Notebook: Joel Lanning will play everywhere, new players start practice, and more

Joel Lanning stomps into the end zone in the Cyclones 66-10 win over Texas Tech. 

Austin Anderson

Iowa State kicked off the first day of spring practice Tuesday morning. Here are four takeaways. 

Joel Lanning will play almost everywhere, including defense

At the beginning of the first spring practice, senior Joel Lanning took reps at quarterback. After a few reps, he switched from trying to throw the ball to wide receivers to trying to keep the wide receivers from touching the ball.

For the majority of practice, Lanning wore a white No. 7 jersey and patrolled the middle of the field as a linebacker.

“One thing I’ll tell you about Joel is he is one of the best athletes on our football team,” coach Matt Campbell said. “The reality for him is he can do so many things for us. I think you’ll see, Joel is going to get more reps than he’s ever had in his life here in the next year. I think you’ll see us be very creative with Joel as we continue to move on.”

Lanning entered last season as the starting quarterback but transitioned to more of a threat on the ground as the season progressed. Campbell said fans will still see Lanning as a quarterback in the fall, but he also didn’t rule out the possibility of him playing running back or tight end. Campbell’s emphasis is finding ways to get Lanning on the field.

“He should be playing,” Campbell said. “He’s one of the best athletes on our team. If he can help us in different areas that can strengthen our football program, we are really going to be diligent in finding ways he can help us.”

The transition to different positions stemmed from a conversation at the end of the 2016 season. Campbell said Lanning told him he “just wants to play.”

Campbell said he asked if playing defense was something Lanning would be interested in. Lanning was.

Campbell responded, “‘You may be one of our best 11 players, and there’s a lot of guys in the country right now playing both ways and are doing some really good things with it. I think you have that kind of ability.”

Campbell said Lanning has some “next level ability,” and the coaching staff is trying to help him get there.

“You look at the National Football League and what the linebackers look like,” Campbell said. “They look like Joel.”

The offense is going to have a lot of versatility

Lanning isn’t the only one who will bring multiple dynamics to the offense.

Offensive lineman Julian Good-Jones has the ability to play any of the five spots on the offensive line, a trait that could prove vital with the roster turnover in the trenches.

“You lose as many guys as we lost on the offensive line, it’s kind of wide open,” Campbell said.

Redshirt freshman Chase Allen is another player who will add a unique dynamic to Iowa State’s offense with his position flexibility.

In practice, Allen was lined up in a multitude of different positions while working with starting quarterback Jacob Park in what looked like could be the first-team offense.

Campbell said Allen has the ability as a tight end to play in close with the offensive line, go out wide as a wide receiver, be in the slot or even play in the backfield as a fullback-type player.

“To have a healthy Chase Allen gives our offense a whole other dimension,” Campbell said.

Another redshirt freshman who will get a long look this spring is Dylan Soehner. Soehner, a 6-foot-7, 283-pound tight end, looks the part of an offensive lineman or a blocking tight end, but Campbell said he can see Soehner carving out a role on this team with his ability to run and catch the football.

This team looks the part physically

Campbell let out a small chuckle when he was asked about the physical size of the members of his defensive line. Last season, the man clogging up the middle was Demond Tucker, who was listed at 6 feet. This season, the defensive line will be headlined by Matt Leo (6-foot-7), Ray Lima (310 pounds) and other big bodies.

“We actually look like a Division I defensive line,” Campbell said. “That part is really good. The key there is we look like it. Now we have to understand how to play like it.”

The offensive line is no slouch physically either.

Redshirt senior Jake Campos missed all of last season with a leg injury after starting 23 games in his career before the injury.

“For Jake Campos to have surgery, to get where he’s at right now and not really miss a rep all winter long, which was really impressive to me,” Campbell said. “He looks really close, physically, to getting himself close to 100 percent.”

Campos stands at 6-foot-8, as does the potential starter on the other end of the offensive line, Sean Foster.

The size doesn’t stop there on offense for the Cyclones. Wide receivers Hakeem Butler (6-foot-6), Allen Lazard (6-foot-5) and Matt Eaton (6-foot-4) will present an intimidating matchup for smaller cornerbacks this season.

Other notes

  • Campbell said it was too early to comment on whether recently-suspended cornerback Mike Johnson would play a down for Iowa State this season. Johnson was arrested last week on domestic assault charges. 
  • Defensive end Seth Nerness is likely going to transfer, Campbell said.
  • Linebacker Brian Mills “kind of just retired,” Campbell said. Mills will finish his degree and start working.
  • Running back Mike Warren has been turning heads this offseason. 

    “If you asked our coaches and our strength staff who really impressed you since we’ve been back in the weight room, it would be Mike,” Campbell said. “That’s a tribute to him, and sometimes we have to go through a little adversity to get our best out. Mike will be back and we’ll see him better than ever.”