With all due respect to copyrights, Shane you ignorant slut.* The Matt Campbell hire by Pollard and Iowa State is a home-run, wrapped in a slam dunk, and thrown like a Rodgers-to-Rodgers Hail Mary. Snagging Campbell from a MAC powerhouse like Toledo was about as good a hire as a program like the Cyclones can hope to get. Become one of us, Shane. It’s okay to drink the Kool-Aid this time and let me tell you why.
(*It should be noted that this line was included at Shane’s specific request. Bonus points to those of you who understand the reference)
Recruiting is always going to be an uphill battle for the Cyclones. They are the consistently the second or third best school in a state that doesn’t exactly have a reputation nationwide as a football powerhouse. They are really the only true northern team in a conference full of Texas and Oklahoma schools. They don’t have a recruiting budget that comes anywhere close to the top schools in the nation.
All of this puts Matt Campbell behind the 8-ball when it comes to recruiting. But it’s not anything that he isn’t used to. He’s had to recruit in the state of Ohio against the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Cincinnati, and Indiana in the region.
Campbell knows what it’s like to recruit against the “big boys” and he knows how to dig deep and find quality players that the bigger schools overlook. That’s the only way the Cyclones are going to get out of the rut they’ve been in recently, and I have no doubts that Campbell can be the guy to do that.
As Shane mentioned, a large percentage of the quality athletes that Iowa State has been able to uncover in recent years has come from the junior college ranks, and it remains to be seen how well Campbell can make connections and form a pipeline in that department.
But I believe that his ability to open up pipelines to areas previously unrecruited by the Cyclones (such as western Pennsylvania, which as any football fan knows, has a rich tradition of producing high-quality football players) will greatly outweigh any shortcomings he may have in the JUCO ranks.
Let’s also not overlook the impact that being a proven winner can have on the recruiting trail. I don’t think any sane fan would argue that the Cyclones don’t have a rich tradition of winning, and that is something that hurts you in recruiting. Why should a kid want to come play for your program if you can’t give them hope they’ll be playing for a consistent winner?
Winning is something that Campbell has always been part of. I’ll grant you that it’s not at as high a level as the Big 12, but it’s not something that should just be tossed aside. Campbell, as a player at Mount Union, won three Division III championships and Campbell himself was named to the College Football All-America Team twice.
After his playing career came to an end, Campbell began his foray into coaching, starting at his alma mater Mount Union. As their offensive coordinator, the Mount Union squad went on to win two more championships.
After the 2009 season, Campbell moved on to Toledo. During his tenure as a coach (first as an offensive line coach, then later as head coach), his teams won two MAC West Division crowns and went 2-1 in bowl games (not including the bowl game that this season’s Toledo team will go to). This proven history of winning can be enough to convince a young man on the fence that a winning tradition is possible. It gives hope, which is something Ames hasn’t had with regards to football in a very long time.
Anyone who has watched the Cyclones over the last few years has had more than their fair share of heart attacks and rage-strokes over the questionable decisions our coaching staff has made. Whether it has been questionable play calling and system choices, or sticking with players out of a sense of loyalty rather than playing the best player for the job (Sam Richardson playing instead of Joel Lanning all season. If you’ve watched Richardson, you know that he is not, and never has been, “the guy”), it was clear that a change needed to be made. Rhoads, though a likable guy, just never seemed to be able to make the right call when it mattered most.
When a new coaching staff comes in, continuity and fit are generally the primary concern of a fanbase. Continuity is not something I’m concerned with when it comes to the Campbell regime. Campbell is a proven winner, and he’s bringing with him a coaching staff that he is comfortable with.
Having a coaching staff that’s on the same page and has a history of winning will be a nice change of pace for the Cyclones. After watching a group that appeared, at times, to be lost and have zero idea how to handle situations, I’m excited to see what a winning staff can do in Ames.
Fit, however, is something that I do have legitimate concerns about. I don’t know a whole lot about Campbell as a person, but I do know that it’s important to Pollard and the Iowa State community to have a certain type of individual running the program. It’s important that our coach has the typical “Midwestern” values of integrity, family, and honesty. From everything that I’ve read about coach Campbell, this doesn’t seem to be an issue, but I will take a wait-and-see approach here.
The main concern, for both the new Campbell regime and fans of the Cyclones, comes on the defensive side of the ball. Wally Burnham, the long-time defensive coordinator for the Cyclones, has decided to call it a career and retire.
We had a very strong defense this season, spearheaded by guys like Dale Pierson and Demond Tucker. Finding a replacement for Burnham, who can not only put our guys in a position to win but can also recruit the kind of athletes you need to compete in an explosive conference, will be of paramount importance to this new staff.
The style of play in the Big 12 is one of explosive offenses, deep throws, and high-scoring shoot-outs. That’s a style that the Cyclones never have, and likely never will, be able to have consistent success with. At the end of the day, there is just no way that we can recruit the kind of athletes necessary to be able to run a traditional Big-12 style offense. We need to be innovative with our style and implement something that can counter-act what we lack in athletes.
Campbell has run a spread offense while at Toledo, but unlike conventional spread offenses, he implements a run-first style of spread offense. He doesn’t do it to air the ball out and attempt to go up and down the field. Rather, he implements a style that fits the personnel he has around him, opting to grind out yards on offense in an attempt to wear you down.
This is exactly the style of football that the Cyclones *should* have been playing this season, and arguably for a few seasons now. Though we may not have the best athletes in the conference, we do have a pretty stellar Wide Receiving corps that could benefit from a run-first spread offense.
The spread would give our athletes a better chance to shine, while having the run-first approach will soften up the defense, allowing us to be able to make some big gains in the passing game later on when the defense is tired. Also, it forces defenses to bring an extra man in “the box”, which in turn also works to open up the passing game.
The other aspect of Campbell’s philosophy that bodes well for the Cyclones is his emphasis on the lines. He’s a former offensive line coach, and he understands the importance of having great line play on both sides of the ball. If Campbell can, in a state with a penchant for producing NFL-quality offensive linemen, recruit some studs to help out Lanning and a burgeoning superstar in Mike Warren, while continuing to develop the studs we’ve been bringing in on the defensive line, fans will see the type of offensive, and overall, improvement we’ve been so desperate to see for years.
History may be the biggest thing that Campbell and his coaching staff have going for them. As I illustrated earlier in this post, Campbell has a history of winning no matter where he’s been. Whether it’s been as a player, a coordinator, or a coach, Campbell knows what it takes to win.
Attitude can carry you a long way in college football, and Campbell brings with him the attitude of a winner. I think that sort of change in the locker room will have a profound effect on these kids. No one in the current locker room knows what it’s like to have consistent success. I see this move having a similar effect as that of a professional team bringing in a few veterans who have been on successful teams in an attempt to change the culture of the locker room.
I think it’s also worth noting the recent history of Toledo coaches that Campbell will be able to point to when talking with recruits. Toledo has produced Nick Saban, who has gone on to be one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history with Michigan State, LSU, and Alabama. Toledo also produced Gary Pinkel, who went on to become the winningest coach in Missouri football history, and was absolutely beloved by his players.
Being able to say that he comes from that type of success is going, in my estimation, to weigh heavily on the minds of kids who may otherwise be on the fence about the Iowa State football program. Being able to say that you come from the same place as the likes of Pinkel and Saban plants the seed in their mind that “Hey, this guy might be next. I could have the chance to be part of something special”. If that changes the mind of even one 3 or 4-star recruit, it would be a huge boon to this team, and quite possibly lay the foundation for continued success unlike anything the Cyclones have seen.
In conclusion, I think that my good friend is being overly pessimistic in his thoughts on the Campbell hire. I don’t see any reason to believe that this hire is anything short of a complete home run by the Pollard administration. I understand the concerns he’s raised, and they are valid. But, at the end of the day, I think it’s more of a case of “I won’t be hurt again” than it is of any actual hesitance over the hire. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride we’re in for next season. If nothing else, it should be interesting.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.