Iowa State coach Matt Campbell spoke with the media Tuesday for the first time since Iowa State's 28-26 loss in the Alamo Bowl Dec. 28, 2018.
There are plenty comparisons to be made between last year's offseason and this one.
For starters, the Cyclones are once again coming off an 8-5 season. They also lost their top receiver, Hakeem Butler, to the NFL, just like they did a year ago with Allen Lazard.
This year, however, the Cyclones are more secure at quarterback.
"I think he's proven that he has all the tools to be an elite No. 1 quarterback," Campbell said. "Brock [Purdy] is in competition in some points with himself. How good does he want to become and where does he want to take this?"
Campbell said getting the first year out of the way is big for Purdy. Now, Campbell said, Purdy can dive into the details.
The same holds true for several other Iowa State players. Freshman linebacker Mike Rose worked his way into the starting lineup early in the season and will now have his first real offseason to prepare for year No. 2. Additionally, freshmen cornerbacks Anthony Johnson Jr. and Datrone Young saw plenty of playing time in 2018 in a crowded secondary.
"We learn by doing," Campbell said. "Having the ability to then go back and watch yourself play, in the same offense or defense, and study yourself, I think that's powerful.
"For them to have the ability to go back and watch meaningful reps happen and say 'gosh, here's what I was thinking, but now here's what I know,' I think the game will slow down for them. The detail of the game will really start to come out."
It's not often a Big 12 coach frets about replacing a fullback. Campbell is the exception.
With redshirt senior tight end/fullback Sam Seonbuchner out of eligibility, the Cyclones will have to replace one of their most unheralded yet important players.
"He was a guy that I don't think a lot of people, unless you really study football, understand the value of what Sam [Seonbuchner] gave to our entire football team," Campbell said. "Sam [Seonbuchner] will be a tough one. You can find ways to replace receivers and running backs and linebackers, but Sam [Seonbuchner] will be a tough guy to [replace]."
Campbell said he doesn't know if anyone on the current roster is capable of stepping into Seonbuchner's role next season. The process of replacing Seonbuchner will be a group effort, Campbell said.
Seonbuchner's production rarely came in the form of stats on a box score, so it's possible his replacement will fill in with other contributions. That could be a task for redshirt junior-to-be Dylan Soehner, who has been listed as an offensive tackle and a tight end in his college career.
"Dylan [Soehner's] unique," Campbell said. "Dylan [Soehner's] a guy who can actually play anywhere. He can flex out, he can play attached, he can play in the backfield ... he has some of those Seonbuchner qualities, and nobody understands how valuable he is to our offense."
Finding new leaders
The Cyclones face a similar challenge this offseason with multiple beloved seniors — including quarterback Kyle Kempt and running back Mike Warren — out of the program.
Iowa State will have to find new players to fit leadership roles. Campbell isn't worried about that.
Campbell said there is a culture developing where seniors want to pass on their knowledge and experiences to younger players, such as former linebacker Willie Harvey with returning linebackers Marcel Spears Jr. and Mike Rose.
"I think what's beginning to evolve here is that good players and good leaders leave, but they teach the other guys in the program how to do that," Campbell said. "Some of the best leaders in our program are just scratching the surface, not only as great players but great leaders. That's powerful."