Five things to watch at Iowa State’s spring game on Saturday

Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Rocco Becht (3) reacts after drawing an offside penalty on the Cincinnati Bearcats defense in the fourth quarter during a college football game between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at Nippert Stadium win Cincinnati. The Iowa State Cyclones won, 30-10.

 AMES — The bumps and bruises are widespread. The competition remains fierce. And even though Iowa State’s spring game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium isn’t an actual contest of any sort, fans should grab a post-tailgate popcorn because there are plenty of things to watch.

 “We are dinged up,” said Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell, whose team is coming off its sixth winning season in the past seven years. “We’ve got ankles and shoulders and stuff, but the reality of it is we will get a really good (bit of) work in Saturday. We’re not gonna waste away an opportunity to have a great crowd, or waste away (a chance) to evaluate our football team, so you’re gonna see live football. You’ll see us scrimmaging.”

 As for a format? Forget about it. And players? It is an exhibition/practice, so some of the headliners such as quarterback Rocco Becht and tailback Abu Sama may see light duty on the field, but spring games are designed to hype the future, which appears bright in terms of depth for an ISU team that returns 19 starters.

 “I think the biggest thing is to watch our football team continue to grow,” Campbell said.

 That overall growth serves as reason number one of five to watch Saturday’s “game” — and here are four more things to scrutinize as the team prepares to enter summer workouts.


Becht emerged from the fog last fall after former starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers became entangled in the state’s thorny investigation into sports gambling among college athletes at select institutions — and shined so brightly he earned Big 12 offensive freshman of the year honors. Becht threw 23 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions last season and his accuracy and decision-making prowess should be on display on Saturday for at least part of the event.

 “(He’s) growing very single day in everything he does, which is super positive,” new quarterbacks coach Jake Waters said. “I keep talking to him about his process and what is gonna take (him) to the next level.”


 Former four-star recruit J.J. Kohl has been “awesome” this spring as Becht’s backup, Waters said, but gifted incoming freshman Connor Moberly has been “extremely impressive,” as well. Kohl stands a towering 6-foot seven-inches tall and weighs 250 pounds, and boasts elite arm talent. He pressed Becht hard for the starting spot through fall camp last season and adding Moberly’s athleticism to the room (6-4, 195) helps make the most important position on any team a deep one for ISU.

 “Really, really impressed with what they can do and (I’m) fortunate to be able to coach them,” said Waters, a former Kansas State star.


 The Cyclones return experience on the defensive line both on the edge (Joey Petersen, Tyler Onyedim) and the interior (J.R. Singleton, Dom Orange), but younger players are helping to make the position growth a strength for the team as usual.

 Redshirt freshman tackle Zaimir Hawk (6-3, 300) has had an impressive offseason, as have ends Ikenna Ezeogu (6-5, 260) and Samuel Same (6-5, 215). Sprinkle in Louisiana-Monroe transfer Kenard Snyder (6-0, 248) on the edge and ISU looks to be strong up front on the defense side of the ball will into the three-deep.

 “He’s a guy that’s on a fast rise,” Cyclone defensive line coach Eli Rasheed said of Snyder.


 Sama and Carson Hansen both shined at times last season as freshman tailbacks, but fans should also keep an eye on current true freshman Dylan Lee in the backfield. The 6-1, 200-pounder set a single-game Class 6A (Arizona) rushing record as a high school junior, amassing an eye-popping  518 yards on the ground on 27 carries and boasts a complete skillset that will be on full display Saturday.

 “He might be the strongest running back in that room just from a weight room standpoint,” first-year assistant head coach and running backs coach Tyler Roehl said. “He’s got a raw ability.”