Takeaways from Iowa State football head coach Matt Campbell's media day press conference
AMES — Iowa State football on Tuesday hosted media day ahead of the 2022 season, and Matt Campbell spoke with reporters for the first time since Big 12 media days last month.
With several key features of the Cyclones program departing after last season – Breece Hall, Brock Purdy, Charlie Kolar and others – a new-look Iowa State team will take the field this year. From a new starting quarterback in Hunter Dekkers to an open competition in the running back room, Campbell addressed several gaps left by the departure of last season’s stars.
Here are the key takeaways from Campbell’s press conference on Tuesday:
Expectations for Xavier Hutchinson
Hall led the Big 12 in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, while Iowa State’s receiving game stood on the shoulders of junior college transfer Xavier Hutchinson and a pair of tight ends in Kolar and Chase Allen. Kolar and Allen are pros now, leaving Hutchinson in a larger role.
In his second season with the Cyclones, Hutchinson was third in the Big 12 with 987 receiving yards and had five touchdowns while averaging 75.9 yards per game. In doing so, he cemented his place as a starter in Campbell’s offense. It was a rise to the top of a Power 5 program that surprised some people, but not Hutchinson’s head coach.
“I don’t know if Xavier was ever a guy that maybe surprised me in terms of what he brought to our program,” Campbell said during media day. “I think I had a really good understanding of what we were getting in Xavier Hutchinson when he came here.”
This could be the season Hutchinson shows what he’s fully capable of. Last year, Kolar led the team in receiving touchdowns with six. Hall had three and Chase Allen had two. Long story short, Purdy had lots of options in his receiving corps and took full advantage.
With all three of those players gone, Dekkers will still have an elite receiver in Hutchinson. Should Campbell need other options for Dekkers to throw to, Sean Shaw Jr. and Jaylin Noel are two names to keep an eye on.
Brock Purdy out, Hunter Dekkers in
Purdy took over in Iowa State’s game against Oklahoma State as a freshman and never looked back. He held on to the starting position through the end of the 2021 season, after which he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Draft.
That means it’s Dekkers’ time to shine. The redshirt sophomore appeared in four games for Iowa State last season, recording 20 completions on 36 attempts. He threw for 193 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception.
Knowing that the starting quarterback role is on the line, Dekkers stepped up his preparation this offseason – and Campbell took notice.
“I think about how he went about the offseason, how he studied and how he prepared in January, February for spring practice,” Campbell said. “I think really how he produced in spring practice and the kind of spring practice he had, and equally how he led this summer. I think those are all really positive traits.”
Will McDonald, O’Rien Vance return to the defense
Last season, McDonald was 11th in the Big 12 in tackles for loss (11 solo and four assists for 84 yards). While his on-field performance put McDonald’s name in the NFL Draft conversation, he decided to return to Iowa State for his senior season.
When asked about the conversations leading to that decision, Campbell said it might have been about more than just playing another season.
“I think he had a real option and a real opportunity, given great feedback,” Campbell said. “I would say two things (are) probably really important for Will. Number one is finishing his degree. … He’ll be the first young man in his family to get his college degree. Think that means a whole lot to Will McDonald.
“Then the other piece of it, just really consistently getting himself to be one of the best defensive linemen in the country. He felt like there was still room for growth and opportunity to grow in some of those areas.”
McDonald’s return to the defense is a huge win for Campbell, and should O’Rien Vance stay healthy Iowa State could have a tough defense for opponents to face.
Vance appeared in just nine games last season but made his presence felt in those contests. He recorded a season-high nine tackles in Iowa State’s bowl game against Clemson and had at least two tackles in all but two games.
Just how much of an impact could Vance have this season?
“A healthy O’Rien Vance is really big for Iowa State football,” Campbell said.
Alyssa Hertel is the college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell talks Hunter Dekkers, defense