Royston: What to look for in Iowa State’s spring game


Jacob Rice

ISU Gerry Vaughn warms up before the ISU vs. Baylor football game. Sept. 24, 2022.

Christian Royston, Sports Editor

Iowa State’s spring game is just around the corner, and there is plenty to look forward to as the Cyclones show off their new look Saturday.

Although there is a good chance the team could see vast changes over the summer and just before the season starts, there are still areas the team worked on over the spring that should be much improved. The spring game should give fans a good early look at what faces may be featured prominently in the starting lineup come fall.

With the many moving parts that will be on display, it might be tough to figure out what to focus on. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to give my take on what will be the biggest things to watch for during the spring game.

New offense ready to explode

There really is no way of sugarcoating just how dysfunctional Iowa State’s offense was last season. 

Many games were decided by one possession, not because the games were high-scoring, but because the defense kept the game winnable. Even with how close every game was, the offense rarely clutched up to pull out a win. 

There wasn’t necessarily any specific area you could point a finger at when looking at why the offense struggled. When it came down to it, it was a team effort. 

Injuries plagued the run game, causing more pressure to fall onto first-year starter Hunter Dekkers’ shoulders. With that pressure, Dekkers didn’t quite live up to his hype as he fueled the fire when it came to offensive struggles.

On top of that, the man at the helm of the offense, Tom Manning, was not meeting standards.

Now the team looks to be on the upswing. Manning is gone, the running back room is healthy and Dekkers will be behind an improved offensive line.

Iowa State’s new offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase found success as the wide receiver/running backs coach last season and will bring his expertise to the entire offense. We could be in store for a new and improved offense in the fall, and the spring game will be the first sneak peek of what that offense is capable of.

Offensive line under new management

Although the struggles of Iowa State’s offense couldn’t be boiled down to just one area, many of the issues arose because of the inconsistencies of the offensive line.

Whether the line was dealing with injuries or poor coaching, something needed to change in the offseason if Iowa State wants to avoid being the laughing stock of the Big 12 in the upcoming season. So far, it looks like Iowa State is trending in the right direction.

The biggest change from last season is the introduction of new offensive line coach Ryan Clanton. In his time at UNI, Clanton coached up two NFL linemen in recent years and put together an impressive unit for the Panthers’ offense to operate behind.

Now Clanton is bringing his talents to Iowa State and already revamped the offensive line. Clanton strained the importance of being violent in the trenches and being versatile on the line, which may have struck a chord in his players.

The way the offensive linemen talk about the future of the line and based on the fire in Clanton’s eyes, Iowa State’s line is on a mission. It could be interesting to see how they perform in the spring game, as new faces on the defensive line will also be playing their hearts out to shoot for a spot on the starting lineup.

New defensive leaders stepping up

The last thing to pay attention to will be who steps up and fills the holes on the defense. Iowa State sent most of its star players to the NFL after the 2022 season, so young Cyclones will need to take over as the new leaders of the defense.

There are already certain areas that look to be shaking out, such as the linebacker and cornerback rooms, but there are still many spots on the roster ready for the taking. It should be interesting to see what players step up to the challenge.

The biggest part of the defense that I will be keeping an eye on is the defensive line, and more importantly the edge rushers. 

Everyone wants to know who will be terrorizing the opposing quarterbacks next season. Now with Will McDonald IV and MJ Anderson moving on, there are two openings ready to be filled.

Saturday should give fans a good idea about who is starting to take command in the spring and who is most likely to earn a spot on the starting lineup.