ISU offensive line richer with depth, experience in 2015


Redshirt sophomore Brock Dagel congratulates redshirt senior Jeff Woody after Woody’s fourth quarter touchdown on Saturday, Oct. 26. Iowa State lost to Oklahoma State 58-27.

The ISU offensive line serves as a microcosm of the injury issues that have plagued the Cyclones throughout the previous two seasons, particularly in regards to on-field results. 

But with the return of Brock Dagel from a knee injury and the addition of Jaypee Philbert Jr., a transfer out of Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, the position group has a potential for depth that has been absent from the program for years. 

“I feel really confident right now that we’ve got some good battles going on,” said offensive line coach Brandon Blaney. “Every day they bring a little something to the table. It’s not going to be an easy decision if I had to make a decision today on what that starting lineup is.”

In the mix at tackle are the aforementioned Dagel and Philbert, along with redshirt sophomore Jake Campos. 

ISU coach Paul Rhoads has limited Dagel’s reps in practice thus far, bringing him along judiciously with an emphasis on maintaining his health. Rhoads is relying on the redshirt senior’s maturity and experience to bridge the gap in preparation that lining up for fewer practice plays creates. 

“I’m feeling good,” Dagel said. “I knew that I needed to take a step back and slowly work my way back, and I trust the process.”

Contending for the two guard positions are redshirt junior Daniel Burton along with redshirt seniors Wendell Taiese and Oni Omoile. 

Rhoads said the guard spot is perhaps the toughest to project moving forward because Burton missed the entire spring with an injury, Taiese has a small sample size of actual game work on which to evaluate him, and that Omoile is pound for pound the team’s strongest player. 

But as far as problems go, it’s a good one to have.

“It’s early to make a call on that,” Rhoads said. “If we can rotate three of them and have a swing guy or however we work that system, I’d love that.”

Blaney listed explosiveness, effort and toughness as the most necessary individual aspects of an offensive lineman, saying that without them “…you don’t have a chance.”

The depth of game-ready talent that is emerging from camp brings with it a versatility that collectively provides a group weapon for Rhoads’ offensive arsenal. 

“(Versatility) is extremely important, it makes you more valuable,” Burton said. “And (as a team) you can get your best five out there.”

Replacing the graduated Tom Farniok, a long-time fixture at center for the Cyclones, is a responsibility that will fall either to Jamison Lalk or Patrick Scoggins.

The extra, legitimate options at each position are likely to prove an effective barrier should injury strike again with force as it did in 2014. Regardless of who starts where and what injuries may arise, a wealth of experience will characterize the ISU O-line after a youth movement infiltrated the position group during the last few seasons. 

“With a veteran group, there’s a better understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Blaney said. “So the processing that takes place between the call, the snap and the actual point of contact is a lot easier for those guys, and adjustments can be made a lot easier too.” 

Six returning offensive linemen have combined for 76 career starts, prompting Rhoads to speculate that this is likely the most experienced group he’s fielded during his tenure. 

“Experience is awfully important, just knowing what it’s like in those trenches at the level of play that Big 12 football is,” Rhoads said.

Dagel, who was sidelined for the season after playing in only four games in 2014, has 15 career starts under his belt. Burton has started 20 games. 

“We’ve been doing it for so long and we’re all so comfortable with each other,” Burton said of the core group of returning linemen. “If something like (an injury) happens, adversity strikes, I think we’ve come a long ways in being able to handle that.”