Iowa State Cyclones

Despite Uncertainty Within the Program, Iowa State Looks to Bounce Back in 2023

If there was a term to describe the 2022 Iowa State football team, it would have been “Close but no cigar.” The Cyclones finished last in the Big 12 Conference with an overall record of 4-8 and a conference record of 1-8. While the squad’s numbers didn’t look great on paper, the Cyclones found themselves on the losing end of games settled by one touchdown or less six times. While the team finished at the bottom of the pack in 2022, the Cyclones hope that they can get that coveted cigar this year.

In his opening statement at 2023 Big 12 Media Days, head coach Matt Campbell look at things a little differently this year “Since December, it’s been a really fun to be with this football team and watch its growth happen. Campbell said. “We have really kind of looked inward after a tough football season for us a year ago. That inward look at it really looked at the things that are important to us when we are at our best, our culture, our process, our people, and certainly our purpose.”

 

Offensively, the Cyclones return a whopping nine starters including junior quarterback Hunter Dekkers who finished off last season with 3,044 passing yards and a touchdown to interception ratio of 19-14. However, with the current gambling investigation going in within the program, things aren’t as clear as they were just a few months ago.

It continues to be an ongoing investigation and there is nothing we can really comment about. It’s something we will deal with as we continue to learn about it.” Matt Campbell said in an interview with local reporters at Big 12 Media Days. “You take it as a learning opportunity, and you move forward. To me, it really hasn’t hindered us or paused us in any, way shape or form.”

With the quarterback situation in the air, Iowa State also lost of the best wide receivers in program history last year in Xavier Hutchinson, but with players like Jaylin Noel stepping up to fill the role, Iowa State should have an experienced group of playmakers on the outside. “He’s one of the best practice players in our program.” Said Matt Campbell when talking about Jaylin Noel. “He shows flashes of being elite.” Noel finished his 2022 season off with 60 catches for 572 yards and three scores in a wide receiver two role and looks to be the main guy.

 

Along with some changes offensively is new offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase. “I think Nate has just got that special quality that draws people to him because he knows who he is. Head coach Matt Campbell said about his new offensive coordinator. “He certainly knows what he stands for, and obviously what he stands for are some of the great beliefs that I believe in, and that’s not just developing great football players but developing great men, and Nate has already done a great job of that.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Iowa State returns six starters including drive-stoppers like cornerback T.J. Tampa who recently was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 team. Tampa remains in elite company as a Big 12 corner after notching 39 total tackles, nine pass breakups, and one interception last season. On the other side of T.J. is cornerback Myles Purchase. When asked about being the best cornerback duo in the Big 12, Tampa said “Yeah definitely. Even if you don’t know, you are going to see it.”

The Cyclones also bring back Gerry Vaughn who led the team in tackles last season. Vaughn leads the defense in the middle of the field and finished off 2022 with 71 total tackles including 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble on the season. The Cyclones defense was the best in the Big 12 Conference last season and despite losing players like Will McDonald, Iowa State should have a stellar unit once again under defensive mastermind Jon Heacock.

 

As we get closer to the start of fall camp, hopefully they can get the gambling investigation behind them. Matt Campbell and company have plenty to be excited about when it comes to the team but at the same time it feels like a cloud of uncertainty is over the program right now. Under Matt Campbell, Iowa State has had plenty of success when everyone is doubting them. I would say that them being picked to finish tenth in the conference tells you what the media thinks of Iowa State.

Will Iowa State continue to be close or will they finally light that cigar this season? I guess we will just have to wait until September 2nd when they take on Northern Iowa in their season opener.

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