Fresh faces will take the field in Iowa State’s spring game


Jacob Rice

Jaylin Noel reaches for the football in 31-14 win over West Virginia on Nov. 5.

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

Iowa State will take the field Saturday after five weeks of spring practice, but the competition will look more like a 15th practice than a full-on game. 

The Cyclones are on the verge of wrapping up a spring practice period consisting of new coaches and young players. Saturday’s spring game will be an opportunity for the team to get reps in front of fans, similar to last spring’s open-practice format. 

A chance to compete in front of a crowd will be a marker of progress for the young team, even if the growth isn’t readily apparent.

“Nothing Saturday will tell you if we’ll be good or not,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “But what I’ve seen is, I’ve seen this group really grow in terms of the areas that take no talent to get better.”

After wrapping up a 4-8 season in 2022, Campbell made key changes to his coaching staff in an effort to revamp his program. The Cyclones entered spring practice with a new offensive coordinator and strength program. 

Changes to the offensive gameplan won’t be clear as the Cyclones intend to keep the scheme basic during the game, Campbell said. The biggest difference in Iowa State as spring comes to a close is the size and strength of the team.

“What we looked like in the last game last year, to what we physically look like when we stepped on the practice field for spring practice was night and day,” Campbell said. 

Following spring, the Cyclones will prepare for a 12-week block focused on strength and conditioning as the team begins to move toward fall camp. By the time the team straps up their pads in the fall, Campbell expects to see even more growth. 

“The intent, yes there’s football and fundamentals, probably about 20% of it, but the other 80% is the physical development and growth of your team,” Campbell said. “I think you’re really excited about that, and to see, man, what does that football team look like when you step on the field again come August.” 

Along with a showcase for the entire team, the spring game will also be an opportunity for fresh faces to make their name known among fans. The Cyclones are introducing a highly-ranked freshman class of early enrollees, plus some impact transfers that will see major playing time next season. 

Running back Arlen Harris Jr. is among the group of new players to take the field Saturday. The Stanford transfer was a four-star recruit coming out of high school according to the 247Sports Composite, and he will have four more years of eligibility. 

After one of the worst seasons at the tailback position during Campbell’s tenure, Harris provides another option as a playmaker for the unit. 

“He’s a guy that you saw some of those traits that we look for in the tailback position,” Campbell said. “You knew who he was, you know what he stood for and then you know what that high school videotape looked like.”

Along with Harris, transfers like Zach Lovett and Jayden Higgins will take their first snaps in front of fans. Paired alongside them will be highly-touted true freshmen like quarterback JJ Kohl, wide receivers Kai Black and Beni Ngoyi, and edge Samuel Same.

Although Saturday’s spring game will only offer a glimpse into the developmental stage of the team, there will be an opportunity for new players to make major strides headed into the next phase of the offseason.

“Man, we’re a developmental team and every phase of development going into the season is critical for us to be successful,” Campbell said. “To be able to give our kids some great feedback post-spring practice; to be able to go into summer and continue our growth process.”

Iowa State’s spring game will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.