In a broad strokes, the Iowa State football team came out the spring practice season better than it entered, according to coach Matt Campbell.
Based on the rave reviews offered by the coaching staff throughout the spring, the Cyclones are sound exiting April.
“What we wanted to get accomplished in 15 practices, we really did,” Campbell said after a closed-door scrimmage marked the conclusion of his third spring season with the Cyclones. “I think No. 1 growth in all of our position groups, I think creating depth, having guys get experience that maybe haven’t had that experience or game-like experience get meaningful reps.”
Developing depth is a 12-month priority for Campbell and company, but come the fall, the Cyclones will be without some of the most recognizable faces in the history of the program in former wide receiver Allen Lazard and quarterback-turned-linebacker Joel Lanning, among others.
The Cyclones graduated three of their top four pass catchers from last season, have an offensive line that will likely be in flux until week one of the season and holes to fill at linebacker and safety.
Not all, if any, of the available starting spots will be filled in 15 spring practices, but Campbell and company have offered glowing reviews of some faces who will likely take over.
Hakeem Butler is the leader of the of the wide receiving corps, but redshirt freshman Tarique Milton, who will see targets at the inside receiver spots, believes he made strides this spring.
“I feel like I did a pretty good job as always doing the work,” Milton said. “Moving forward, I feel like there’s no cap on greatness, so I’m going to keep on pushing, keep on pursuing being great.
“I tried to continue to be consistent making big plays, so knowing all my assignments and executing them.”
The middle linebacker spot is another up in the air, though O’Rien Vance, also a redshirt freshman, has seen his name pop up.
“Getting in the film room, watching film, going over our playbooks,” Vance said of how he’s made his improvement. “Getting more repetitions is starting to help.”
On the offensive line, Ames High alum Colin Newell, yet another redshirt freshman, is in the mix at guard and center as well.
On the whole of the spring, Campbell, always forward looking with the process, wants his team to build momentum ahead of summer workouts.
“I think there was really great growth there,” Campbell said. “This whole chunk of the process piece of it of maximizing every practice, coming out understanding and starting to create really good practice habits, I thought our kids did a really good job of it in that regard.”
When the "state of the program" meeting is convened on Monday, the staff hopes to have a better picture of where the team is going into the next chunk of practice time.
The scrimmage, Campbell said, went how it likely would have had the Cyclones played it outdoors, and he joked the scrimmage was inside the Bergstrom Football Complex to avoid giving away too much of the playbook. He also did not want to offer immediate judgment without watching film.
So, when the staff meets Monday, they’ll dissect the tape of the scrimmage and evaluate the team.
From there, the attention turns forward.
“We’ll go through the entire board, what I think our strengths are (and) our weaknesses are right now,” Campbell said. “What we’ve got to get accomplished in the next 12 weeks, which I think is really, really important for this football team as any team in the country, what happens in May, June and July dictating really what happens in September, October, November.”