At the 2016 Big 12 media days Matt Campbell was a little resistant to the idea that the goal at Iowa State was to build a Midwestern-Style football team to take on the Texas-based squads elsewhere around the league. However, I came back and revisited the topic at the 2018 Big 12 media days and had this interaction with the Cyclone HC:
Coach you may start as many as four Iowans on the offensive line this year, is that incidental? Is it beneficial to have mostly locals on a position like the offensive line? Can you talk about how you formed that group.
Well number one, that’s exciting. You know I think that when we got to Iowa State we envisioned that at some point the nucleus of that offensive line would be built with Midwest kids. We didn’t exactly live that early on but I think we’re a lot closer to that today. I think getting there quickly is a little bit of a coincidence. We got Josh Knipfel who came in as a junior college transfer from Iowa Western a year ago and he ended up being really fruitful for us as he started all 13 games last year. But (Bryce) Meeker, (Julian) G00d-Jones, and then certainly this young man that’s been really impressive Colin Newell a redshirt freshman, it’s really been positive for our team.
The main thing with that group is you gotta be tough, you gotta be a hard worker, and you gotta have some grittiness to you and all four of those kids have that. It’s unique that they’re from the state but I think that’s also a great thing for us.
Why in particular did you envision having Midwesterners form the line?
Well, I don’t know other than I thought accessibility in recruiting…that was a positional group that we could really build through our location, where we were at, and certainly what’s been grown out of some of the states that we put a lot of emphasis on. And it’s been great to be able to reap the rewards of that a little bit, hopefully we’ll be saying that a year from now.
Additionally, y’all have fairly unique schemes for the conference. You know, center under guard inside zone, uh, tackle and guard under tackle, is that something that you believe in because of what you’ve been taught or do you like being different than other teams? What goes into your choices in how you block up these plays that no one else blocks up this way?
You know I think, two things, number one is trying to put our football team in the best position to be successful. We don’t go schemes, players, plays, we go players, formations, plays so our biggest thing is, what can our players do? And then, once we know what they can do how do we give them a scheme that can match that? And then obviously call the plays that match both the scheme and the player.
Early on it’s certainly been what we’ve been capable of doing but uh, we are different in some regard and that’s certainly been positive for us.
So is that something that you learned maybe from Mount Union or somewhere where this is a good way to get guys on the move or…
Oh yes, I think that foundation certainly was built at Mount Union and being with Coach Kehres and how to structure both an offense and a football program to match.”
From his responses and his tone it seemed clear enough that Campbell really values the Midwest region for producing tough-minded kids and wants to unlock that and embody it in his program. That happens to be the style that he learned at Mount Union and obviously it’s working out quite well and quite quickly up in Ames.
I have a working theory that every team’s offensive strategy needs to be built around the style and character of the local OL that are going to come to that program. Certainly Campbell seems to operate in that fashion.