Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell looks on against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first quarter at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell spoke to the media via teleconference on Friday for the first time since the Cyclones opened fall camp last week. Campbell touched on a number of topics ranging from freshmen quarterbacks, player movements on social media, the program’s defense entering 2020 and plenty more that you’ll be able to read about on this website in the coming days.
For today, these are some quick hits from Campbell’s time with the media in Q&A format.
Q: What have you seen so far from the freshman quarterbacks?
Campbell: I think it’s really early from a quarterback standpoint to really give a grade or a thought other than I’ve been greatly impressed with our entire freshman class. I think this freshman class is at a great advantage to any other freshman class with what occurred in March and April and in May and having the ability to at some point get into some meetings, at some point being way ahead of the schematic schedule of what most freshmen have. I think both quarterbacks as freshmen come in with a great knowledge of what this offense is and have really done a great job executing. A lot of credit to Coach Gordon so far. Both have great talent and have certainly been ahead of the curve of maybe where I thought they would be at this point. It’s still way too early to give great praise or be too frustrated in any way shape or form. I think we just take it day-by-day with them, but I’m really excited that both of them are Cyclones and both of them are doing a great job.
Q: How is the team health-wise right now?
Campbell: I think we’re outstanding right now. A lot of credit there goes to (Head Strength Coach) (Dave) Andrews and our athletic training staff. That question is a real question. That will be a very unique challenge for everybody in college football this year when you miss four months of normal training and preparation. I think the people who were able to adapt their training habits for the season and make health and safety a concern, I think they’ll put themselves at an advantage. That’s certainly something that we’ve tried to do great job and even to this point we feel like we’re in a really great position, as good of a position as we could be in right now.
Q: Have you had any players approach you about opting out of the season?
Campbell: No, at this point, we haven’t had a player decide to do that, but I think our forum and our communication stays open consistently. Where our players are at, what they’re dealing with daily right now is a great challenge and that’s not to say we wouldn’t be at that place at some point. Every young player’s got my utmost respect because what these young men have gone through, especially over the last three to four weeks of just the mental anguish that this challenge that’s certainly been put on their shoulders, I’ve got the greatest amount of respect for any of our young men. Whatever decision they choose to make would have 100 percent support from their head football coach. I think our kids know that.
Q: What sort of steps have you guys been taking to prevent COVID-19 from spreading through the team?
Campbell: It comes back to planning. I would say the team of Mark Coberly, Aaron Hillman, Dave Andrews and myself since May literally have been sequencing, sanitizing and understanding how every move that we would make in each new block of how we prepare for football from strength training to strength training in minicamp to now strength training, academics and football practice, we do everything with the utmost thought of how we do mitigate the ability for this virus to spread through our locker room. I think we’ve done a great job detailing that up to this point. There’s certainly personal responsibility that comes from everybody involved in our bubble. I think the key is making sure that we do a great job of mitigating spread amongst our facilities. That group has worked diligently day and night, to be honest with you, since May. Every night we meet and every morning we meet to make sure our protocols are on task and what we’re trying to get accomplished on task for the health and safety of our student-athletes. I don’t want to go into the 900 things that we’re doing, but I would just say, for me, football’s taken a backseat and the health and safety of our players has taken a front seat in making sure that every day is set up for them to be successful. That varies situationally. Spread within our facility can’t occur. Again, a lot of credit goes to a lot of people. They’ve done a phenomenal job so far.
Q: What will it take for your program to take the next steps in its development?
Campbell: I think for us, I know I’ve said this multiple times, but you’re really building in a lot of ways from the ground up. No. 1, you had to learn and understand just what it takes to win games. We learned that. We learned how to have consistency in being successful. I think we’ve learned that. I thought last year put another great challenge in front of us is what’s that next step look like and feel like? What’s greatness look like? You probably put a lot of those challenges on a very young football team a year ago and I think what you got was you got young results. At times, you saw great efficiency and execution then at times you saw a lack of efficiency and execution. I think it’s going back and understanding the difference for Iowa State, and I don’t care how good we get or what it becomes, but the difference is always going to be in the detail. The difference is always going to be in being able to execute in the margins. That’s the challenge we have here. It’s what it will always be. As soon as you come to understand it and thrive in it, then you have an opportunity to have and take multiple steps within your program. I thought last year, even for myself as the head football coach and everyone involved, was a great learning experience. Still some really good growth and still showed some of the areas where we need growth and need to demand growth occur. But, I think the difference is in the details is what I would say.
Q: How have you guys been approaching replacing Ray Lima and Jamahl Johnson at the nose guard position?
Campbell: I think one thing that you’re really excited about is you’ve got a lot of great contenders and you’ve got a lot of flexibility there with the depth of this defensive front. Isaiah Lee and Josh Bailey, guys that have bided their time and have waited their time and are in my mind proven veterans that have shown they have the capability of helping this team play. Obviously, getting a guy like Latrell Bankston coming in, that’s a huge asset. JR Singleton’s a true freshman that’s shown high-end flashes already as a young football player. Again, too early to tell where he is or what he is, but knowing that he has a chance to be a really special player at some point in this program. I think those things are exciting because there’s depth. There’s a hunger. There’s great competition. Then you have the ability to see how will we anchor that in there. That’s going to be a great competition through the entirety of fall camp is my guess.
Q: You have some holes to fill in the receiving room again this year. How have you seen those guys respond early in fall camp?
Campbell: I would say I’m pleasantly optimistic about where that wide receiver room is today. A lot of credit to Coach Scheelhaase. I think Coach has done a phenomenal job in both the recruiting process with that position group, but equally the development. Xavier Hutchinson is a young man that’s got very high-end talent that is showing to be very consistent through minicamp and certainly through where we are now in fall practice. Sean Shaw, his growth and development continues to be on what I would say is the high-end of what he’s got the ability to become. We certainly know the talent of Tarique Milton. Then you talk about guys like EZ Anderson and Joe Scates and Darien Porter and we’re not even talking about Landen Akers yet. Daniel Jackson has come in and really flashed in a really positive way so far early on. Aiden Bitter’s another young man who has come in and flashed. I think what you see is a really health competition. I think you see a lot of talent and I think you see a lot of development. It’s great to have a quarterback that has the consistency of Brock and his ability to bring those young quarterbacks along with him. I think these receivers are certainly at a benefit. This is a really talented group and a group I look forward to watching their development as well through fall camp.