The big boys up front paved the way for the Cyclones’ offense to break school records last season.
Collin Olson, Julian Good-Jones, Josh Knipfel and Bryce Meeker combined for a jaw-dropping, 146 career starts and helped Brock Purdy lead the Big 12 in pass attempts, completions and yards. Not to mention Iowa State tied for first in the league for fewest sacks allowed.
However, a big chunk of that leadership, experience and production from offensive line is gone with the wind. That would be a huge blow for most Power Five programs, but the Cyclones appear to be in good hands. Purdy is going to need time to operate behind center if Iowa State hopes to keep the wheels rolling. Certain players have to step up and anchor the front down in the trenches.
Trevor Downing and Colin Newell will try to hold down the fort, plus Sean Foster has the senior leadership. The trio have combined for 33 career starts and will a key aspect to Purdy finishing the year with All-Big 12 status again. Add redshirt freshman Grant Treiber to the mix and the unit has the potential to be special. He’s massive in size and has the highest upside out of all the new faces.
Offensive Coordinator Tom Manning is versatile with his play calling and the Cyclones are equally effective at running the ball. Although Iowa State’s passing attack got all the praise and shine, Manning still made sure Breece Hall got his carries. Hall surpassed the century mark on the ground in four separate Big 12 games as a true freshman.
Under the direction of Matt Campbell Iowa State has quietly become a program that doesn’t have to rebuild. Thanks to great player development and coaching, the Cyclones simply reload now. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how the 40-year old coach has made Iowa State a credible asset in the Big 12.
Picking up the pieces and plugging the big boys into the right places will fall on the shoulders of third-year offensive line coach Jeff Myers. It’s a tall order with trying to maintain consistency, but the young talent Myers is operating with looks promising.
Still, this Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette will be a crucial measuring stick for the young offensive line. The Ragin’ Cajuns won 11 games last season with great defense, finished first in the Sun Belt in points allowed and have several starters returning on that side of the ball.
Something has to give when the two teams collide at Jack Trice. The unproven linemen want to find out if they belong and the seasoned Cyclones will quickly know if they’re ready for the Big 12 gauntlet that looms in two weeks. Iowa State can’t afford to start slow out of the gates in front of a nationally televised audience.
The Cyclones need to take advantage of the exposure and make a statement that their preseason ranking is no fluke. If that doesn’t get the big fellas ready to deliver some pancakes on the field, nothing will.