Notebook: Kempt’s status, sizing up Tech and young corners

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy runs the ball during the first half of Iowa State’s game vs West Virginia on Oct. 13, 2018.

Noah Rohlfing

The bye week is over, and the Cyclones have another tough test ahead of them with the Texas Tech Red Raiders coming to town.

From Kyle Kempt’s status (and potential future) to preparing for the Red Raiders, coach Matt Campbell addressed it all in his weekly press conference.

Kyle Kempt and coaching

Kyle Kempt has been missing from the field for Iowa State since the season opener against Iowa with a knee injury which went from “day-to-day” to “week-to-week,” and his absence has in turn precipitated the rise of true freshman Brock Purdy. Kempt is on the Iowa State depth chart for the first time since the injury, listed in a battle for the backup job with Zeb Noland behind Purdy.

His impact has still been felt despite not suiting up, Campbell said.

“I think Kyle, we’ll probably know more about where he’s at this week,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if anybody’s more fit to coach than what Kyle is.”

“He’s put all his time into helping everyone else around him become better.”

Campbell mentioned Monday night that Kempt could potentially have a role on the Cyclones’ sideline as a coach if he wants it – an intriguing proposition given the impact his teammates say he has had on the sideline.

Deshaunte Jones and David Montgomery were quick to point out Kempt’s presence as helpful to all the position groups during the Cyclones’ two-game win streak.

“He brings all the quarterbacks and receivers together,” Jones said. “We just make adjustments to what we see on the field and what he sees on the field.”

“[Kyle] puts everyone before himself and he still prepares like he’s the starter,” Montgomery said.

Kempt’s on-field role is still up in the air, as is his status for this weekend’s game. Kempt is on the practice field but it is unclear whether he’ll play another down for the Cyclones at this point.

Sizing up Tech

The Red Raiders enter this week having dropped out of the Top-25 despite a win over the Kansas Jayhawks, but their quality is something the Cyclones will have to reckon with. Texas Tech is 5-2 and 3-1 in conference play, with its only loss coming at the hands of West Virginia.

On offense, the Red Raiders are led by Alan Bowman, a true freshman quarterback in the vein of Purdy who has produced well in the five-and-a-half games he’s been healthy this year. After missing the second half of the West Virginia loss, and all of the TCU game due to a partially collapsed lung, Bowman returned with a 408-yard performance.

Campbell is acutely aware of what Texas Tech brings to the table.

“No matter who’s been in at quarterback, they’ve given those receivers a real opportunity to catch and make big plays,” Campbell said.

The Red Raiders have also seen large improvements on the defensive side of the ball under second-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs (though it is still a nationally subpar unit, ranking 88th in the country in yards-per-play allowed).

Cornerback depth

Dealing with a strong group of Texas Tech receivers will fall on the Iowa State secondary, a group which has gained considerable depth over the season, buoyed by the growth of freshmen Anthony Johnson and Datrone Young. Both have seen snaps in relief of D’Andre Payne and Brian Peavy.

Campbell has been impressed with the two freshmen and how they worked their way into the rotation.

“[Datrone] had a great fall camp, and really earned the right to play early on,” Campbell said. “[Anthony] was a guy that really jumped out to us in the summer.

“I do see both of them continuing to play for us.”

The Cyclones have needed the versatility with Payne having to take snaps in the star position against West Virginia due to the ankle injury of starting safety Lawrence White.

Redshirt sophomore safety Greg Eisworth said not only are the youngsters helpful, but their ability to play multiple positions lessens the burden on the rest of the defensive backfield heading towards the stretch run of the season. He credits Campbell with their maturity and team mentality.

“A lot of it goes back to Campbell and who he recruits,” Eisworth said. “That was one thing he preached to me about.”