Iowa State football lost offensive coordinator Tom Manning to the NFL on Saturday, as he took an assistant job with the Indianapolis Colts.
An NFL team being interested in Manning’s ability is a testament to his abilities and what he showed in two seasons as a coordinator for Iowa State. However, it also means head coach Matt Campbell has a difficult decision to make.
Campbell has emphasized building a culture ever since arriving at Iowa State. The Cyclones went from a team that was competitive in year one to a team that won big-time games. Iowa State beat a pair of top-five opponents in 2017. It only had one win over a top-five opponent in the history of the program coming into the year.
But maintaining a culture and authority can be difficult when trying to break in new staff members. It’s even harder after losing Manning, who has been Campbell’s offensive coordinator every year since his first head coaching job at Toledo. Campbell’s culture faces its greatest challenge yet.
The Cyclones made major offensive improvements in 2017, which helped spur their first bowl game since 2012. In fact, Manning presided over the offense for one of the most exciting seasons in recent Iowa State memory.
The Cyclones moved up to No. 14 in the AP Top 25, which was the highest since Dan McCarney led Iowa State to No. 9 in 2002. In fact, Iowa State has only been ranked in 11 seasons out of 120.
Manning’s offense played a critical part. Despite losing quarterback Jacob Park to personal issues, Manning helped build the offense into a perfect complimentary piece to the defense.
Wide receiver Allen Lazard became just the fourth Cyclone to reach 1,000 receiving yards. Quarterback Kyle Kempt went from third-string walk-on to setting the Cyclone completion percentage record. Running back David Montgomery elevated himself to arguably best in the Big 12, and earned All-America honors from Pro Football Focus.
Manning also earned FootballScoop’s offensive line coach of the year in 2015 while at Toledo. The Cyclones were still building up the line in Ames, but losing a coach of his aptitude will make things more difficult.
FootballScoop is reporting that Campbell will likely lead the offense next season. However, he still does have another assistant spot on his staff after internally promoting Jeff Myers as offensive line coach. Myers’ promotion has not been officially announced yet, however.
Iowa State also had to replace running backs coach Lou Ayeni, who left to take a job at Northwestern, his alma mater. Illinois assistant Nate Scheelhaase took the job.
At this point, just five of the nine assistant coaches are offensive assistants. That doesn’t count Campbell, who comes from an offensive background. He served as offensive coordinator at Mount Union and Toledo before earning the head job at the latter program. Most likely, the offensive staff is complete.
Over the past few seasons, most coaches have moved away from play calling. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said it helped open him up for more big-picture duties. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy also handed over play calling duties to an assistant.
However, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, TCU coach Gary Patterson and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury all call plays. All lead that rank among the best in the nation. Balancing that workload can be difficult. Having a coordinator on the other side that they trust is critical; Campbell has that with defensive coordinator Jon Heacock.
Campbell built his program at Iowa State with assistants that he trusts. Several came with him from Toledo. Involuntary staff turnover means coaches are doing things right to become attractive to other programs. It does make maintaining a culture harder.
Iowa State has plenty of talent coming back next season. Montgomery will be the workhorse on offense, while Kempt is back under center. Wide receiver Hakeem Butler appears ready to step into a starring role.
The offense has plenty of potential. Campbell’s decisions this offseason will help determine whether Iowa State can maintain a strong offense – and compete for a Big 12 title.
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