Notebook: Replacing Enyi, Kempt mentoring Purdy and corralling Pooka

Defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike blocks players from the University of Akron from tackling his teammates during their game against the Zips on Sept. 22 at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones won 26-13.

Noah Rohlfing

Iowa State heads into a matchup with Kansas with a three-game winning streak. How the Cyclones will be replacing the production of injured defensive end Enyi Uwazurike and Kyle Kempt’s new role were just some of the main topics from Tuesday’s weekly availability.

Replacing Uwazurike’s production

With the news on Monday that Cyclones’ defensive end Enyi Uwazurike would be out for “a while” with a hamstring injury after undergoing surgery, Iowa State is relying on its depth for the rest of the season.

One player coach Matt Campbell continued to mention was Matt Leo, the redshirt junior defensive end from Australia.

Leo didn’t miss a beat against Texas Tech when covering for Uwazurike, Campbell said.

“[Uwazurike’s injury] is gonna ask Matt Leo to step up in a more critical role,” Campbell said. “Matt has probably been step in step with [Uwazurike] in his play all season long.”

With the return of Ray Lima to the defensive line against the Red Raiders, Iowa State got back one of its main defensive contributors, which will slightly lessen the loss of Uwazurike. Campbell said the Cyclones have the depth on the line to navigate his absence.

Lima gave credit to the coaches for developing the roster enough to withstand the loss of a starter.

“Leo was well prepared to get in the game and do what he did and do as good as he did because of how we practice, because of who he is as an individual,” Lima said. “That’s just credit to our coaches.”

Kempt back to 100 percent, helping Purdy learn

Kyle Kempt said he is back and feeling 100 percent healthy. After a knee injury that went from originally being described as “day-to-day” to worrying Kempt that he wouldn’t be healthy for the rest of the season, until Saturday against the Red Raiders it had been six weeks since Kempt had been in uniform.

The thing is, he might not see the field again this season. The former starter is now firmly the No. 2 quarterback on the roster with the departure of Zeb Noland, and the sixth-year senior has been taking his new role behind freshman phenom Brock Purdy in stride.

“Every time they’re coming out, I’m coaching them up on what they’ve been seeing,” Kempt said.

Kempt was very candid about knowing he might not play again for the Cyclones, and his willingness to help mentor the young Purdy and fellow freshman Re-al Mitchell is something Campbell was very complimentary of on Tuesday.

“The greatest story in our football program is Kyle Kempt,” Campbell said. “He’s been maybe the best captain I’ve ever been around, in terms of putting the team first.”

Kempt is no longer the Cyclones’ signal-caller, but he still is making his presence felt in the Iowa State locker room.

Corralling Pooka

Iowa State’s rush defense is first in the Big 12, only allowing 2.8 yards per carry all season. The Cyclones have corralled Justice Hill of Oklahoma State and Darius Anderson of TCU so far, and they’ll face another test in Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr.

Williams Jr., a freshman, was a four-star recruit out of high school and a big get for the Jayhawks. He has tallied up 653 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 99 carries, averaging over 6.5 yards per rush. He has also added 217 receiving yards on 21 receptions, scoring two touchdowns off of catches in the Jayhawks’ win over TCU.

Campbell is well aware of the threat Williams Jr. carries.

“You talk about spatial football players, he’s as good as I’ve seen so far,” Campbell said. “He’s got the ability to transition that speed to power really fast, and that’s what makes him really dangerous.”

The Cyclones’ main focus will likely be on Williams Jr., as the Kansas passing attack has been averaging less than 200 yards per game (194.4), so when the Jayhawks are unable to establish the run their offense suffers.

Lima said the Cyclones are prepared, but they know it’ll be difficult to stop him completely.

“That guy’s talented, man,” Lima said. “The way he can cut on a dime and really read plays and just take advantage, his acceleration is crazy.

“It’s just really exciting to go up against somebody like that.”