THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Coach Matt Campbell from Iowa State. Coach, welcome. Your thoughts about the upcoming season.
MATT CAMPBELL: First and foremost, honored and grateful to be here to represent Iowa State University and our football program here at Big 12 Media Day. Really excited to bring four of our outstanding leaders in our football program with us. Offensively, brought Jake Campos, one of our offensive tackles; Allen Lazard, obviously, one of our wide receivers. On the defensive side, transitioning to defense, our linebacker, Joel Lanning and then cornerback, junior cornerback, Brian Peavy. Really couldn’t be prouder of these four young men, their investment into our football program since the day we got here a year ago to the transition and really have done a great job leading our football team.
For me, I’m extremely — I’m proud, and I’m encouraged by what our football team has been able to do as we put an end to last football season. I think learned some great lessons across the board, and really you saw our football team, I think, get better as last football season went on. We were able to take some of those really great traits and really take our understanding and growth process into the months of January and February and March and saw our football team really come together.
I think, for me, so much of it is about the process that it takes to become successful and the day-in, day-out growth. As we get to monitor it now and be able to be with our guys through the months of spring and certainly the summer, June, July, and August, it’s been really a great reward to watch this football team continue to grow together and come together.
So we’re excited about the college football season. I know it’s upon us soon. With that said, I’ll certainly open it up to you guys.
Q. Coach, you mentioned Joel Lanning. How’s the transition been for him moving from quarterback to linebacker, and how has he handled it? And what do you think of his performance so far?
MATT CAMPBELL: Number one, I think the transition — that’s never an easy transition, you know, going from the quarterback to now going onto the defensive side of the football. But Joel has kind of been a beacon of excellence within our program really from the day that I’ve gotten to Iowa State. You talk about laying a foundation of attitude and effort, Joel was that and has been that.
I think we got to the end of the football season, and we saw one of our best football players not playing consistently for our football team, and it’s my job to find an answer because that’s not good enough. You know, as I looked at it, I think we initially talked after the season of maybe he’d be on the offensive side of the football, knowing that he’s a really good ball carrier, really good with the ball in his hands. And as I thought more of it, almost kind of put myself in a GM mentality of where do I see this guy? Does he have the ability, a phenomenal athlete, maybe one of the best athletes in college football, for a big skill football player, where does this guy really fit and where can he help our football program?
So he’s taken this leadership role and really excelled on the defensive side. I probably was taken back a little bit about just as much growth as he was able to make from practice 1 through 15. I do think, playing where he played, he really has an understanding about playing at that depth of where he played on the offensive side, but now it’s just a different mindset and a different mentality.
But Joel always played with a linebacker’s mentality at quarterback, but transitioning to now tackling and playing in space and doing those things, I think that’s been probably his biggest transition, but it’s been really fun to watch. I thought by practice 13, 14, 15, boy, he looked like he belonged for sure.
Q. I know Allen at least considered maybe leaving for the draft before deciding to come back. What kind of season do you guys expect from him as a senior, and what does he bring to this receiving corps?
MATT CAMPBELL: I think, when you see Allen Lazard, at least last year, when you watched him at his best, he’s really special. He’s got the ability to make all the catches. He’s got the ability to be that guy on third down, to make the first down, and he’s also the guy that can make almost every explosive play on the field.
You know, it was really important for us to get a guy like that back because, not only is he a great receiver, but he’s a guy that is huge in that locker room and came to Iowa State not just to play the game of football, but came to leave a legacy.
So I think for me it’s what he can do both with the ball in his hands going into his senior year, but also what kind of leadership he can provide our football program and continue to teach the young guys as we start to build a true tradition of what we want our football program to look like and act like, week in and week out.
Q. Iowa State’s had a strong home record at night. You have two home night games this year for sure on the calendar, including one against Texas. What makes Jack Trice Stadium such a difficult place to play a night game on the road?
MATT CAMPBELL: I think that’s one of the things that — I’ve been so impressed by Jack Trice Stadium, period. I think a year and a half ago, it’s what really probably brought me to Iowa State was having the ability to bring our Toledo team to Jack Trice Stadium and witness what game day was like there. I think it’s one of the most unique places in college football. When you turn the lights on and you have a chance to go into that environment, it seems like it only continues to get our fan base going.
I’ll say this and continue to say this, we’ve got one of the most special fan bases in all of college football. So you give those — our great fans a whole day to get ready and revved up for a football game, it makes it pretty unique.
Q. Matt, you guys have had varied success with grad transfers. I wonder what you think about that trend and the way that it’s headed in the game and just what it means for the sport and the welfare of student-athletes.
MATT CAMPBELL: I think two things, Mitch. That’s a great question. You look back, and you see this trend growing. What you do think, from a student-athlete standpoint, is if you get to — you earn the right to graduate from your university, and you’re in a situation, whether you’re not playing or you’re not happy with what your status is and you want to go to graduate school and play at another place, I think you’ve earned the right to do that.
We certainly have had success, and hopefully we’ve had enough in terms of what our program stands for and looks like that we get young men to get to their senior year, that it is important to play their senior year within our program, but also we get to the point where we’ve been able to bridge the gap a little bit in a program. And you look at what we’ve done here at Iowa State, and you come in and try to bridge the gap in some of those recruiting classes that maybe got missed before you get here. I think it’s been a huge advantage and something that’s allowed us to bring a young man who’s gotten his degree, who’s earned the right to make that move, and then bring certainly some knowledge and certainly some experience into our football program.
So hopefully that answers your question.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Bob Stoops. I know you weren’t around Bob as much as some of the other coaches in the conference, but could you speak to his influence, not just with regard to the program in Norman, but with regard to meetings and his day-to-day operations in the conference that you noticed.
MATT CAMPBELL: I think for me, Coach Stoops holds a special place in my heart because I’m a guy that grew up 30 miles down the road from where he grew up, similar upbringing. His father, head high school football coach, my father a head high school football coach in the same area. I can remember the first convention. We just got done playing in Mt. Union, and the first speaker I every heard was Bob Stoops down in New Orleans at one of the national conventions. I was so taken back by who he was and what he stood for.
I think one of the great things that you have about Bob Stoops is who he was, you know, I think up here in front of everybody, to who he was with his football team, to who he was with his coaches. I think he’s as respected as anybody in our profession, and that’s hard to find today. He’s a guy that lived it, that breathed it, and had a phenomenal career. I think how he built his own football program and the success they had, it’s a staple, and it’s a beacon that I think we all live — especially us young coaches, hope to be able to have a career like what Coach Stoops was able to do at Oklahoma.