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The big 2014 Iowa State football guide: From slow build to rebuild

Iowa State's offense might have more upside now than at any time in recent history, but it probably won't get much help from a young, rebuilt defense. ISU isn't hopeless, but the Cyclones are probably in for another down year in 2014.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. The downside of low upside

For all intents and purposes, Iowa State recruits like a Conference USA team, or at least what used to be Conference USA and is basically now the American Athletic Conference. There aren't many big-time recruits in the Cyclones' backyard, and Paul Rhoads is more of a talent sculptor than a talent finder.

But Rhoads just keeps figuring out ways to make Iowa State a little better each year.

-- 2013 Iowa State football's 10 things to know

Safe to say, the novelty has worn off a bit in Ames. The scalp-collecting has slowed, the recruiting hasn't picked up to any major degree, and four straight losing seasons have to be wearing a bit on Iowa State fans.

You know the story pretty well by now. Paul Rhoads' Cyclones took down a 10-win Nebraska team in Lincoln in 2009, won at Texas in 2010 (and very nearly beat Nebraska again), and handed a 12-win Oklahoma State team its only loss in 2011. Ames quickly became the place you didn't want to visit as a favorite.

But after three bowls in four years, the tide has turned in the wrong way. Iowa State has lost 13 of its last 17 games. The quarterback position has still never been resolved. And in 2013, we saw what happened if some bad injury luck goes against the Cyclones. When you recruit like a mid-level AAC team, and you lose a chunk of your first string, you begin to play like a low-level AAC team. Without a deeper level of athleticism upon which to call, ISU cratered, going 3-9 and losing to Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Oklahoma by an average score of 55-13.

That's the bad news. The good news, as it were, is that ISU at least isn't that far away from its 2009-12 level. The offense, though limited, returns nearly everybody and welcomes a new offensive coordinator and a rare pair of young four-star receivers. The defense ... well, it's still super thin, but it might be healthy this time. There's a bit more upside and decent experience on the more troubled side of the ball, and at the very least, ISU isn't too many breaks (if any) away from getting back to the .500 level.

But how long is that enough? The scalps on the wall are getting a little bit dusty, and the 6-7 seasons lose their charm after a while, even if they're closer to the norm than last year's 3-9 campaign.

Paul Rhoads is playing, and will continue to play, the long game in Ames. Quite a few of his better players are young, and he's not exactly on a win-or-else hot seat this year. But with Big 12 contenders Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma all visiting Ames, it's not be a bad idea to score another big upset and remind locals why he became so popular in the first place.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 78
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug Northern Iowa N/A 20-28 L 23.3 - 42.6 L
14-Sep Iowa 29 21-27 L 30.8 - 26.1 W
26-Sep at Tulsa 94 38-21 W 26.5 - 33.3 L
3-Oct Texas 35 30-31 L 32.5 - 25.8 W
12-Oct at Texas Tech 43 35-42 L 18.6 - 35.4 L -6.3
19-Oct at Baylor 7 7-71 L 15.4 - 31.5 L -5.7
26-Oct Oklahoma State 8 27-58 L 25.7 - 28.5 L -7.2
2-Nov at Kansas State 24 7-41 L 17.7 - 30.1 L -8.3
9-Nov TCU 44 17-21 L 17.3 - 25.6 L -11.3
16-Nov at Oklahoma 20 10-48 L 22.7 - 39.3 L -11.3
23-Nov Kansas 101 34-0 W 42.5 - 23.9 W -4.3
30-Nov at West Virginia 76 52-44 W 32.1 - 40.6 L -5.4
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -5.1% 81 -4.0% 81 +1.7% 34
Points Per Game 24.8 90 36.0 109
Adj. Points Per Game 25.4 92 31.9 100

2. Two games is not a trend...

...but if you're looking for hope in Ames, you have to start with the last two games. After a year of injuries and feckless offensive performance -- ISU averaged better than 5.1 yards per play just once in its first nine games against FBS opponents and scored 68 points in five games between October 19 and November 16 -- the Cyclones put up 1,077 yards (6.9 per play) and scored 86 points in the final two. Yes, those two games were against Kansas and West Virginia, but you've got to start somewhere. And even accounting for opponent, the final two performances were impressive.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 32.0, ISU 28.3 (minus-3.7)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (next 6 games): Opponent 31.7, ISU 19.6 (minus-12.1)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 2 games): ISU 37.3, Opponent 32.3 (plus-5.0)

Between injuries and a generally unsettled lineup, there were almost no sure things in the Iowa State offensive lineup. One player (receiver Quenton Bundrage) started all 12 games. The leading rusher missed two. The original starting quarterback missed one game and was demoted for others. This is a good way of collecting experience for future seasons -- and it might lend more weight to the last two games -- but it's not good for winning games in the present tense.

It's also not good for learning things. Despite the late output, we enter 2014 asking basically the same questions of the ISU offense that we did in 2013.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.05 109 IsoPPP+ 93.3 95
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.8% 97 Succ. Rt. + 99.9 64
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.6 86 Def. FP+ 102.4 30
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 60 Redzone S&P+ 122.2 11
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.4 ACTUAL 22 -0.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 97 73 65 76
RUSHING 89 66 44 74
PASSING 78 75 78 66
Standard Downs 68 65 87
Passing Downs 77 56 111
Q1 Rk 86 1st Down Rk 52
Q2 Rk 56 2nd Down Rk 82
Q3 Rk 96 3rd Down Rk 93
Q4 Rk 41

3. Being good in the red zone matters more when you get to the red zone more

Yes, that's the third topic of last year's preview.

The Kansas State/Iowa State model requires you to take full advantage of the opportunities given to you. Iowa State did that with a nearly automatic red zone offense. [...] The problem, of course, was that they didn't create nearly enough of these opportunities.

I wrote that after ISU ranked 78th in overall Off. S&P+ and 19th in Redzone S&P+ in 2012. Last year, ISU ranked 73rd and 11th, respectively. Same story, different year.

A lack of explosiveness doesn't matter when you're not far from the end zone, and a combination of solid blocking and efficient running got ISU into the end zone quite a bit. But again, that only matters if you're generating opportunities. ISU created scoring opportunities (trips inside the opponent's 40) on only 37.3 percent of its possessions, 114th in the country. If you're getting so few chances, you pretty much have to score touchdowns on every single one of them.

Consider this a case of doing the Little Things well but not doing enough of the Big Things.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Sam B. Richardson 6'2, 223 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 121 220 1397 11 7 55.0% 21 8.7% 5.3
Grant Rohach 6'1, 224 So. 3 stars (5.6) 110 191 1208 8 7 57.6% 15 7.3% 5.4
Joel Lanning 6'2, 236 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Trevor Hodge 6'0, 198 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)

4. Find a QB who will stick

Yep, said it last year.

In 2009, Austen Arnaud threw 303 passes for Iowa State, and Jerome Tiller threw 73. In 2010, Arnaud threw 290, and Tiller threw 82. In 2011, Steele Jantz threw 259, and Jared Barnett threw 220. In 2012, Jantz threw 269, Barnett threw 108, and Sam B. Richardson threw 79.

Teams are sometimes forced to deal with issues at quarterback; injuries happen, and sometimes you just pick the wrong guy at first. That's life. But for Iowa State, shuffling at quarterback is a way of life. There hasn't been stability at the position since Bret Meyer left, and considering how much of the modern college offense (any offense) is dependent on quarterback play, that's an issue.

Thanks to both countless injuries to Sam B. Richardson (ankle, groin, thumb, head/neck) and the relatively equal play of backup Grant Rohach, ISU again split time between two quarterbacks in 2013 and again enters a season unsettled at the position.

Granted, Rhoads knows how to handle a quarterback battle -- he's gotten more than used to it -- but at some point it would certainly help if one stood out from the others. Maybe that's Richardson, re-discovering the late-2012 form that won him the job int he first place (which basically constituted not throwing interceptions). Maybe that's Rohach, taking a sophomore step forward. Or, since this is Iowa State, maybe that's This Year's Emerging Redshirt Freshman (either Joel Lanning or Trevor Hodge). For what it's worth, Rohach held the starting job at the end of the spring. But that doesn't necessarily mean a lot in Ames.

Perhaps the biggest reason for hope when it comes to the quarterback position is the new guy calling plays. Former Kansas head coach (and, before that, former Oklahoma offensive coordinator) Mark Mangino takes over as Rhoads' offensive coordinator. Mangino has never been an extreme innovator, but he's a strong craftsman, and he has a knack for keeping things as simple as possible. ("It takes too much time out of your day to be real complicated.") He figures out what his players are best at doing, he determines what the defense is giving him -- be it the run, the dink-and-dunk, the seams, whatever -- and he goes to work. He is more likely than most to maximize the talent at hand.

So now the question simply becomes, "How good is the talent at hand?"

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Aaron Wimberly RB 5'9, 174 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 141 567 2 4.0 3.5 34.0%
Shontrelle Johnson RB 90 358 3 4.0 3.3 32.2%
Sam B. Richardson QB 6'2, 223 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 80 481 2 6.0 4.8 51.3%
DeVondrick Nealy RB 5'10, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 41 158 2 3.9 3.2 29.3%
Grant Rohach QB 6'1, 224 So. 3 stars (5.6) 33 182 1 5.5 6.3 45.5%
James White RB 32 118 1 3.7 1.9 31.3%
Jeff Woody RB 30 74 5 2.5 4.2 10.0%
Rob Standard RB 5'10, 213 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Tyler Brown RB 5'10, 179 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Mike Warren RB 6'0, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Quenton Bundrage WR-X 6'2, 191 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 91 48 673 52.7% 24.1% 52.5% 7.4 27 7.0 83.3
E.J. Bibbs TE 6'3, 261 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 60 39 462 65.0% 15.9% 51.9% 7.7 -8 7.7 57.2
Justin Coleman WR-F 48 31 442 64.6% 12.7% 56.8% 9.2 67 9.2 54.7
Tad Ecby WR-Z 6'0, 203 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 41 22 233 53.7% 10.8% 48.6% 5.7 -60 5.1 28.8
Aaron Wimberly RB 5'9, 174 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 24 18 211 75.0% 6.3% 40.9% 8.8 9 9.8 26.1
Dondre Daley WR-Z 6'1, 191 So. 3 stars (5.5) 20 13 120 65.0% 5.3% 65.0% 6.0 -37 6.3 14.9
Albert Gary WR 19 8 80 42.1% 5.0% 62.5% 4.2 -43 3.8 9.9
Jarvis West WR-F 5'7, 177 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 18 15 105 83.3% 4.8% 37.5% 5.8 -56 5.3 13.0
James White RB 14 11 84 78.6% 3.7% 30.8% 6.0 -37 7.0 10.4
Ernst Brun, Jr. TE 11 6 47 54.5% 2.9% 62.5% 4.3 -32 2.8 5.8
P.J. Harris WR-Z 6'1, 163 So. 3 stars (5.6) 9 7 67 77.8% 2.4% 33.3% 7.4 -10 8.3 8.3
Ben Boesen TE 6'6, 238 Jr. NR 4 2 9 50.0% 1.1% 100.0% 2.3 -19 2.5 1.1
Brett Medders WR-F 6'2, 203 Jr. NR
D'Vario Montgomery WR-X 6'5, 212 So. 4 stars (5.8)
Bryan Ajumobi WR-X 6'1, 204 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Damein Lawry WR-F 5'10, 177 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Allen Lazard WR 6'5, 215 Fr. 4 stars (6.0)
Jauan Wesley WR 5'11, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

5. No pressure, D'Vario and Allen

Iowa State's offensive line managed to rank 67th in Adj. Line yards despite constant shuffling. Two multi-year starters are gone, but plenty of players have amassed experience at this point -- eight have started a game (86 starts in all) -- and the addition of some exciting youngsters like four-star redshirt freshman Jake Campos can't hurt. One assumes this will be a decent line, at least in terms of run-blocking.

So how about the guys they're blocking for? Generally speaking, if a running back averages better than about 5.0 highlight yards per opportunity, that's a sign of solid explosiveness. An average of 4.5 is at least decent.

None of ISU's top three running backs averaged better than 3.5.

Rohach was a relatively exciting runner at times, but the backs didn't bring much to the table. Health and experience could be assets here, but the best-case scenario for Mangino and the running game is efficiency over big plays.

Of course, moving the ball without big plays is something ISU has gotten pretty used to at this point. Explosiveness has long been an issue for this team. Bundrage and Justin Coleman combined to average a healthy 14.1 yards per catch, but Coleman has graduated, and Bundrage's 53 percent catch rate tamped down his effectiveness. Still, Bundrage is a decent weapon, and tight end E.J. Bibbs isn't bad.

But it's difficult to talk about ISU receivers without focusing on a pair of newcomers. First, you've got sophomore USF transfer D'Vario Montgomery, a former four-star recruit and high school teammate of Sam B. Richardson. He has proven nothing, but recruiting rankings hint at upside if nothing else, and Montgomery evidently has it. And so does Allen Lazard, an Urbandale, Iowa, native and the No. 47 overall recruit in the country (according to Rivals).

If Montgomery and Lazard can begin turning potential into production in 2014, that not only gives the offense more upside as a whole; it also gives the Cyclones a pretty clear identity. Montgomery and Lazard are both big targets, as is Bibbs. (And Bundrage isn't exactly small.) If there is at least a little bit of play-making ability here (TBD), and ISU can turn short and medium passes into occasional big gains, as was the KU way under Mangino, then that could open up the entire field.

This duo is still young, though. The most likely result here is sporadic output from these two in 2014 and a truly decent offense in 2015.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 100.9 2.71 3.38 35.3% 65.1% 18.8% 85.0 4.2% 9.3%
Rank 67 94 48 102 80 59 86 55 100
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Tom Farniok C 6'4, 300 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 35
Ethan Tuftee RG 25
Kyle Lichtenberg RT 18
Jacob Gannon RT 6'7, 301 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 12
Brock Dagel LT 6'8, 303 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11
Oni Omoile LG 6'3, 297 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 9
Jamison Lalk LG 6'6, 303 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 8
Daniel Burton RG 6'5, 320 So. 3 stars (5.5) 8
Ben Loth C 6'6, 327 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 2
Jacob Dunning RT 6'5, 287 So. 2 stars (5.4) 1
Jake Campos LT 6'7, 279 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Jacob Homa RG 6'4, 295 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Shawn Curtis LT 6'5, 288 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Ryan Glenn RG 6'4, 305 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Nick Severs C 6'3, 285 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Wendell Taiese OL 6'5, 355 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)

x

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.17 73 IsoPPP+ 97.4 76
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.9% 87 Succ. Rt. + 94.0 84
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.5 62 Off. FP+ 98.5 77
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.4 86 Redzone S&P+ 99.7 60
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 27.8 ACTUAL 21.0 -6.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 106 87 84 87
RUSHING 114 110 91 108
PASSING 76 44 69 49
Standard Downs 94 73 106
Passing Downs 69 89 22
Q1 Rk 67 1st Down Rk 90
Q2 Rk 100 2nd Down Rk 106
Q3 Rk 49 3rd Down Rk 19
Q4 Rk 111

6. The secondary deserved better

Never mind the fact that the offense did the defense next to no favors. The defensive front gave the defensive backs few of them as well.

The Iowa State secondary featured a pair of high-class safeties (Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield combined for five tackles for loss, 15 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles) and a young duo of cornerbacks (Sam E. Richardson and Nigel Tribune) that usually held its own. Plus, Jeremiah George was a strong play-maker, against run and pass, at middle linebacker. ISU was excellent at preventing big plays and conversions on passing downs, but with one of the worst overall run defenses in the country, passing downs were few and far between.

That Richardson and Tribune return is good news, but they might not find the going any easier this fall. Both Washington and Broomfield are gone, as is George. Plus, six of the top nine tacklers up front are gone; granted, major line attrition would hurt more if the line had actually been good, but the ISU line is going to be under-sized and under-seasoned in 2014.

Every linebacker not named George returns, and there's JUCO help in each unit, but it's hard to be too optimistic about this defense as a whole. ISU has always been salty and opportunistic under Rhoads, but that's different than simply being good. Veteran coordinator Wally Burnham has his work cut out for him this year.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 93.9 3.03 3.55 40.5% 62.3% 15.8% 87.3 2.0% 6.2%
Rank 90 76 90 80 34 103 88 120 78
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cory Morrissey DE 6'4, 260 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 43.5 6.1% 6.5 2.0 0 0 1 0
Rodney Coe DT 12 29.0 4.1% 5.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Willie Scott DE 11 24.0 3.4% 4.5 2.0 0 4 2 0
David Irving DT 10 15.0 2.1% 4.5 2.0 0 4 1 0
Brandon Jensen NG 6'5, 301 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 12.5 1.8% 4.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
Mitchell Meyers DE 6'4, 262 So. 3 stars (5.5) 12 11.5 1.6% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nick Kron DE 12 10.5 1.5% 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Devin Lemke DE 7 5.5 0.8% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Austin Krick NG 11 5.0 0.7% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Devlyn Cousin NG 6'1, 295 So. 3 stars (5.5) 7 4.5 0.6% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Walter Woods III NG 9 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Darius White DE 6'0, 249 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Pierre Aka DT 6'4, 285 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Robby Garcia DT 6'3, 277 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
J.D. Waggoner DE 6'2, 247 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Vernell Trent NG 6'3, 287 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Dale Pierson DE 6'2, 260 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Gabe Luna DE 6'1, 255 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)

7. A nearly total tackle rebuild

The good news, I guess, is that the end position won't be worse. Granted, ISU had one of the worst standard-downs pass rushes in the country, so there's almost nowhere to go but up, but in Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, plus a couple of JUCO transfers (Dale Pierson, Gabe Luna), the Cyclones aren't going to regress at what was a position of weakness.

But to the extent that ISU had a strength up front, it was at tackle, where Rodney Coe, David Irving, and Brandon Jensen combined for 13.5 tackles for loss and quite a bit of short-yardage push. Coe and Irving were both dismissed from the team this spring, leaving Meyers, sophomore Devlyn Cousin, and a whole lot of new (not to mention only one 300-pounder) up front. It's hard to be optimistic that this bad line will be better.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jeremiah George MLB 12 108.0 15.2% 12.0 3.5 2 6 3 0
Jared Brackens SLB 6'1, 215 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 49.0 6.9% 4.5 2.0 0 2 0 0
Jevohn Miller WLB 6'1, 243 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 37.5 5.3% 2.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Luke Knott WLB 6'0, 218 So. 3 stars (5.5) 6 35.5 5.0% 1.5 0.0 0 2 1 0
Levi Peters WLB 5'10, 217 So. NR 12 12.5 1.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Drake Ferch SLB 5'11, 212 Sr. NR 11 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kane Seeley MLB 6'1, 240 So. 2 stars (5.4) 11 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Alton Meeks MLB 6'2, 249 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Brian Mills WLB 5'10, 227 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)
Jordan Harris MLB 5'11, 241 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jacques Washington FS 12 99.0 13.9% 5 1 2 6 0 0
Sam E. Richardson CB 5'7, 189 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 49.5 7.0% 1 0 0 7 1 0
Deon Broomfield SS 12 47.5 6.7% 0 0 1 6 2 0
Nigel Tribune CB 5'10, 183 So. 2 stars (5.4) 10 27.0 3.8% 0 0 1 6 0 0
Jansen Watson CB 10 24.5 3.4% 2.5 0 1 8 1 0
Charlie Rogers NB 12 15.5 2.2% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Kenneth Lynn CB 5'10, 166 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 7 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Wes Boyer DB 12 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cliff Stokes FS 12 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
T.J. Mutcherson SS 5'11, 203 So. 2 stars (5.3) 8 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Darian Cotton SS 5'11, 201 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Gage Shaeffer DB 5 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Thomas CB 5'10, 168 Sr. 2 stars (5.2)
Kamari Syrie FS 5'9, 203 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Kamari Cotton-Moya FS 6'0, 190 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Devron Moore DB 5'11, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Qujuan Floyd DB 6'0, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Mike Johnson DB 5'11, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

8. A nearly total safety rebuild

Linebacker Jared Brackens returns, sophomore Luke Knott is healthy, and again, Richardson and Tribune return at cornerback. These are good things. ISU tends to do just fine at the linebacker position in general, so one assumes a decent level there, but if the strength of the defense was big-play prevention in the passing game, and Washington, Broomfield, and nickelback Charlie Rogers are all gone ... well ... that's not good. ISU will probably need both JUCO signees (Devron Moore, Qujuan Floyd) to be ready to contribute from Day 1 (not typically a strong bet) to match last year's production in the back.

In all, there's reason to believe the offense will take a lovely step forward. But the defense is simply trying to tread water.

9. Damn you, Iowa State

Every year, Iowa State starts a Knott at linebacker (first Jake, than Luke). Last year, the Cyclones had a Sam Richardson at both quarterback and cornerback. And now they have two redshirt freshman free safeties named Kamari. It's one thing to confuse opponents; it's another to confuse the people writing about your team.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Kirby Van Der Kamp 84 41.6 8 22 27 58.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Edwin Arceo 55 60.6 22 0 40.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Cole Netten 6'1, 213 So. 33-34 10-11 90.9% 3-7 42.9%
Edwin Arceo 2-2 0-0 0-2 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Albert Gary KR 17 15.1 0
DeVondrick Nealy KR 5'10, 190 Jr. 16 23.5 1
Jarvis West PR 5'7, 177 Sr. 11 13.4 0
Justin Coleman PR 6 6.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 34
Field Goal Efficiency 89
Punt Return Efficiency 82
Kick Return Efficiency 8
Punt Efficiency 54
Kickoff Efficiency 13
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 111

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug North Dakota State NR
6-Sep Kansas State 41
13-Sep at Iowa 34
27-Sep Baylor 14
4-Oct at Oklahoma State 18
11-Oct Toledo 58
18-Oct at Texas 38
1-Nov Oklahoma 17
8-Nov at Kansas 104
22-Nov Texas Tech 46
29-Nov West Virginia 71
6-Dec at TCU 31
Five-Year F/+ Rk -5.4% (73)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 56
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -1 / 5.3
TO Luck/Game -2.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (8, 5)

10. Brace yourself

In its first five games, Iowa State plays a team riding a 24-game winning streak (North Dakota State), a major, improved in-state rival (Iowa), and the last three Big 12 champions (Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor).

For a team coming off of a 3-9 campaign and breaking in a new offense (potentially with a sophomore quarterback and key sophomore and freshman receivers), new defensive tackles, and new safeties, that's less than optimal. (Well, it's less than optimal for just about any team, I guess.)

There are wins on the schedule after that, but only if this team's health and confidence aren't completely frayed.

Honestly, I expect another down year for ISU here. I'm optimistic about the offense, but a) I'll be more optimistic about the offense in 2015, and b) I'm terrified for this defense in 2014. If some of the young, ace recruits take hold this year and Mark Mangino begins to figure things out on the offensive side of the ball, then perhaps there's more upside for this team than there has been in the past. But it will probably take a year to realize potential.

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