Notebook: Spring practice shows depth along Iowa State’s offensive line

Line of scrimmage with the defense of the Oklahoma Sooners and the offense of the Iowa State Cyclones during the 2020 Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Dec 19, 2020.

Sam Stuve

Iowa State football had its most successful season in program history in 2020. And with the majority of its starters returning for the 2021 season, the expectations are even higher.

One of those groups that has a lot of experience is the offensive line.

Iowa State offensive line coach Jeff Myers, redshirt senior Derek Schweiger and redshirt junior Trevor Downing spoke to reporters about the end of the 2020 season and the unit’s future moving forward Monday.

Myers emphasizes the importance of depth

In availability with reporters Monday, Myers said he is confident about the team’s depth on the offensive line.

“In my mind, we have an incredible depth now and it’s something that we’ve worked really hard on since we’ve been here,” Myers said. “Depth builds competition and we know the more competition you have in your room, the better guys they’re becoming.” 

This unit, which was one of 11 offensive line units to be nominated for the Joe Moore Award (given to the nation’s best offensive line unit each season), returns all of its starters from a season ago.

That experience up front could pay dividends for the Cyclones this coming season and depth could play a big role in the team’s success in the trenches.

Last season, some underclassmen such as Jake Remsburg and Darrell Simmons Jr. were thrust into the starting lineup in the Big 12 with injuries to players such as Trevor Downing and Joey Ramos.

Remsburg and Simmons both started in at least seven games in the 2020 season for the Cyclones, with Simmons starting in 11 at right guard.

“We had the opportunity to see Darrell Simmons and Jake Remsburg play a lot of snaps for us last year, I think going into the season, we weren’t anticipating that to be the case,” Myers said. “So in a positive way, those guys showed what they’re capable of doing and will anticipate that they just continue to get better.”

With multiple players having injuries on the offensive line, having players who can play multiple positions is important.

Both Myers and Schweiger said this is important and something the unit has been focusing on.

“We’re big into cross-training both sides of the ball, it can help,” Schweiger said. “Everybody can play every position pretty much and just flip sides on ease and I think that showed last year.”

Myers also praised some lineman who played last year but did not get as much playing time as Simmons and Remsburg.

“Guys like Jarrod Hufford and Rob Hudson are guys that saw game action and I thought they did a really nice job in how they progressed through the season. Grant Treiber is a name you’d probably throw in that group as well,” Myers said. 

Myers said he is excited to see the growth and development of redshirt players such as Tyler Miller, Brady Petersen, Sam Rengert, Hayden Pauls and Anthony Smith.

On Monday, Myers also said Downing is not being restricted and is a “full go” while Remsburg, who had been dealing with an injury as well, is four weeks ahead of schedule and he should be back for summer workouts. 

Downing as a mentor in 2020

During Iowa State’s season-opening loss to Louisiana, Iowa State was dealt a major blow when Downing went down with an injury that would eventually cost him the rest of the season.

While he was out with the injury, Downing, a redshirt junior, mentored some younger players, according to Myers.

“For him, the challenge was like, I don’t want this to turn into a Trevor sits in the back and isn’t paying attention type of setup. We had him involved in every way possible,” Myers said.

According to Myers, Downing’s mentorship was more than just on-the-field things and he found a silver lining through being out with the injury.

“He was out there coaching the guys in the meetings, a lot of that was behind the scenes, you know, when those guys would get together outside of our offensive line meetings,” Myers said. “He was able to bring those young guys along, as well as help some of the veteran guys that maybe didn’t have as many game reps or gameplay experiences he did.”

Downing’s lower-body injury prevented him from being on the field the majority of the 2020 season.

Despite the injury, the Creston, Iowa, native said nothing changed for him in terms of film study.

“I just sat in the front row and took notes as if I was starting,” Downing said. “I just kind of helped younger guys in the back as their developmental year kind of helped them learn the playbook and stuff like that.”

Schweiger talks about his offseason goals

Prior to the start of the 2020 season, Schweiger played in just three games in his collegiate career and had just been put on scholarship.

Now in the offseason, Schweiger has a year of starting experience at left guard and is now aiming to build off of a successful year where he was a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the best player who started their career as a walk-on.

The Plymouth, Wisconsin, native said the goal is to get “bigger, faster [and] stronger.”

“Since we came back in January, it’s all been about the weight room and getting my nutrition habits right,” Schweiger said. “The biggest thing was getting bigger, faster, stronger and getting my habits and the things I ate and things like that right, just to benefit the training that I was doing in the weight room.”

Improving on the fundamentals of being an offensive lineman was also something Schweiger brought up Monday.

“The first step, the second step, the hands just keep refining your craft, they always (the coaching staff) talk about being a master craftsman,” Schweiger said.