Cyclone offense evolving with Manning’s return

Something is in the works with Iowa State’s offense. Big and small, there’s change coming.

The source of those changes can be traced back to one source: Iowa State’s offensive coordinator Tom Manning, who returns from a stint as tight ends coach with the Indianapolis Colts. 

“With Manning coming back, there’s so much more energy around us,” said tight end Chase Allen of Manning’s return. “We’ve got really fun stuff to do. We watch a lot of [Indianapolis] Colts film and watch their tight ends.”

There’s been a different energy from Iowa State players and coaches this spring. The mood is hopeful, but with the proof of two 8-5 seasons as a springboard to build off of.

Iowa State certainly had its moments of promise on offense in 2018, particularly with the rise of Brock Purdy, but the Cyclones were heavily reliant on David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler to make the offense run properly. 

Finishing 83rd in the country in points per game at 26.8 and 95th in total offense, averaging only 370.1 yards per game, losing two of the best offensive Iowa State players in recent memory sounds like a recipe for a big step back. 

Iowa State running back David Montgomery runs a play during the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28. The Cyclones fell to the Cougars 28-26.

Even so, the Cyclones have been preparing for replacing the two. With the return of Manning, the playbook on offense has begun to open up, players have said.

“It’s a lot more detail-oriented,” Purdy said. “A lot of formations and motions and things like that we’ve added.”

Manning’s success in his one-year stint with the Colts has meant a lot to the tight end room, but Purdy and backup quarterback Re-al Mitchell have said it’s had a big impact on them as well.

Mitchell said Manning brings a different vibe to the offense. 

“We have a lot of the same concepts, change the names around a bit,” Mitchell said. “That guy, that man is a great coach and he knows what he’s talking about, so just trust in his process and we’ll go far.”

In 2018, Iowa State didn’t have an offensive coordinator, with position coaches having input and coach Matt Campbell calling the plays. The result was an offense that was at times too conservative and predictable, and with a mid-season adjustment period from the more stationary Kyle Kempt and Zeb Noland to the scrambling abilities of Brock Purdy, the struggling offensive line had to make on-the-fly adjustments. 

Manning said earlier in the spring he’d add to the base the Cyclones already have and utilize their versatility. 

“Different personnel, in general, I think is a good thing,” Manning said. “It’s our job to find the best way to fit those pieces.”

Tight end Charlie Kolar steps over West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson Jr. during the football game at Jack Trice Stadium on Oct. 13.

That base will likely have a greater focus on using Purdy’s mobility to the Cyclones’ advantage even more so than in the last seven games of the 2018 season when Purdy carried the ball 100 times (including sacks) for 308 yards. 

Purdy said there hasn’t been a ton of additions to the quarterback run game in the spring, but with the running back position in flux and any number of potential starters in the mix, his running ability will help to supplement a running game that is expected to take a step backwards. 

There’s also the small matter of replacing Matthew Eaton and Hakeem Butler as wide receiver.

The Cyclones are trying to counter that by spreading the wealth. 

“All the plays that Manning’s putting in, we’re using everybody,” Purdy said. “It’s not just the ‘X’ position. Tight ends are getting the ball, slot receivers, tailbacks out of the backfield… We got depth this year, so, I mean, anybody can get a spot at any time.”

That depth has been building since Campbell took the job in 2016, and in 2019, the Cyclones will see if it can flourish under a revamped system.

It has to if Iowa State wants to take the next step offensively.

Source: Iowa State Daily