AMES — Iowa State coach Matt Campbell adjusted how he did fall camp for the 2021 season.
That could be seen as risky for a team that finished as the No. 9 team in the country last season and begins this one as the No. 7 team. But as defensive coordinator Jon Heacock has said, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
So, instead of doing first team-offense versus second-team defense, and vice versa, Iowa State is practicing first team versus first team.
“It’s not just that it’s the ones versus the ones,” Heacock said. “It’s the veteran guys versus the veteran guys. You’re not able to line up and half (effort) your way through practice.
“If you line up with that mentality against our guys on the other side of the football, they’ll wear you out really fast — mentally, physically and athletically.”
The feedback the players have given have been resoundingly positive.
“I love it,” quarterback Brock Purdy said. “Right now, I’m going against an All-American linebacker in Mike Rose. Not to mention O’Rien Vance and Jake Hummel. Then you throw in all of the defensive backs on the back end of the defense and then the defensive line up front. To be able to go against them every single day in all of the drills, we’re just helping each other out.
“I can make pre-snap changes, they can make pre-snap changes — it’s a mental game we play with each other. Before, we could get away with some things when we were going against guys who didn’t have as much experience. But now, literally every rep we have to pay attention to the little things.”
The lineman don’t have quite as broad of a viewpoint as Purdy does, but it’s been just as helpful for them.
“When you see everything that we see at practice, there’s not going to be anything I haven’t seen when we go into a game,” defensive lineman Enyi Uwazurike said. “This is as beneficial as it could possibly be for me.
“Nobody is taking their reps for granted and that’s the best thing we can have.”
Campbell said during media day that all he and his coaching staff knew as a bunch of Division III players was to just work harder. All of their problems could be solved with enough work.
But after evaluating last year and everything that brought with it, he and his staff figured out that sometimes it’s not about pushing to work harder. It’s about working smarter.
So instead of getting a bunch of reps against the second team or a scout team, they’re getting condensed good-on-good reps to help highlight the shortcomings and make practice and coaching more efficient.
“It’s a great monitor for us as coaches,” Heacock said. “If you don’t show up to practice, you’ll get embarrassed. That’s the easiest way I can say it. There are enough players on both sides that the challenge has become real every single day. When you get a veteran, senior group that competes against each other every single day, that makes you better.”
The jury is technically still out on if this fall camp method will work, but Heacock has liked what he’s seen.
“I respect our players and what they’ve done this fall,” Heacock said. “This isn’t the same group we had last year, which is a blessing. They’ve grown.
“Going against our offense every day, either you’re going to get embarrassed or you’re going to get better. I think our guys have accepted that challenge on both sides of the ball and they’ve gotten better.”
Originally Appeared Here