Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State and Matt Campbell were so close to being a very good football team last season. They lost five games by seven points or less last fall, and had they found a way to win those games, they would end up being an 8-4 football team with a bowl bid, and would have been considered one of the best programs in the conference in 2017. They lose all five of those games in 2016, and finish with three wins overall, and now they are a team that may be on the cusp of something big. Can they turn the corner and get there this fall?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Two QBs played extensively for the Cyclones in 2016, but it sure would be nice to get just one in the starting role and ride with him. Jacob Park had the best numbers last fall, and returns as a junior in 2017. He passed for 1791 yards and 12 TDs to just five picks in ten games. He completed 58.8% of his passes, a number that certainly could be improved upon.
Senior Joel Lanning also returns this fall after passing for 1290 yards and nine TDs to just three INTs. He completed just 58.6% of his passes, but where he is different than Park is that he has a dual threat part of his game, and he managed to rush for 518 yards and a team high 11 scores. Again, if one can take the reins, it is possible that the Cyclones could fly higher.
The passing game could really have a major impact this fall, as four different receivers who had starting experience last fall will return to the fol, including Allen Lazard, the leading receiver for the Cyclones in 2016. He ended with 69 receptions for 1018 yards and seven scores, and skipped the NFL draft to return to school as a senior to try and help this program turn the corner. Joining Lazard will be Carson Epps, DeShaunte Jones, and Trevor Ryen. Jones finished by posting 37-536-6 while averaging almost 14.5 yards per reception. Epps and Ryen combined for 60 receptions last fall, and give the passing game plenty of second level options.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The run game really needs a star to develop this fall. Mike Warren was the Big 12 freshman of the year in 2015, and was nowhere near the same back in 2016. Injuries were a big part of his disappearing act, but the Cyclones need him to get back to where he can be in a big way if this is the season that they are going to turn the corner and go to a bowl game. David Montgomery looks like he could take the reins if needed, and looked very strong at the end of last season, but he has a relatively small sample size in which to know if he can take the reins and be the main back or not. Kene Nwangwu specialized in kick returns last fall, and has not really factored in much as a RB, but getting him some reps would help with overall depth. Otherwise, this unit is fairly thin.
The offensive line is in tatters as we head into fall camp. Four starters departed, and a fifth with starting experience departs as well. Jake Campos returns with 32 career starts under his belt, and Julian Good -Jones will be back with 11 career starts, and he should slide into a starting role, but the other three spots will be encompassed by three players with zero starting experience.
The Cyclones will also have an issue at PK, as Cole Netten has departed after hitting 16/17 FGs last season. Peyton Paddock, a sophomore who tried and made one PAT last fall, will get the first chance at replacing him.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Three players with starting experience return on the line in DE JaQuan Bailey, DE JD Waggoner, and DT Vernell Trent. Bailey collected six TFLs as a freshman last season, while Waggoner played in just five games and could be on the verge of coming into his own as a senior f he can remain injury free. Trent is more of a gap stopper rather than a play maker, and should be able to move some bodies around. It's good to have this experience back, but this group must perform to a higher level with the loss of DT Jhaustin Thomas.
Willie Harvey will be the leader at LB with 17 career starts. He finished second on the team with 7.5 TFLs last fall, and finished tied for the team lead with 78 tackles. Reggan Northrup also returns at LB after recording 50 tackles last fall. He has seven career starts and recorded 3.5 TFLs last fall.
The secondary should be decent this fall, as four starting caliber players return. Kamari Cotton-Moya and Mike Johnson both return at Safety. Cotton-Moya collected five PBUs, while Johnsonfinished with 44 tackles overall. Evrett Edwards and Brian Peavy will both be back at CB. Edwards collected 52 tackles and three PBUs last fall, while Peavy collected 62 tackles and led the team with 11 PBUs.
Colin Downing is back as the Punter after averaging over 41 yards per punt in 2016.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Part of the problem for the Cyclones last season, and it was a major part, is that this unit gave up over 31 points per game, and the offense struggled to come up just short of 28. That has to turn around if the Cyclones are to get around that proverbial corner this fall.
The defensive line, while having some experience coming back, has got to be more productive than the trio of returning starters were last fall. A new starter at DT must be found to replace a team leader in Thomas.
The LB group also has a considerable loss in Kane Seeley. This unit is solid, but they must become more effective at the point of attack, and they need to start getting some penetration up front to make mor eplays behind the line. One new starter must be found here, and all of the hard work cannot fall squarely on Willie Harvey.
The secondary was not one of a ball hawking nature for the most part, Peavy aside. The team did manage to pick off nine passes as a unit last fall, but they can do better.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Northern Iowa, 9/9 Iowa, 9/16 at Akron, 9/28 Texas, 10/7 at Oklahoma, 10/14 Kansas, 10/21 at Texas Tech, 10/28 TCU, 11/4 at West Virginia, 11/11 Oklahoma State, 11/18 at Baylor, 11/25 at Kansas State
Final Overview
The Cyclones are showing major signs of life under Matt Campbell in one year, and year two could see some turns if they can turn some of those close losses into wins. Many people, myself included, thought that Campbell was nuts to take this job, but he may be just crazy enough to make it into something, as was evident at times last season in Big 12 play. One thing that this team cannot afford to do is lose to Northern Iowa in the opener for a second straight season, as that will set a tempo that nobody wants to duplicate again. If they can avoid that issue, then they have the first hurdle cleared. You also cannot afford another blowout loss to arch rival Iowa early on. If those two things can be changed alone, it could be a better go for the Cyclones, as they should be 2-1 heading into conference play against this schedule.

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