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Peterson: Questions about Iowa State football's offense? Offensive coordinator Tom Manning has answers

Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning had a Zoom call with reporters for about 20 minutes this week. He re-emphasized that Trevor Downing’s transition from guard to center is going very well. He talked about the leadership role running back Jirehl Brock has assumed more than how he’s handling being the No. 1 running back. Quarterback Hunter Dekkers’ name came up a few times, as did the tight end situation.

So, let’s go Three Questions With Tom Manning.

Question: Does Hunter Dekkers having a strong arm mean more down-field passes than Iowa State has thrown in the past?

“He certainly does a very good job throwing the ball down the field,” Manning said. “Just because you have a strong arm doesn’t mean you’re great at throwing the ball down the field.

“Hunter is very capable of doing that. That’s one of the things (in which) he has a chance.”

More:Peterson: Iowa State's Hunter Dekkers has 'superstar' in him, says Xavier Hutchinson

Jared Rus is Iowa State's lone starting tight end returning for the 2022 football season.

However ...

“There’s a lot more to playing quarterback than just being able to throw the football down the field,” Manning went on, speaking about consistency and accuracy. “Hunter’s been fun to be around. He’s had a lot of repetitions. He’s had his opportunity in games. For him, it is a little different once you have the opportunity to get the reps. He’s doing a great job.

“In general, we’re trying not only to figure out the best ways to use the players, but also, what are things we need to spend time on from a fundamental standpoint during the summer?"

Question: With stalwarts Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen gone, what’s the future of three tight-end formations that have been so much a part of the offense?

“I don’t think as much,” Manning said, suggesting that could change depending on how players progress during the offseason. “It’s certainly something we’d still like to have the ability to do. It’s still going to be about players, formations and plays.”

Returning starter Jared Rus, along with DeShawn Hanika, Tyler Moore and Easton Dean took a majority of the tight end snaps during last Friday’s workout at Ames High School.

“It’s been really good competition,” Manning said.

But as many three-tight formations as a season ago? No promises.

“Certainly, we feel strongly that’s a big part of the offense,” Manning said. “We’ll have to see exactly how it looks.”

More:With stalwarts gone, Xavier Hutchinson becomes new leader of Iowa State offense

Question: What has Trevor Downing’s transition from guard to center looked like?

“Trev’s doing a great job,” Manning said. “It’s been kind of fun watching that group. They’ve made great strides. There’s a lot of guys that are doing a great job right now.”

Iowa State's Trevor Downing prepares to snap the ball during last season's Cheez-It Bowl game against Clemson.

Reporters talked to Downing, too. Here’s some short takes from his 10 or so minutes:

Looking back at the offensive line from last season: “At times, we’ve under-achieved. At times it’s been good.”

What he likes about playing offensive line: “I take pride keeping our quarterback clean. I like the griminess of it. I like getting my hands dirty. We’re the largest position group on the field at the same time. We’ve got to play five guys as one. That’s what I like about it.”

They’re also competitive, not on the field, but when playing pool: “It gets pretty competitive. We’ve broken a couple pool cues down there.”

On transitioning positions: “It’s about being more comfortable playing center. These spring reps are good for me.”

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson embarked on his 50th year of writing sports for the Des Moines Register in December 2021. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.