AMES – While expectation’s for Iowa State football continue to soar – Iowa State was picked to finish third in the Big 12, they're ranked No. 24 in the preseason coaches poll and they had four players named to the All Big 12 Preseason team, which was the second most behind Oklahoma’s five.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell wants to tamper expectations on his two sophomore stars – quarterback Brock Purdy and middle linebacker Mike Rose.
Purdy was the primary quarterback for nine games and passed for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also rushed for 308 yards and five touchdowns.
“I think the biggest thing for Brock, is us as coaches have to be really smart about making sure we allow Brock to grow as a football player,” Campbell said. “All I mean by that is sometimes as a young man, early in your career, when he has great success, you’re eager, as a coach, to put so much on his shoulders that you can stunt the growth that can happen.
“I think that’s why you see a player have a really good year, then go down a year, then he kind of has to build back up.”
Campbell wants to avoid the down year and have a steady progression with Purdy.
“In reality, all I’d like to see Brock do is grow from a freshman to a sophomore,” Campbell said. “We all saw what he can do when he’s playing at his best, no matter who’s in the back field or who’s at receiver. That’s the one great thing about Brock. He spreads the ball where the ball needs to go with great consistency. He also had this unique ability to pull the ball down and run with it.
“As long as Brock continues to grow and play to his strengths, I think he’ll be ready to have a great season.”
Spreading the ball around in the passing game will be somewhat of an adjustment for Purdy. Last season, he could rely on 6-foot-6 Hakeem Butler to either be open, or if he wasn’t, come down with a contested catch.
Purdy has been putting in the time in the off season with his receivers to get their timing down.
“We’ve had a lot of new guys come in and it’s been great to work with them during the summer watching film with them and going through routes,” Purdy said. “Going into fall camp, it’s going to be huge to continue building our comradery.
“This year, without Hakeem, we’re spreading the ball around and I think we can be really good that way, too.”
On the other side of the ball, Rose started all 13 games for Iowa State and recorded 75 tackles, third most on the team.
“Mike had a lot of success a year ago,” Campbell said. “Very similar to Brock, Mike has a lot of responsibility on his plate as the MIKE linebacker. That’s the interesting parallel between those two – they have to be great communicators.”
The other parallel is Campbell wants to make sure they don’t put too much on Rose’s plate and overwhelm him.
Even still, Rose is prepared and wants to begin taking on a leadership role in the defense.
“I want to take more of a leadership role, especially with our SAM position (Will McDonald),” Rose said. “It’s something Willie (Harvey) and Marcel (Spears) did for me last year, and I want to help the new guys on our defense and become a better leader on our defense.”
Rose went from 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds last season to 240 pounds this season. He believes the added weight will help in fit gaps and take on linemen better.
“He just has to continue to grow and see the game and feel the game and understand different situations,” Campbell said. “Going through that, he’s able to see himself on film, making mistakes and then being able to correct those mistakes. He’s also able to feel what it’s like in those situations and correct those mistakes. Mike is very intelligent, and he works very hard at his craft. I just see him taking that next step as a football player.”