Another Iowa State football season ended with a bowl appearance and many power programs had coaching vacancies following 2021. But Matt Campbell remains the head coach of the Cyclones. Perhaps the timing or the various situations weren't right, but it has to be clear by now that Campbell loves Ames and his singular focus is taking the Iowa State program to its highest possible level.
By most expectations, Iowa State didn't reach that highest level this past fall. But watch out. Campbell and his Cyclones could be overlooked heading into 2022 and that could produce a dangerous team. The first preparations have started as spring drills have commenced and here are some things to watch for over the next few weeks.
5 Storylines to Watch During Iowa State's Spring Practice
1. Moving on without Brock Purdy
When you look at the Iowa State record book, one name is at the top of all the passing categories. After four extremely productive seasons, Purdy will not be taking snaps for the Cyclones as he embarks on what he hopes is a successful NFL career. The overwhelming favorite to win the starting job is Hunter Dekkers, a redshirt sophomore and former 4-star recruit. Dekkers is the only person on the roster that has thrown a pass for the Cyclones and this spring will be his chance to nail down the job. One piece of great news for the new quarterback is that wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson will be around for another year.
2. Moving on without Breece Hall
As accomplished as Purdy was as a quarterback, Hall was even more prolific running the ball. A two-time All-American (unanimous in 2020, consensus pick in '21) and two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Hall rushed for 3,941 yards and 50 touchdowns during his three seasons in Ames. Jirehl Brock came to Iowa State with more acclaim than Hall, but he has been a reserve for his three years. Now he has an opportunity to become the every-down back and this spring he must show that he is up to the task. Depth must also be developed and look for redshirt freshmen Eli Sanders and Deon Silas to make a push for playing time.
3. Finding more havoc creators on defense
Iowa State ranked in the middle of the Big 12 in tackles for lost yardage and was third in sacks. A good starting point is the return of star end Will McDonald, who had 11 of those sacks. But he will need some help. Mike Rose and Jake Hummel, the team’s two leading tacklers, are gone as is lineman Eyioma Uwazurike and his nine sacks and 12 tackles for a loss. With Rose and Hummel moving on, a leader has to emerge on the second level and veteran Gerry Vaughn needs to assume command of the unit this spring.
4. Replacing key secondary pieces
The third- and fourth-leading tacklers from 2021, safeties Greg Elsworth and Isheem Young, won't be with the team this year either. Fortunately, defensive backs like T.J. Tampa, Myles Purchase, Craig McDonald, Beau Freyler, and Anthony Johnson saw their fair share of action last fall. Purchase and Tampa are two players in particular that will be asked to do more this coming season. This spring will be the time for defensive coordinator Jon Heacock and his staff to figure out which part fits best in which place.
5. Taking the show on the road
On the first three Fridays in April, Campbell will have his team practicing at high schools in the state. It starts with a session at Ames High School on April 1 and then is followed up with practices at Gilbert High School and Des Moines East High School in the following weeks. Iowa State won’t have a spring game, but these showcases will allow fans from around Iowa to get a look at the 2022 Cyclones.
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– Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.