Iowa State’s new and improved offense puts on a show in spring game

Christian Royston, Sports Editor

AMES — During an offseason surrounded by many questions about the future of the team, the Cyclones did exactly what they needed to do. Especially Iowa State’s offense.

There were many holes to fill all over the roster, and many new faces got the chance to battle for quality reps to finish out the spring season. 

With the offensive struggles of the 2022 season, the Cyclones entered the spring game with one mission in mind. Find the end zone.

The Cyclones had three quarterbacks take the reins to lead various offensive looks down the field. When the day was over, the offense scored 40 points, with five touchdowns.

The defense had some great drives, but the way the scrimmage was set up, the offense capitalized when the field position favored them.

“I think a collective win for our program, from our coaches and our players,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “I think today you came out and you saw a team that was fairly disciplined, did a really good job of tackling the football, running the football, some of the things we really set out to do.”

A question going into the game was how the running back room would look after struggling last season. The answer came fairly early as Jirehl Brock exploded down the field every time the ball touched his hands.

Brock dealt with injuries throughout the 2022 season, which limited his reps and production. When he was healthy, he looked the part, rushing for 445 yards and three touchdowns.

In a scrimmage one week earlier, Brock took a majority of the snaps, proving to the team that he was back at 100 percent.

“I think it gives him a lot of confidence,” Campbell said. “You saw a healthy Jirehl Brock the first four games of the season last year, and then you didn’t see that guy. I think that’s big for our football program.”

Brock wasn’t the only running back to find success during the spring game. Eli Sanders and incoming transfer Arlen Harris also found the end zone. Sanders took nearly as many snaps as Brock during the day, breaking out for a 13-yard rush during the game.

Harris also saw some quality snaps, as the redshirt freshman took his first reps as a Cyclone. Many transfers and incoming freshmen saw success throughout the day, which was one of the main goals for the game.

“When you are young, the nice thing as coaches is, you can see that,” Campbell said. “You can personally see the growth happen.”

Another new Cyclone who has seen massive amounts of hype surrounding him is JJ Kohl. The freshman quarterback took the field in front of Iowa State fans to show off what he brings to the team. 

“For a kid that’s supposed to be getting ready for prom to be out here, honestly, playing football and getting live experience, I think it’s huge,” Campbell said. “I think JJ’s done a great job growing, to be quite honest with you, all spring as well.”

Kohl was taking snaps with the third rotation of offensive players, just behind Rocco Becht. Kohl is one of the highest rated players entering Iowa State, as the four-star recruit is ranked second in Iowa.

Although Kohl is projected to be a star player, he still has a long way to go and is learning the intricacies of the position from Hunter Dekkers, the man at the helm in 2022.

“Honestly, I thought he did a really good job today,” Dekkers said. “From last Saturday to this Saturday, he did a really good job of improving and learning from his mistakes that he did make.”

Kohl wasn’t the only quarterback that found success in the spring game, as Dekkers saw quality snaps and Becht found tight end Gabe Burkle for a touchdown. Not a single interception was thrown the entire day.

A big reason the quarterbacks saw success was the supporting cast of wide receivers and tight ends. The Cyclones are working without Xavier Hutchinson, who is moving on to the next level.

Dekkers said that there are many guys stepping up in both the wide receiver and the tight end rooms. 

“Honestly, our tight ends are super deep, and they’ve done a really good job all spring,” Dekkers said. “It’s gonna be really exciting to see them in the fall.”

Most of the receptions on the day were made by tight ends. Andrew Keller had five catches for 44 yards and a touchdown, while Easton Dean had four for nearly 40 yards.

The Cyclones saw many players on offense step up and show off their growth. The Spring Game was a final checkpoint for the team as it gets ready for the regular season. 

With just the summer left before the season starts, time is running out to make last-minute adjustments that could make or break the season.

“Believe me, the growth process isn’t done,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot of work to do.”