Cyclones Head Coach Matt Campbell sat down with the Iowa State Daily sports desk Thursday morning to discuss everything from his new recruiting class, his thoughts on Re-Al Mitchell entering the transfer portal, Brock Purdy's NFL ambitions and much more.
Reflecting on the Camping World Bowl
While Campbell primarily discussed his expectations and thoughts for the 2020 football season, he did have some final thoughts on how he thought Iowa State played against Notre Dame in the 2019 Camping World Bowl.
The Cyclones fell 33-9 to Notre Dame, but the fourth-year head coach said he was proud with how his team competed and made it a battle for most of the game. Campbell said even with the Cyclones coming up short against the Fighting Irish, playing an opponent with a rich history of winning can only be a positive for Iowa State going forward.
“[Notre Dame is] maybe the best team we’ve played since we’ve been here," Campbell said. "I’d rather play somebody like that in a bowl game because I think it's a great measuring stick for where you are, where you wanna be and where you gotta get to, and where are those margins that you still need to fill in.”
Those margins are what Campbell sees as the missing ingredient for Iowa State football to enter the upper echelon of not just the Big 12 Conference but in all of college football.
Losing to Notre Dame made the process that much more clear for Campbell and his staff, and the youth of the roster will allow the margins of error and defeat to be filled in as much as they need to before spring football arrives.
The Cyclones still have a young roster, with many underclassmen expecting to have starting jobs in the 2020 season. For Campbell, being young and learning how to be successful is all part of the process, and for Iowa State, it will be a brand new process the program has never faced before.
“That’s part of growing up, especially when you have a really young football team, you gotta go through it," Campbell said. "Here at Iowa State, unfortunately, there’s not a blueprint to say, ‘This is how you did it, this is how you continue to grow.’"
Brock Purdy’s NFL prospects
National spotlight surrounded much of Brock Purdy's sophomore campaign last season for the Cyclones, but the light will grow even brighter now that Purdy will be a junior when the season kicks off in the fall — making him eligible to declare for the NFL draft.
Purdy broke multiple offensive records last season for Iowa State, throwing a school season record 3,982 yards and 27 touchdown passes in 2019. Purdy was also the first Iowa State quarterback since Alex Espinoza in 1986 to lead the Big 12 Conference in passing yards per game (306.3).
Campbell said he has not had any conversations with Purdy about his future in football after Iowa State, which Campbell said is something Purdy has not really put into consideration because he still wants to accomplish much more while he is still in Ames.
“I think for us, you know, obviously, we have been really fortunate here that we got really good players; there becomes times and places to have those conversations, but I think even for a guy like Brock, I think he knows there is so much work to be done," Campbell said. "[...] That’s the great thing about the [NFL], they are gonna give you honest feedback, they are gonna tell you exactly where you are and then they are gonna let you have a really honest conversation so a young man can make the best decision for him and his family.”
Re-al Mitchell's transfer
The transfer of backup quarterback Re-al Mitchell was an early shakeup in Iowa State's offseason.
Excited to see where the Lord leads me🙏🏽.“Yet not I, but through Christ in me.”God Bless. pic.twitter.com/kCguW7PYdB— Re-al Mitchell (@6god_mitchell) January 25, 2020
Mitchell was recruited by the Cyclones in 2018 as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN but saw the field in just six games in his time at Iowa State, with Purdy establishing himself as the clear starter in both his and Mitchell's second season.
Mitchell ended his career at Iowa State with 100 rushing yards and 14 yards passing.
Campbell said Mitchell's decision to leave Iowa State was what Mitchell thought was the best choice for himself and his family. Campbell said he would continue to support Mitchell.
“He’s a great young man; I certainly understand his situation," Campbell said. "Re-Al wants to play quarterback, that’s kind of what he’s always wanted to do. And I think for him, it’s a hard situation here to be in; Brock’s got two more years to play, but you wanna get on the field and you wanna make an impact."
Mitchell announced his intent to leave Iowa State on Jan. 25 in a tweet, saying he wants to "impact a community and program in all positive ways."
New coaching hires
Mick McCall and Dave Andrews headline some of the coaching staff changes that Campbell has made in the early stages of Iowa State's offseason.
Campbell said with him and other members of his staff still being young in the coaching field, bringing in a veteran coach like McCall who has studied the game and has brought big change to wherever he has gone will make everybody in the program better equipped for the season ahead.
McCall comes over from Northwestern after spending 12 seasons with the Wildcats.
“He’s a wealth of experience," Campbell said. "He’s coached quarterbacks, the running backs, he’s coached tight ends in his past. Mick’s a guy that you’re talking about an elite offensive mind that is coming to Iowa State football."
Andrews takes the role of director of football strength and conditioning from Rudy Wade, whose contract was not renewed by the school after joining the football program in 2015. Andrews was formerly the head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Pittsburgh for the last five seasons.
Campbell said Andrews will bring lots of energy into the program and saw that Andrews wants to connect the strength and conditioning aspect of football into every other piece in the program, which is something Campbell said he has wanted.
“I don’t think what we were doing in strength and conditioning was broken, but I felt like there were areas where we could really enhance ourselves, and I think what coach Andrews has is that worldly vision of how strength and conditioning can be intertwined with the football program to enhance who we are and what we have become in terms of our football team," Campbell said.