We continue our summer preview series with a look at Iowa State, including three of their best players and five thoughts on the Cyclones.
Quick Facts on Iowa State
Last Year’s Record: 2-10
Location: Ames, Iowa
Coach: Paul Rhoads
Returning Offensive Starters: LT Jake Campos; LG Oni Omile; RG Jamison Lalk; RT Brock Dagel; QB Sam B. Richardson; WR D’Vario Montgomery; WR Quenton Bundrage; WR Allen Lazard
Returning Defensive Starters: DE Trent Taylor; LB Kane Seeley; LB Luke Knott; CB Nigel Tribune; CB Kenneth Lynn or Sam E. Richardson; S Kamari Cotton-Moya
- FS Kamari Cotton-Moya (6-1/194): It seems like it’s been a really long time since I think of an Iowa State defensive back with as much promise and Cotton-Moya is only a junior heading into 2015. As a free safety, Cotton-Moya had 77 tackles, 55 solo tackles, which means he’s making quite a few tackles in space. From what I can tell, Cotton-Moya was a quarterback in offense in high school and also obviously played safety. He pretty much did everything for his high school team, so I’m guessing that the redshirt year for Cotton-Moya helped him transition to full-time defense. He’s a really good athlete, as is common when players play multiple spots in high school.
- WR D’Vario Montgomery (6-6/236: Iowa State has doubled-down on big receivers and it starts with Montgomery and Lazard. ISU doesn’t have the best passing game and Montgomery actually didn’t play the first game and didn’t register a catch for the next two games, but he really came on strong towards the end of the year, particularly against Toledo, where he caught 9 passes for 90 yards and 9 passes for 100 yards against Texas. Didn’t get into the endzone very much, scoring only against Oklahoma and Kansas, but guys that are 6-6 and 235 don’t come around often and are often tough match-ups for college defenses and Iowa State has a bunch of them.
- WR Allen Lazard (6-5/218): Lazard has been designated as “the guy” since he arrived on campus and he caught 45 passes for nearly 600 yards and he did it all as a true freshman. That’s not easy. Like Montgomery, Lazard had big games against Toledo and Texas, 8 for 96 yards and 8 for 88 yards, scoring touchdowns in each game. Lazard fell off a bit, but big expectations aren’t fair, but he’ll be better if Richardson can get him the ball.
- One of These Years: It is going to be Rhoads’ year. He’s the bad-luck coach in a way and Iowa State is trending down. From 6-7, to 3-9 to 2-10 and from my end of things, it seems like Rhoads’ biggest problem is that he hasn’t had a franchise quarterback, or anyone who was even remotely close to being “the guy” at quarterback. Too much going back and forth between two quarterbacks. Last summer, I wrote about Grant Rohach and him being “the guy” but then it ended up being Sam Richardson, who was actually pretty good. Not a big passer, only 5.9 yards per attempt, but he did have 18 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. I think Rhoads strategy is coming into play this year and this will be the year to judge whether or not Rhoads is going to be the coach going forward. I think he’s banking a lot on those huge receivers.
- Huge Receivers: It’s not just Texas Tech banking on huge receivers. You see the two big receivers listed above, but it doesn’t stop there. Quenton Bundrage (6-2/192), Brett Medders (6-3/212); Darius Lee-Campbell (6-2/214) and Brandon Harris (6-0/195) are all over 6’0″ and there are only two receivers that are under that height. This is Rhoads plan, and it’s a pretty good plan, especially if you don’t have a quarterback that can throw the ball down the field, but if you can have a bunch of guys essentially sit on the low block and post-up against smaller defensive backs sounds pretty good. If it’s going to happen, this is it.
- Replacing that Defensive Line: There are almost no players that return other than Trent Taylor that has any starting experience. Just none. I think I wrote last year that the entire defensive line was almost all seniors, so now, they’ve got two seniors in the two deep and that’s it, Dale Pierson and Trent Taylor. Oh, yes, lots of these guys received some playing time, but they’re essentially all having to replace a defense that was 120th in rushing defense last year (seriously) and so it seems crazy to think that unproven and inexperienced guys are going to be better. Texas Tech will hopefully be asking this question next year, who is going to step up.
- Solid Back Seven: Well, if there isn’t much returning on the defensive line, there is at least a lot returning on in the defensive back seven. Two linebackers return, Kane Seeley and Luke Knott, both will be juniors and put up some pretty impressive stats as sophomores. Throw in some experience at cornerback, Nigel Tribune, Kenneth Lynn, and Sam E. Richardson, along with free safety Cotton-Moya and that’s a pretty solid group. The biggest problem is that they’re improving on a pass defense that allowed 282 yards a game and only had 16 picks, which was good for 102nd in the nation. So they’ve got some work to do, but generally speaking, this is a young group and if they can stick together, they can potentially improve, they just have to make sure some of those defensive linemen can and do get some pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
- Hinges on Richardson: So it seems that the success of the year is largely dependent on Sam B. Richardson taking that next step and not just being a guy, but being a really terrific player. Doesn’t have to be a star, but he’s got to be the leader of the offense. I haven’t mentioned these two items just yet, but Iowa State will need to introduce a new running back, probably either Tyler Brown or Mike Warren or Martinez Syria. They all three have very little tread. The one thing that Richardson will have going for him is the idea that he will have three starters returning on the offensive line and that should help. Richardson goes up and down, and I think it’s important to realize that it’s not all his fault, but when he’s good, so is Iowa State. His best games were against Toledo, Texas and Texas Tech, two near wins. I guess the point here is that Richardson can elevate his game and when he does, it brings up the whole team.