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Iowa State Daily

Matt Campbell previews quarterback, running back rooms heading into season opener

Tyler Coe
Matt Campbell addresses the media at Iowa State Football Media Day on Aug. 4, 2023.

The Iowa State football season starts Saturday, and many questions still surround the team.

Who will be the starting quarterback Saturday? Who will lead the running back room? What spots are left to fill?

Head coach Matt Campbell took to the podium Tuesday to answer all the questions boiling up around his team before the matchup with Northern Iowa. Going into the day, the biggest question in the air was what the quarterback situation was looking like as game time crept closer.

Throughout all of fall camp, three names stood out above the rest. Rocco Becht, JJ Kohl and Tanner Hughes. Who would take over in the absence of expected starter Hunter Dekkers?

No matter who got the nod, the room was as deep and competitive as ever since day one of fall camp.

“Just a really competitive room,” Jaylin Noel said. “Guys going out there each day, doing their job, leading the team, and it looks good.”

When asked to take a guess at who would be touching the field first against UNI, Noel couldn’t answer. When it comes down to it, only Campbell can say who the starter will be.

For Campbell, he is still bought into the quarterback-by-committee scheme. The three potential starters all have equal chances and opportunities to see the field Saturday.

“Until you get out under those lights and until you play the sport of football, you just don’t know what you have until you get out there and see it,” Campbell said.

Campbell did say that both Becht and Kohl will “certainly” see the field against UNI. Campbell also threw Hughes in the mix.

Although that is the same answer that has been heard throughout all of fall camp, it is clear that it really could be anyone taking the field Saturday. Despite that, the game plan does not differ much between the quarterbacks.

Despite the differing stature, Becht and Kohl are similar quarterbacks. They have similar mobility and arm talent, which makes it easy for the Cyclones to run the offense in similar ways with either at the helm.

One thing that Campbell noted is that the biggest quality he is looking for in the future starter is the main characteristics that define a good leader. It is not just about talent or field performance.

Campbell is looking for three things in his quarterback: He needs to lead, take care of the ball and execute the game plan.

Campbell believes that right now he has three guys that possess qualities. No matter who takes snaps Saturday, Campbell, and even Noel, is confident in his quarterbacks.

“Those guys are prepared,” Noel said.

Alongside the quarterback room, the running back room faced similar questions. When Iowa State released its depth chart, the running back spot looked exactly like expected. Five players had “or” next to their names, meaning anyone could be the starter.

Although it is unlikely that all five running backs take the field at the same time, Campbell said that there is a chance that they all get playing time early in the season.

Although it might be hard to juggle that many running backs playing each week, Campbell welcomes the chaos.

“It is a lot. To be honest with you, I don’t know how it’s gonna sort out,” Campbell said. “You’re gonna have to earn the right to get the ball, and you’re gonna have to earn the right to stay in the football game.”

When it comes down to it, earning the right to compete is the biggest thing that Campbell is looking for in his potential starters. Whether it is the quarterback room or the running back room, the players who distance themselves in front of the crowd will be the ones getting the most snaps.

For Campbell, the players he is going to play are the ones who can do one simple thing.

“Who’s gonna score when it matters the most,” Campbell said.

When looking at the offensive struggles of the 2022 season, scoring was something that was hard to come by. Many games were decided by the lack of offensive horsepower. To succeed in the Big 12, the Cyclones must figure out a way to score.

Having multiple positions with various starters might be hectic, but it also allows for the most growth in those positions. Campbell knows that his players are ready for the challenge and ready to make plays.

When it comes down to it, whether it is on the offensive or even the defensive side of the ball, the most important thing for a successful collegiate football player is the ability to make plays. The Cyclones have guys across the board that can make those plays when it matters most.

“There’s no one person that’s gonna make plays,” Joey Petersen said. “I think everyone has the ability to make plays.”

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