Iowa State: Why Matt Campbell is not sweating the loss of David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler
AMES, Ia. — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell saw this coming.
Before the 2018 season started, Campbell knew that big seasons by running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Hakeem Butler could propel them into the 2019 NFL draft conversation. So Campbell and his staff started planning for what the future might look like without the two.
Those plans will come in handy now that the two Iowa State standouts declared for the NFL draft.
"As a program, we’ve been planning, to be honest with you, that both those guys probably wouldn’t be here going forward,” Campbell said. “And I think that’s a tribute to the program. Two of our players were able to maximize their ability well enough that not only were they confident but I think people around them were confident that they would make a great decision to go play at a really high level.”
Montgomery rushed for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He ranked third in the Big 12 Conference and 23rd nationally in rushing, averaging 101.3 rushing yards in 2018. Butler hauled in a team-high 60 receptions for a single-season school record 1,318 yards. He ranked third in the nation in yards per catch (22 yards).
Campbell said their early departures aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in Campbell’s eyes, it’s another sign that the program is headed in a positive direction.
“More so from my end and I think from our program’s end, we’re really excited for those guys and really proud of them, and we feel like it’s a feather in everybody’s cap that not only did we develop those guys but those guys were able to maximize their opportunities from a year ago,” Campbell said.
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Campbell said Iowa State has been able to adequately prepare for life after Montgomery and Butler. The Cyclones brought in a pair of four-star running backs in Jirehl Brock and Breece Hall with their latest recruiting class. Campbell believes Iowa State’s wide receiver room already includes an abundance of talent with players like Deshaunte Jones returning.
Campbell said Iowa State’s experience at other positions should also help the offense adapt. Quarterback Brock Purdy returns. So do tight ends Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen. Iowa State's offensive line also returns all five starters.
So even though Iowa State loses its two biggest stars on offense, Campbell said there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what the Cyclones can do offensively going forward.
“There is a lot of talent, young talent, on our roster and some of those guys are going to have to grow up,” Campbell said. “But I think when you’re talking about real programs, that happens. When you lose good players, you’ve got talented young players waiting in the wings and kind of everyone said the same thing last year. They felt like when we lost Allen (Lazard) and certainly lost Joel (Lanning), ‘What are you guys going to do?’
"You’re fortunate that you work really hard to develop those guys in the offseason and you hope you’ve got guys that are ready to step in those roles and maximize those opportunities.”