Cyclone offensive line finding its footing

The offensive and defensive line face off in a scrimmage as a part of the first day of fall football camp on Aug. 3 on the Johnny Majors Practice field.

Aaron Marner

A year ago, Colin Newell was just trying to learn a new position.

“Honestly, last camp I didn’t know plays,” said Newell, a redshirt freshman center. “This camp it’s really developing the game rather than trying to learn it.

“Last year I didn’t know what was happening half the time. [I] was just running around kinda like a chicken with its head cut off.”

Now? Newell, an Ames native, is expected to take the field on Sept. 1 against South Dakota State as Iowa State’s starting center.

Offensive line coach Jeff Myers praised Newell’s skillset and ability.

“I think we had a good idea of what Colin was going to do,” Myers said. “He works really, really hard all the time. He’s similar to [starting left tackle Julian Good-Jones]. He’s really smart, he’s a versatile player.”

Myers said the key for the offensive line entering camp was understanding that the best five linemen would play, and they would worry about positions later.

That gave Newell a chance to shine. Good-Jones, who has played both tackle spots and center in his college career, is now protecting the quarterback’s blindside.

But thanks to his experience at center, he’s been a valuable asset for Newell as he learns his new position.

“Julian’s a really elite player,” Newell said. “For me to have someone like that — who has played the position and been really effective at it — mentor me, is something I don’t take for granted.

“Every day I can go in and ask him questions… he’s always there for me, never gets upset with all my questions.”

While the change on the offensive line starts with Newell, he’s not the only new face. In between Newell and Good-Jones at the left guard spot is redshirt sophomore Josh Mueller.

Mueller, who played in two games last season in a limited role, has emerged this offseason as a weapon. Part of his growth is due to his previous inexperience on offense, since he played primarily on the defensive side of the ball in high school.

“It’s fun to learn it,” Mueller said. “[I like] the physicality. I miss the tackling at defensive line.”

He said protecting the quarterback is “almost” more rewarding than making tackles.

With multiple new faces on the offensive line, one of the keys has been getting high-speed reps in practice.

There’s nothing quite like the real thing, but the offensive line benefits from playing directly across from a stout defensive line group, which features multiple All-Big 12-quality players.

“Going up against guys like Ray [Lima] and Jamahl [Johnson],” Newell said. “They’re really elite players, and they push me to be better.”

Thanks to a front-loaded schedule — a week two matchup at rival Iowa, followed immediately by a game against Oklahoma, who went 12-2 last year and made the College Football Playoff — Iowa State’s offensive line will be tested early.

Because of that, the practice against Lima and the rest of the defensive line is even more important.

“We talk about it everyday,” Myers said. “The one thing that makes me feel confident in the group that we have is that we have a really good defense. Our front six or our front seven on defense are some of the best that you’re going to see throughout the season.

“That’s what’s making us play hard and play better, and grow as a group. Day in and day out, it’s physical, it’s fast and they’re being challenged.”