2012 Program Preview - Iowa St.

Steele. Jantz. (Photo by Reese Strickland/US PRESSWIRE)

Since Dan McCarney left Ames after the 2006 season, Iowa State hasn't fully found their footing.

Gene Chizik put in two years before heading to Auburn and winning a national championship on the back of Cam Newton's Heisman-winning season. Paul Rhoads took over in 2009, and things are trending in the right direction for the Cyclones.

He's taken them to two bowl games in three years. After a scary season opener in which Iowa St. escaped with a 1-point win over Northern Iowa, ISU would go on to pick up key wins over Texas Tech and, in one of the upsets of the year, Oklahoma State.

Given the weak state of bringing in notable talent through recruiting in years past, this program needs incremental improvements. Finding a way to near the .500 mark in conference play or against top 25 teams would help; last year, they went 3-6 in the Big XII and were just 2-5 against ranked teams.

The real pressure here is on starting QB Steele Jantz. Coming off a season truncated by injury, he'll define the team's form going into a tough October schedule. The final month of the season? Well, let's get there first.

After the jump, the prospects worth noting as well as some games and matchups to pencil into your calendar.

References

Wide Right & Natty Lite (SB Nation Iowa St. community), SB Nation team page, official team site, Bill Connelly's preview for SBN, CBS Sports preview

Notable offensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Josh Lenz
WR
Sr.
UD
James White RB
RS Jr.
UD
Tom Farniok
C
RS Soph.
UD


Notable defensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Jake Knott
OLB
Sr.
5
A.J. Klein
MLB
Sr.
6
Jeremy Reeves
CB
Sr.
UD
Jake McDonough
DT
RS Sr.
UD
Jacques Washington
FS
RS Jr.
5


Summary

The linebacking crew offers two solid prospects in Knott and Klein. Washington may find it difficult to succeed in the secondary with the departure of CB Leonard Johnson, currently on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster. I could see WRs A that could play their way into day three contention if Jantz can improve the QB position for Iowa State -- Aaron Horne and Albert Gary (who will play this season after receiving a three-year probation sentence for armed robbery). And TE Kurt Hammerschmidt is a big, big dude. Worth keeping an eye on.

Key games

Iowa (away) - Week 2 (Sat., Sep. 8 - 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)

A year ago, Iowa State pulled off a huge overtime win over the Hawkeyes for the Cy-Hawk trophy, AKA the Hey, Family, Let's Enjoy This Corn And Aw Shucks, Pa, That Corn's Just Great Trophy. Sadly, the CornFam Trophy was quickly husked and shucked and thrown away, but for a short while that was the actual trophy.

In any case, if Iowa State wants to improve their standing in state and turn their recruiting losses (see: TE Jon Wisnieski and OT Jake Campos) into recruiting wins (see: QB/ATH Joel Lanning), winning this game would be a great way to start that effort off in 2012.

Kansas State (home) - Week 7 (Sat., Oct. 13 - TBD)

At the end of the intro, I mentioned ISU's tough October. It's really not just their October, but the final eight games of the season - at TCU, v. Kansas St., at Oklahoma St., vs. Baylor, vs. OU, at Texas, at Kansas, vs. West Virginia. Yikes.

The Kansas game is the most winnable, but Iowa St. might be able to challenge the Wildcats when they travel to Ames in mid-October. Baylor's in play too, but given KSU's top-25 ranking going into week one, this would be the bigger win.

Key matchups

QB Steele Jantz v. Baylor CBs Joe Williams & K.J. Morton, Week 9 - Sat., Oct. 27

If Iowa State is going to hold off the Bears at home, Jantz is going to have to beat the Bears' secondary. It's not the easiest task ahead of them this year, but it's far from the most difficult.

LBs A.J. Klein & Jake Knott v. Texas RBs Malcolm Brown & Joe Bergeron, Week 11 - Sat., Nov. 10

If the Cyclones' two standout linebackers want to approach day two status, this late-season contest provides a great opportunity to show up against a strong running attack in the Longhorns backfield. Texas' two sophomores are talented enough to punish most defenses. Texas went ahead and added the top high school RB in the country just to show off.

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