton develop a deep bond with his players relatively quickly. His track record — including coaching a pair of future pros while at Northern Iowa — also grabbed his players’ attention. His ongoing mission, however, hinges on transforming an offensive line group that’s often underperformed in recent years.

 “That offensive line room, again, I can sit up here and say we’re gonna be great,” Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell said. “We’ve gotta prove that we’re ready to take another step forward and we know that. We understand that. What I love is we’ve been in two practices already and every time I see who’s with the ones that looks like another group of five guys — and I think it will look like that probably format he next three weeks.”

 That’s a good thing, but as Campbell noted, nothing’s changed in terms of performance until evidence materializes on the filed consistently. Hufford believes that it will and the improvement will be significant. 

 “The jumps (Clanton) has made for this offensive line in his seven months here has been amazing,” Hufford said. “Just the way we play, the way we look, the violence we have, the speed we have, the freedom to just play football. He just lets us go out and maul people and I think the overhaul for the offensive line has been top-notch.”

 Hufford’s undergone a personal overhaul, as well. He’s packed on more than 30 pounds of so-called “good weight” since the end of last season, which isn’t easy to do for someone his size.

 “Physically, pound for pound, one of the strongest kids in our program,” Campbell said.

 Hufford and his offensive line mates are also stronger mentally. Last season’s struggles — including four losses by a combined 11 points — took a toll on him and others amassed across the offensive front.

 “Losing all those games, as an offense, we tried to find an answer by being perfect,” Hufford said. “And I think with the addition of Coach (Nate) Scheelhaase going to (offensive coordinator), coach Clanton and all the new coaches that came in — it’s not about being perfect, because if football was perfect no one would watch it. It would be boring. So I think those coaches just reiterating to us that it’s not perfect, just play hard, play fast and that will fix half of the mistakes that are made.”

 The other half? That’s where Clanton’s well-received exhortation for violence and versatility comes in.

 “It’s not just a skill, block or just talking about scheme,” Hufford said. “It’s just, ‘Violently hit that guy. Violently move that guy.’ That’s his mentality.”