AMES — Developing depth has been the name of the game for Iowa State football since Matt Campbell took over in 2015.
Campbell often points to two key position groups when discussing depth, or lack thereof, when he and his staff took over — tight end and offensive line.
The tight end position was able to rise to prominence more quickly, due in large part because it’s one position.
The offensive line has taken longer but last season, the line finally showed the depth that Campbell and offensive line coach Jeff Myers have been striving for since they arrived.
The Cyclones started a total of seven different players who played eight different spots along the offensive line. All seven of those players have returned for the Cyclones and Myers focus is moving the whole room forward to ensure more guys are ready to play if needed.
“The way I look at it is we have incredible depth, now,” Myers said. “It’s something we’ve worked really hard to develop here because depth breeds competition. The more competition guys are having, the better they’re becoming.
“Even for our young guys, who probably had their sights set on some guys graduating, it’s going to be an interesting dynamic. Maybe not so much this spring because for us, it’s about moving the entire group forward but when we get to the fall, I don’t see it as a challenge, but we have a lot of guys in our room that are more than capable of going in and playing in a football game. We haven’t had that luxury in the past.”
Darrell Simmons and Jake Remsburg were the two freshmen who stepped into the fold last season due to injury and Derek Schwieger was the one who moved positions (from right guard to left guard).
The Cyclones didn’t miss a beat when Simmons and Remsburg entered the fray. They still opened up holes for running back Breece Hall and they still protected quarterback Brock Purdy to the point where the offensive line unit gave up the fewest sacks in the Big 12.
What’s exciting for Myers is he believes it could’ve been any number of guys who stepped into the starting role but given where on the line the injuries happened, it was Simmons and Remsburg who got the opportunity.
Simmons got the call instead of then-junior Rob Hudson because Hudson was still recovering from an offseason injury.
But if left tackle Sean Foster had gotten injured instead of right tackle Joey Ramos, or if center Colin Newell got injured instead of left guard Trevor Downing, the guys who stepped in would’ve been Grant Treiber and Jarrod Hufford, respectively.
“I tell our guys all of the time, injuries happen and we can’t plan for those, so we need to always be ready for them,” Myers said. “Last year, it could’ve just as easily have been Jarrod Hufford, Rob Hudson or Grant Trieber who stepped in and performed great. We could be having this conversation about those three but the opportunity wasn’t as readily available for them at that time.”
So for now, during this spring development phase, Myers is focused on making sure everybody is ready to step when, if need be, and making sure there’s enough competition in the room to push the incumbent starters forward.
“For me, it’s about getting as many guys as I can game ready,” Myers said. “I’m still a firm believer in cross training guys. I’m not going to put someone at left guard and leave him there. Our guys should be able to play multiple positions and that will help some of those young guys get on the field sooner, too.”