The Iowa State Cyclones have battled towards respectability under gritty and inspiring head coach Paul Rhoads, with the recent pinnacle the scene in Ames after the Cyclones beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys to effectively end their aspirations of a conference title in 2011.
On the recruiting trail, however, the effectiveness of Rhoads as a coach hasn't shown up in the results to the same extent it has at times on the field.
None of the last three classes have broken into the top 50 nationally in the team rankings and the only four-star prospect by 247Sports or the composite rankings by the same service was 2013 offensive tackle signee Jake Campos, a consensus four-star recruit.
There's no recruiting base to speak of in the state of Iowa -- the state typically produces only one or two four-star prospects every year -- and the competition in Texas and Florida extreme, the main recruiting hotbeds the Cyclones attempt to tap for talent. Without a greater level of success on the field, it's going to be difficult for Iowa State to compete with the second-tier regional programs for prospects in those states.
Fortunately for Iowa State fans, the 2014 class has gotten off to a better start than did the 2013 class, centered around a rare top in-state talent the Cyclones have already locked down.
Allen Lazard, Urbandale (Iowa) athlete
6'5 | 202 pounds | **** | no. 7 athlete nationally | no. 2 player in Iowa
A prospect who will become the first four-star prospect to sign with Iowa State by 247Sports since the service started ranking players in the 2011 class, the big worry for Cyclone fans is whether or not Rhoads and his staff can hold on to their star commit until Signing Day.
A December of 2012 pledge to the Cyclones after a visit to Stanford, Lazard also visited Nebraska and made multiple trips to Iowa before making his decision. The Oregon Ducks have recently offered, joining Cal and the aforementioned schools as those that have extended offers to the star athlete.
A likely college wide receiver because it's extremely rare to see a 6'5 safety, the rankings are all over the place for Lazard -- Rivals has him as their top receiver in the country, but ESPN didn't rate him in the top 30.. The latter ranking could change after the tall pass catcher stood out enough at the Chicago NFTC camp to earn a prestigious invite:
The Urbandale (Iowa) High School star earned an invite to The Opening 2013. His athleticism and size combination are excellent. And Trent Dilfer told me that his ability to control his body and break routes sharply at his size is better than some NFL players.
In the 247Sports Composite rankings, Lazard is the no. 70 player in the country.
While not the fastest straight-line player around, Lazard has that strong size/speed combination and his secondary athletic skills are all above-average as well -- his leaping ability is excellent, as evidenced on the basketball court, and his lateral quickness is good. Where he really stands out is as a redzone threat because of his size and leaping ability, which translate to strong ball skills.
De'Monte Ruth, Dallas (Texas) Wilmer-Hutchins
5'9 | 150 pounds | *** | no. 155 cornerback nationally | no. 290 player in Texas
An early May of 2013 pledge, the second in the class for Rhoads and his staff, Ruth reports only one offer. Slightly undersized (though his Hudl page lists him at 5'11), Ruth is the type of under-the-radar prospect the Cyclones have to be able to identify, evaluate, and target before other major schools in the region.
Victor Holmes, La Porte (Texas) cornerback
5'11 | 181 pounds | *** | no. 124 cornerback nationally | no. 218 player in Texas
A prospect whose stock could still be set to take off during the spring evaluation period, Holmes is like Ruth in that he decided to commit before picking up another reported offer, pledging one day after the Dallas product in early May of 2013. With better size than Ruth and playoff experience gained from two postseason victories, Holmes also reports 4.41 speed in the 40.
Tommy Mister, Chicago (Ill.) St. Rita athlete
6'2 | 215 pounds | *** | no. 62 athlete nationally | no. 21 player in Texas
The second-rated commit in the Iowa State class as of mid-September, Mister chose the Cyclones in a major coup for head coach Paul Rhoads in late June over offers from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin. Mister came down to Michigan State and Iowa State, but chose the Cyclones in part because of his relationship with star commit Allen Lazard.
A future running back in Ames who could also see time as a wide receiver, Mister is built rather like current Alabama star TJ Yeldon, with a similar ability to run through arm tackles. Possessing strong balance, Mister is hard to bring down in the open field for his opponents, but he's more of a straight-line runner with limited slide- or jump-cutting ability and doesn't have much suddenness, though he is a strong athlete overall. Since he doesn't run particularly well behind his pads, either, wide receiver may be his best position in college, especially since he flashes the ability to high-point the football.
Still, Mister is an impressive athlete of the type that Iowa State has had trouble landing in recent years, especially in head-to-head competitions with top-tier Big 10 programs, so his addition to the class is extremely important for the future of football in Ames.
Sam Seonbuchner, Hartland (Wisc.) Arrowhead linebacker
6'2 | 215 pounds | *** | no. 85 linebacker nationally | no. 7 player in Wisconsin
A May pledge to the Cyclones, Seonbuchner also held offers from Ball State, Bowling Green, North Dakota State, and Ohio before picking up a Pittsburgh offer following his commitment.
For a three-star prospect who ranks as one of the top talents in his state, why was the offer list so depressed for Seonbuchner? The answers lie, essentially, in his frame and athleticism -- neither one are particularly impressive, though he has the overall measurables in height and weight (assuming they are accurate) of a BCS-level prospect. So even though Seonbuchner could be exposed athletically in a conference that feasts on linebackers who lack high-level movement skills, Seonbuchner possesses a knack for getting into passing lanes, blocking kicks, and making plays off the edge against the run.
Kory Kadanko, West De Pere (Wisc.) offensive tackle
6'6 | 320 pounds | *** | no. 88 offensive tackle nationally | no. 8 player in Wisconsin
Another prospect passed over by the Badgers, Kadanko visited Madison in March, but never received an offer and committed to Iowa State in early June. On the hoof, Kadanko has the attributes necessary to play tackle in tackle, but his athleticism and pass blocking are both questionable enough that he may end up inside at guard, especially since he plays right tackle for his high school -- not usually a positive sign for playing outside at the next level.
Cole Anderson, League City (Texas) Clear Falls offensive guard
6'5 | 275 pounds | *** | no. 76 offensive guard nationally | no. 210 player in Texas
When Oregon State filled up their final spot along the offensive line, Anderson knew that it was time to jump on another offer from a school with limited spots -- Iowa State. Prior to his October 13 commitment, Anderson held offers from Air Force, Arkansas State, Houston, Indiana, North Texas, Rice, SMU, Texas State, UTSA, Tulane, and Tulsa. A possible offensive tackle in college because of his height, Anderson plays left tackle for Clear Falls and creates movement with his combo blocking and packs a decent punch for a prospect who needs to add serious mass and strength to compete in college. Persistence after he establishes contact may be his best attribute.
Jauan Wesley, Harvey (Ill.) Thornton Township wide receiver
5'11 | 160 pounds | *** | no. 134 wide receiver nationally | no. 35 player in Illinois
The lean wide receiver joined the Iowa State class in late July over offers from Ball State, Illinois, Michigan State, Toledo, and Western Michigan, a day after visiting Ames for a visit. A classic slot receiver prospect who plays on the outside for Thornton Township, Welsey appears to have good top-end speed, but truly excels in short areas, where he uses his burst and agility to weave his way through traffic.
Martinez Syria, Houston (Texas) Nimitz running back
6'0 | 205 pounds | *** | no. 111 running back nationally | no. 229 player in Texas
A rather under-the-radar prospect after a junior season that saw him carry the ball only 41 times, Syria committed to Iowa State in June after picking up an offer from the Cyclones, which was apparently his first and only offer, according to 247Sports. Despite the overall lack of production and offers, Syria has the ability to bounce runs around the corner and the burst to run away from opponents, while also showing in limited film that he can protect the football, as he makes sure it is high and tight when he enters traffic.
Scott Schaffner, Peculiar (Miss.) Raymore-Peculiar tight end
6'5 | 220 pounds | *** | no. 76 tight end nationally | no. 27 player in Missouri
Another June pledge for Rhoads and his staff, Schaffner committed two days after receiving his offer. He also held an offer from Florida Atlantic. An outside receiver in what appears to be a triple-option offense, Schaffner will have to add weight and adjust to playing with his hand on the ground if Iowa State wants to use him as an attached tight end in their offense. He has a reported 40 time of 4.60 seconds, along with a 33--inch vertical, though it's hard to say from film whether either of those are particularly believable, as Schaffner often finds himself running behind secondaries and often doesn't have to attack the football because of his size.
Reggan Northrup, Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast linebacker
6'2 | 190 pounds | *** | no. 101 outside linebacker nationally | no. 223 player in Florida
North Carolina and Rutgers were the other BCS schools to offer Northup prior to his June 23 commitment to Iowa State. Northrup is another player who will need time to develop at the next level in terms of strength gains and in learning to play in space, since he plays defensive end for First Coast. In fact, Northrup is a difficult player to project since he plays in short areas in high school, making it difficult to get a feel for his potential range.
Orion Salters, Dallas (Texas) Jesuit athlete
5'10 | 160 pounds | ** | no. 181 athlete nationally | no. 340 player in Texas
An all-purpose back for Jesuit who gained 1,200 yards from scrimmage last season, Salters accepted his lone offer from Iowa State in the middle of June after a torn labrum helped scare away other teams. Expected to play wide receiver in Ames, Salters is extremely slender, but is a good athlete for his size with SPARQ verified testing numbers of 4.52 in the 40 and a 32.5-inch vertical leap.
It's somewhat unusual for smaller players with quick feet to have the top-end speed of Salters, who also flashes the ability to high-point the football and track it in the air to make body adjustments. His size will make him a niche player in college, at best, but his quickness could allow him to become a contributor.
Will Windham, Scherz (Texas) Clemens offensive guard
6'4 | 325 pounds | ** | no. 108 offensive guard nationally | no. 358 player in Texas
Another prospect whose only offer is from Iowa State, Windham joined the class in late July. A right tackle for Clemens, Windham will move inside in college due to his height and weight, but he's reasonably mobile and can use his feet to help him maintain contact with defenders. On the downside, he doesn't have the most powerful punch and will be dealing with much bigger players inside in college.
Dedric Brinson, Lake Wales (Fla.) cornerback
6'2 | 180 pounds | ** | no. 172 cornerback nationally | no. 302 player in Florida
Despite sitting as the lowest-ranked player on the Iowa State commitment list as of late September, the mid-September pledge chose the Cyclones over offers from Duke, Indiana, UCF, Wake Forest, and Wisconsin, giving him one of the better offer lists around for a two-star prospect. Tall for a cornerback at 6'2, the question for Brinson will be whether he has the transition ability to stay at cornerback in college or whether he will make the move to safety. Highlights are rather sparse for Brinson, who also plays wide receiver for Lake Wales, but he did record eight interceptions as a junior.
National Signing Day is still more than four months away. Verbal commitments are non-binding and change frequently.
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