This was the first full class for new head coach Matt Campbell and a good glimpse at whether he’s aiming to make Iowa State “the midwestern program” of the Big 12 and how he plans to get after the rest of the league.
The class includes 12 midwestern kids of the 24 signed and then four JUCO additions to aid in boosting the current roster to a level that can do better than 2-7 in the Big 12. They pulled three kids out of Ohio, worked Iowa hard and found six players there, and drew zero out of Texas. I’m sure Iowa State fans will be anxious about that last point.
The obvious theme of this class was signing big, physical players for the trenches on either side of the ball. Watching the Cyclones in 2016 it was obvious that their coaches know how to train up their defensive backfield and skill players to be fundamentally strong players but without sturdier impact players up front it’s no use.
Allen Lazard, Kamari Cotton-Moya, Mike Warren, and some other promising young skill athletes on their roster were wasted due to an OL that couldn’t win the point of attack and a DL that couldn’t inflict any real damage on opponents. Let’s see how they did at maintaining some athleticism while adding the needed big bodies to properly apply Campbell’s strategy.
The Iowa State offense is a run-centric spread that ideally wants the QB to be able to take advantage of opportunities outside the hash marks. They’ve also shown awareness of modern QB run game strategies if their signal-caller has ability there.
Devon Moore: 6-4, 221. 3*** from Waterloo, IA
Moore grew on me the more his tape rolled. He’s got a pretty strong arm, as you’d expect from someone of that size, and also possesses enough lateral quickness to make all that size useful for evading pass-rushers and running some QB option. He’d be a good fit for some power-read runs but he can also threaten the edge well enough to leave a backside DE unblocked on zone or any other run scheme.
What really stood out was how well he managed pressure and coverage. He made some anticipation throws, stayed calm under pressure and made some plays down the field throwing, and was fairly accurate overall. With a few years to develop I think Moore could be a guy that could allow the Cyclones to do a lot of different things on offense.
Iowa State found a guy that should fit their vision for a multiple, spread offense and might be above average even in the Big 12. No immediate help here though unless they get a grad transfer because Moore will need some time to incubate.
As a run-centric offense, RB is rather important for the Cyclones since this is the tip of the spear for their offense. They use a variety of different schemes but generally want feature backs that can run between the tackles.
Not a huge deal since Mike Warren has one or two more years of eligibility and Kene Nwangwu and David Montgomery will be sophomores next year.
That’s my term for the various FB, H-back, TE, flex TE positions that teams tend to use. Ideally you’d have an ancillary that can fill all these roles but that’s generally pretty rare. For the RPO spread offense, having a “hammer-back” is probably the most valuable component.
John Nagel: 6-6, 230. 3*** from Manchester, IA
247 has Nagel listed as a strong side end, but his film as an in-line blocker at TE is fantastic and he has really reliable hands although he’s not really very quick at all. I find it hard to believe they’ll put him on the DL when he’d be so clearly useful helping to bludgeon undersized Big 12 defenses.
Charlie Kolar: 6-6, 227. 3*** from Norman, OK
It’s always amusing when other B12 schools pluck a kid out of Norman, I’m sure the Sooners didn’t put up much of a fight but then they didn’t for Mike Warren either. Kolar was mostly a flex TE in high school and he’s fluid, well coordinated, and has very strong hands. His film is replete with examples of him catching balls thrown up high while defenders are all around him. The positive in that is that he’s a fantastic and reliable target that runs some good routes and can beat man coverage with his size. The downside is that he’s not really fast enough to get much separation against good coverage defenders, he has to rely on his length and an accurate throw. He looks like a willing blocker but he’ll need to add a lot of girth and technique to grow into a TE that can be counted on in the box.
The Cyclones did a good job of grabbing a future hammer and then a guy that could be a good flex weapon, much like Texas did in securing Reese Leitao (also from OK) and Cade Brewer. The difference is that I think Kolar is much more of a project.
Iowa State pretty much wants what everyone else wants at wide receiver. A deep threat, a possession guy, and perhaps a flex RB that can get the ball in space and do damage after the catch. Overlapping skill sets are a major plus.
Josh Johnson: 5-11, 175. 3*** from Maumelle, AR
Johnson ran a 4.8 in a SPARQ test but with a 4.18 shuttle and 36.7″ vertical. You can see those skills demonstrated in his very solid route running but lack of elite breakaway speed. He could become an excellent chain mover but it’ll be hard for him to threaten defenses over the top with his lack of speed and height unless he’s regularly able to abuse people with double moves. His hands seem about average to me, he’ll probably be a chain-moving slot.
Matthew Eaton: 6-4, 205. 3*** from Poplarville, MS (JUCO)
Eaton is a possession guy that can play outside. Like Johnson he’s not much of a threat to run by you but he’s a big, reliable target with a wide catch radius. His value will be determined by who else is lined up on the field, how much attention he’s getting, and the quality of his QB.
Tarique Milton: 5-11, 165. 3*** from Bradenton, FL
Milton is the best of the bunch, a flex RB type that can really accelerate and hit some narrowly open creases with his quick, churning legs. He doesn’t need a ton of time or space to get going and should be unpleasant to deal with on screens and quick routes in the flats, if he can get bigger and run some routes in the seams he could be a real terror.
This is a slightly below average haul for a B12 team. It won’t necessarily hurt the Cyclones but they aren’t really keeping pace here with what other teams in the league are doing.
It really appears that Iowa State’s vision is to build something like Baylor’s Veer and Shoot OL, a group of big maulers that can murder on gap schemes and straight ahead inside zone. For that to work perfectly they need someone that can pull and move well and ideally someone in addition to the left tackle.
Jeff Nogaj: 6-5, 291. 3*** from Johnstown, OH
Nogaj is very much a straight ahead mauler who’s film is basically him fighting like hell to turn a shoulder or drive someone off the ball and usually finding a great deal of success. I’m not sure how mobile he is but if he’s down blocking or double-teaming he projects as a sturdy part of future Cyclone phalanx formations.
Alex Kleinow: 6-6, 290. 3*** from Iowa City, IA
Kleinow is a bit of an unknown since he had a broken ankle that spoiled his junior season and then some additional injuries his senior year (I believe) that marred development that could have occurred after his sophomore campaign to make him a 4 or 5 star blue chip prospect. He has tackle size and athleticism but I’m not sure how well he’d fit at guard if it didn’t work out. High upside project for the program.
Jacob Bolton: 6-6, 305. 3*** from Roswell, GA
Bolton is pretty mobile, thickly built in the right places for being able to move people against their will, and good at getting low and driving people. Despite his height, I think he can play with low enough pad level to be great at guard and he makes some good scoop blocks on film that suggest he could be a good puller. He’s probably not quick enough to stick outside at tackle.
Collin Newell: 6-5, 260. 3*** from Ames, IA
Newell is unquestionably quick enough to play tackle, at least at 260. We’ll see what happens after he gains enough weight to hit 300 pounds. He’ll probably end up at either RT, OG, or center but somewhere that Campbell can move him around on gap schemes to trap or lead. He’s definitely quick enough for that even if he’s a bit iffy as a left tackle.
Robert Hudson: 6-7, 315. 3*** from Walled Lake, MI
I think Hudson is the 2nd best prospect in this class and am not really sure why the services don’t have him rated higher. He totally envelops players with his massive size and he’s very light on his feet for such a massive person. When a kid can move around this easily at that size before collegiate S&C or skill development, he has my attention.
There’s a clear plan here to build out a massive OL that can push people around and work with angles and pull blocks to blow open holes. Most of them are about league average for the position but when they fit together conceptually this well and you have a guy like Hudson leading the way that suggests a positive future.
The vision here was to build out a big, physical DL that could win games in the trenches from a four-down front by controlling the line of scrimmage and generating a base pass-rush that could be bolstered with the blitz. What Campbell inherited was a group that could barely withstand a good OL, much less dictate terms of the game. So they have some real work to do bringing in some fighters and impact players. They run a sort of Under-inspired front so they want a sturdy strong side DE, a disruptive 3-tech, a nose, and then a “Leo” DE/OLB hybrid they can put in the boundary and use to stunt, edge rush, or drop.
Angel Dominguez: 6-3, 250. 3*** from Lenexa, KS
Dominguez is definitely a sturdy player and he’s strong enough to hold the point of attack and quick enough to work on the edge some, but I don’t know that he’ll ever be much of a threat working the edge in the pass-rush. I think he’ll be a strong side end and maybe a nose if he balloons in college.
Matt Leo: 6-7, 265. 3*** from Yuma, AZ (JUCO)
Leo seems like a more short-term solution to the need for a disruptive strong side end in the interim while Campbell HS recruits are developed. He’s really good on the move in the blitz game and can really go to town on a guard in the pass-rush. 247 has him listed as a weak side end…I’m reasonably confident he’ll be playing 5-tech and in where he could be pretty effective.
Ray Lima: 6-3, 310. 3*** from Torrance, CA (JUCO)
Lima is an early enrollee and almost certainly a short-term solution to the Cyclones great need for good interior DL. He’s quick enough off the ball to attack half a man and position himself to cause problems in the interior gaps. He’d be best off in a 3-tech where he could avoid a double team, but I don’t know how much damage he can do from that spot. A valuable rotation guy though for the Cyclones and an upgrade over some of the guys they’ve been playing.
Dan Sichterman: 6-3, 235. 3*** from King Mills, OH
247 has Sichterman listed as a strong side end, and he may well grow into that, but he’s explosive and has loose hips in space so I’m expecting him to end up at the Leo position as the boundary WDE/OLB. He’s good at attacking with enough speed to engage blockers at advantage but then sizing up the situation before downshifting again to blow past the blocker and apply pressure. He gets some break-ups at the line as a result of that coordination as well, occasionally eyeing the QB and then getting his hands up to bat down passes. Whether he becomes an athletic strong side end or a Leo will depend on what his body does after S&C and also how he looks dropping into coverage.
Cordarrius Bailey: 6-4, 220. 3*** from Clarksdale, MS
Bailey is definitely a Leo, down the line in the future when his 6-4 frame holds 240 pounds or so rather than the 220 it carries now. He attacked from a lot of different angles in HS, which is nice but that’s frankly an easier task then demonstrating the ability to bend and win the edge on a big tackle like Rob Hudson. He’s sudden and long which bodes well but we’ll see whether he can beat good players without help from stunts.
Tucker Robertson: 6-3, 270. 3*** from Simi Valley, CA
Robertson is a very violent player, one of the more violent players I’ve seen, which is partly a mentality and party an ability to project power from the hips to blast people. He’s listed as a strong side end and he could do that now but I think he’ll grow into a fearsome 3-technique or even nose. You want this guy working downhill to attack backfields while isolated on guards, he could do real damage in that role.
Kamilo Tongamoa: 6-5, 320. 3*** from Merced, CA (JUCO)
It’s a wonder to me that Iowa State was able to add this guy to the 2017 team. He’s a massive human being with athleticism and looks like he could contend for a spot at Alabama. Laugh if you will but his first step is quick and once he has initial leverage it’s over because he is huge and powerful. If the Cyclones can afford to do so I think they’ll put him at 3-tech and ask B12 OLs how they’d like to handle him with an athletic OLB hanging out in the next gap over. If they’re less fortunate they’ll have to use him at the nose to hold the point of attack and free up lesser mortals to try and win into the backfield.
They Cyclones got a few projects in this class that could help them down the line in Sichterman, Robertson, and Bailey. I like the potential in all of those players and they are the kinds of fighters that can help Iowa State set a physical tone in the trenches. Scoring Tongamoa was a major coup though and could have an enormous impact on their upcoming season. I’m bewildered as to how they secured his services, I wondered if perhaps he had a stamina issue but he had 80 tackles last year…
O’Rien Vance: 6-3, 235. 3*** from Cedar Rapids, IA
Vance is quick enough on the move and in space that he may end up at weak inside linebacker but he spent a lot of time on the edge in HS and might also grow into a Leo hybrid on the boundary. He’s at his best attacking from angles that Iowa State can create from their fronts with the blitz and will probably stay back at LB in Ames. They’ll want to figure it out so they can teach him the art of ILB play in the B12, a challenging task.
Jake Hummel: 6-2, 210. 3*** from West Des Moines, IA
Hummel played a defunct position in high school as a Sam linebacker. Well, okay, some B12 teams still use a Sam but they use a guy that grows into a 6-2, 210 pound space-backer and Hummel is going to end up at 230 or 240 and not quite quick enough to excel in that role. However, he’s a great fit to spin down as a mike or will and be trusted to wall a slot, stick a stick route, and still be physical and downhill enough to fill creases and beat blocks in the box. I think he’s a great candidate to be a really dependable B12 ILB if he takes to the position well.
Only two guys here and one may grow into a DE/OLB but I like both of them and I’ve already seen enough from the Cyclone staff to believe that they can mold these guys into fundamentally strong players. Hummel reminds me of Boise State star Tanner Vallejo.
Iowa State packages their defense like everyone else and will play a lot of nickel and mix in some dime. In fact, they often played a safety-sized OLB last year in a pseudo-dime package. Anyways, they like to disguise and mix coverages and consequently need some versatile DBs and lots of ’em. Like anyone else, they would benefit from having a lockdown corner but they tend to try and manufacture pressure up front using as little as possible so they can help a guy out if facing a top WR. Because they tend to be multiple and move guys around, corners that can play cover 2 and tackle are an important ingredient.
OJ Tucker: 6-1, 190. 3*** from Ocala, FL
Tucker is the perfect example of the kind of guy that Iowa State knows how to make the most of. Do you want to leave him on an island against OU’s no. 1 WR? No. Is he capable of playing a team/zone concept, erasing windows underneath with help, and making tackles in the flats? Yes, very much so.
Keontae Jones: 6-1,175. 3*** from Cincinnati, OH
Jones is really athletic and can change direction and erase space underneath in a flash, which is obviously invaluable in the Big 12. He’s a willing hitter and tackler but if he’s a major part of your run fits I think you’re going to be displeased with the level of physicality of your defense. He seems athletic enough to me to get a look at corner but will probably play over inside receivers in the nickel or at safety.
Richard Bowens III: 6-1, 170. 3**** from Bloomfield, MI
You’ll notice that Iowa State went for size and versatility in their secondary and Bowens is just another in that mold. He’s an early enrollee and might factor into their rotation in 2017 but they have several contributors back so we’ll see. Bowens is pretty good in bump and run but I have doubts about whether he has the recovery speed to hold up in the Big 12. He’s a physical tackler that pursues the ball with good leverage and could move inside and be a plus athlete at safety.
Datrone Young: 5-9, 160. 3**** from Delray Beach, FL
We have SPARQ testing results for Young and they go: 4.71 40 speed, 4.26 shuttle, 37.5″ vertical, and 38′ power ball toss. He played a lot of press coverage in high school but he has iffy speed to survive doing that in the B12 unless he has safety help. He’s very physical for his size and can play cover 2 and handle the run-force duties on the edge, in fact I think he could be terrific in that scheme.
None of these guys are amazing but all of them project as players that can have value in the Big 12 and the Cyclones took four of them so numbers shouldn’t be an issue. Perhaps they’ll load up more in future classes.
The crucial need in this class was for Iowa State to get the kinds of players that would allow them to field more physical, impactful linemen on both sides of the ball and they got some players that will allow them to pursue that goal, including a few that should help immediately.
I don’t think they made a huge leap in this class but if things pan out they might jump a few notches on the Big 12 totem pole as a result of additions like Moore or Tongamoa.