Fall camp crucial for a new coach and his new Cyclones
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is hardly the only new face in Ames these days.
Campbell and his entire staff are just a few days into their first fall camp with the Cyclones, who have just five wins in 24 games - a stretch that cost popular coach Paul Rhoads his job.
The roster has experienced heavy turnover as well, with 41 newcomers attempting to become acclimated to Campbell's system in time for the season opener on Sept. 3 against Northern Iowa.
''It's a little bit of a unique camp. We're still finding each other out,'' Campbell said Tuesday at the team's annual media day.
The biggest thing the Cyclones need to figure out is their offensive line.
The Cyclones return just one starter, tackle Jake Campos. Campbell has installed freshman Julian Good-Jones at center, with untested veterans like Jaypee Philbert, Patrick Scoggins and Nick Fett attempting to fill bigger roles.
It's unclear exactly what kind of offense Campbell and offensive coordinator Tom Manning plan to run. But it won't matter if the Cyclones don't have a solid line in place in less than a month.
''It is a big concern because there's guys that haven't been in a situation where there's actually video-tape evidence - and I'm such a firm believer in video tape evidence,'' Campbell said. ''Show me in a game, in a situation, that you can execute and play with great consistency. And I think that's an area where there's just so much that's unknown.''
Iowa State has one of the most talented wide receivers in the country in Allen Lazard, though it's not clear who will be playing with the talented junior.
Trever Ryen, a former track athlete at Northern Iowa, is penciled in as a starter despite the fact that he caught just 11 passes in Big 12 games a year ago. Dondre Daley was fourth on the team with 21 catches in 2015.
Beyond those three, Iowa State will need contributions from youngsters like Hakeem Butler, Carson Epps and Darius Lee-Campbell - a converted quarterback - if it hopes to keep defenses honest.
In the meantime, Lazard will be targeted by quarterback Joel Lanning as much as possible.
''Allen has got to touch the ball ... we've got to find ways to get the ball into his hands. We've got to find ways to move him around,'' Campbell said.
The defense is in much better shape heading into fall camp. At least seven starters are back pending the status of defensive back Nigel Tribune, who remains suspended indefinitely after being charged with drunk driving last month.
But it's also a unit that ranked 97th nationally in scoring defense in 2015 at 32.7 points per game, so there's plenty of work to be done.
Given all the uncertainty, Campbell tried to downplay any notion that the excitement his hiring has generated will lead to instantaneous success.
''My expectations for this team are really simple. Can we get better every day?'' Campbell said. ''My challenge is, can we reach our full potential? That's individually and collectively.''