Matt Campbell very optimistic about offensive line heading into the 2020 season

The Iowa State offensive line sets up ahead of a play in the Iowa State vs. Baylor game Sept. 28, 2019. The Cyclones lost to the Bears 23-21.

Sam Stuve

Heading into his fifth year as head football coach at Iowa State, Matt Campbell is more optimistic than ever about his offensive line.

In regards to the offensive line, Campbell said in a teleconference Thursday, “I’m probably as high as I’ve ever been on them.”

“The huge piece for us is that we have building blocks to build on,” Campbell said.

Iowa State junior quarterback Brock Purdy also shared his excitement about the group of offensive linemen going forward.

Purdy said he has a great relationship and trusts them.

The Cyclones return two starters from the offensive line of the past two seasons but have to replace four players who were either full-time or part-time starters from last season.

Redshirt junior Colin Newell and redshirt sophomore Trevor Downing have the most experience of any of the Cyclones current offensive line. Campbell described Downing and Newell as “anchors” of the unit.

Newell, an Ames native, started the majority of his freshman season in 2018 at center and was the most consistent offensive lineman that season, according to Campbell.

He missed most of the 2019 season after suffering an ankle injury during the opening game of the season against Northern Iowa and missed 11 games. He made it back in time to play in Iowa State’s bowl game versus Notre Dame at the right guard position.

Downing, a Creston, Iowa, native, started in 12 games last season for Iowa State at the right guard position.

He was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 team member and earned a spot on The Athletic’s Second Team All-Freshman in 2019.

Campbell said Downing was the most consistent offensive lineman last season.

“To have two building blocks like them is really huge and I think we’ve recruited to a plan,” Campbell said. “We recruited to a plan and you’re really starting to see that with coach [Jeff] Myers going into his third year.”

Downing and Newell are expected to return as starters next season, which leaves three starting offensive line spots open.

Campbell mentioned some players who have “come into their own and developed well” within the program — redshirt freshman Grant Treiber, redshirt sophomore Joey Ramos and redshirt junior Robert Hudson.

Treiber redshirted last season while Ramos played in all games last season on special teams. Hudson also played in all games last season on the extra point and field goal unit.

Consistency is the way Campbell measures how well an offensive lineman is playing.

According to Campbell, consistency is what a good offensive line needs.

“I want to see [the offensive line] step forward, because it’s critical to the team’s success and where you see it is with the consistency they are able to play with week in and week out,” Campbell said.

Campbell is not set on the starting offensive line for now.

“Right now there’s a lot of competition to see who the starting five will be, but it’ll be really fun to watch that competition unfold going forward cause I think there’s more talent competing for those positions than we’ve ever had in our program,” Campbell said.

He said the leadership of Downing and Newell will be key going forward.

Iowa State’s offensive line is very young this season. Only two out of the 23 offensive linemen on the roster are seniors and 14 players are either a freshman or redshirt freshman.

Purdy said he saw how “hungry the young offensive linemen are to get on the field to play,” heading into the fall.

A solid offensive line will help the Iowa State running backs, another group Campbell is high on.

Sophomore running back Breece Hall is back for his second season at Iowa State. Hall rushed for 897 rushing yards and eight touchdowns en route to earning a spot on the All-Big 12 Second Team (coaches), The Athletic’s Second-Team Freshman All American Team, the Pro Football Focus All-Freshman First Team and the 247sports First Team All-Freshman All American Team in 2019.

Campbell has had the opportunity to work with a couple of current NFL running backs while they were in college. Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt played for Campbell at Toledo and Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery played for Iowa State with Campbell as the head coach.

In regards to Hall, Campbell said, “He’s one of the most gifted running backs that I’ve had the opportunity to work with.”

“He’s got a very similar skillset to Kareem Hunt and David Montgomery,” Campbell said.

Campbell said Hall’s maturity progressed throughout his freshman year, which allowed him to have more success.

Campbell also said sophomore running back Jirehl Brock has gained more confidence over the spring.

Having a solid running back group could help take the pressure off Iowa State’s offensive line.

The Iowa State offensive line is young, but it is a unit Campbell sees a lot of potential in.