Preparation for week one of the regular season for Iowa State is underway, offering opportunity for the Cyclones to reflect on how they got to this point compared to a season ago.
During media interviews throughout the week, players and coaches recapped the offseason and excitement for the upcoming season.
“I think every year is a little bit different, there's been so much change in this offseason for us,” Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell said on Tuesday. “I think the uniqueness of the challenges for myself, maybe our staff and everybody, in the program in terms of how do we find the inches of the growth that we need to make in our program.”
And while a sense of normalcy with the return of football season is setting in, COVID-19 still remains an important topic to handle.
Earlier in the summer, Campbell said that the team had 'well over' a 90 percent vaccination rate. On Tuesday, Campbell said that vaccinations are still happening but the team is not 100 percent vaccinated.
“I think our job is to just continue to try to give our young men the best information on how to keep them safe, and how to help themselves moving forward," Campbell said. "That's really our job in terms of the teaching aspect of it."
Campbell also said he’ll let his players make the decision that they think is best for them and their families.
The offseason leading up to 2020 was different for every team in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, this past offseason appears to have been closer to what a “normal” offseason may be like.
Campbell said this offseason allowed the team to challenge itself and get out of its comfort zone.
“I think that there was a great enjoyment of change, and it kind of got us out of our comfort zone, I think really it forced us to uniquely learn, do different things and I think we’re really doing it in the best benefit of ‘man we're doing everything in our power to put our kids in the best position to be successful,’ all of our kids,” Campbell said.
The offseason didn’t drag on or fly by, Campbell said, but senior safety Greg Eisworth said it kind of did because of the day-to-day process.
“I just think like our day-to-day process, Coach [Dave] Andrews, man, our strength coach, if you ever meet that guy, he's like, order and so when you have somebody that's like that, and then you have a head coach like Campbell where everything is the same, It's hard not to follow with that,” Eisworth said Tuesday. “You come in every day to attack, what I got to do the next day, and you're so focused on that day, then recovering and that's it.” Days start flying by and you don't even have time to think about anything else, it’s just one day at a time.”
While Iowa State, the seventh-ranked team at the FBS level, had a full offseason, Northern Iowa, who is ranked 21st amongst FCS teams, was playing games in the spring as opposed to the fall.
This was due to the Missouri Valley Conference moving its football season from the fall of 2020 to this past spring.
“I almost feel like in the spring season, they [Northern Iowa] had so many, so many challenges in terms of some injuries,” Campbell said.
Campbell said this may have benefited the Panthers by having less time in between the last time their players saw the field in live action. Campbell said Iowa State has worked diligently to prepare for the start of the season and that they are focused on one game at a time.
The last time Iowa State played Northern Iowa was in 2019, with Iowa State squeaking out a win in triple overtime. Last season, the Cyclones started off on the wrong foot, losing to Louisiana 31-14 in the season opener.
Now the Cyclones are hoping to avoid a start like that this year, after having a full offseason at their disposal.
“I think just the way we've practiced in this offseason really, we've had a great spring, fall camp was awesome, as far as just the chemistry of the offense, and then the defense as well; we’ve got a lot of leaders coming back,” Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy said Tuesday.
“I think our mindset is right, like, obviously, we know the past couple years, we've had a slow start the first couple of games and so we understand what we have to do to make sure that we have a hot start.”