CFN Preview 2013 - Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State RB James White
Iowa State RB James White
Posted Jun 26, 2013 2013 Preview - Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Paul Rhoads
5th year: 24-27
Ten Best Iowa State Players
1. TE Ernst Brun, Sr.
2. QB Sam Richardson, Soph.
3. RB James White, Sr.
4. FS Jacques Washington, Sr.
5. OG Ethan Tuftee, Sr.
6. C Tom Farniok, Jr.
7. P Kirby Van Der Kamp, Sr.
8. LB Jeremiah George, Sr.
9. WR Jarvis West, Jr.
10. RB Aaron Wimberly, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Northern Iowa
9/14 Iowa
9/21 at Tulsa
10/5 Texas
10/12 at Texas Tech
10/19 at Baylor
10/26 Oklahoma State
11/2 at Kansas State
11/9 TCU
11/16 at Oklahoma
11/23 Kansas
11/30 at West Virginia
Iowa State has found its niche in the world under head coach Paul Rhoads, but will there ever be a time when everything breaks right and there's a shot at doing more than just getting by on the on the way to a minor bowl?

Even when the program was making lots of noise record-wise – going 9-3 in 2000 – it's not like the team was that great. That squad fattened up on lots of bad teams to put together one of the best seasons in ISU history, and the problem now is that there just isn't going to be a whole bunch of breaks on the schedule. The new Big 12 is too tough, too good and too deep, and when Iowa is thrown in as a non-conference game, finding the tune-ups to get a big record is tough.

So Iowa State keeps on chugging along, with Rhoads doing what he can with marginal talents and managing to come up with one big win here and there while fighting the good fight against the better teams. But coming up six points short against eventual Big 12 champ Kansas State isn't a moral victory and battling hard against West Virginia and Oklahoma isn't enough. It's going to take everything going right at once for the Cyclones to ever be in the hunt for one of the conferences better bowl games, but that time could come.

In 2014.

Everyone wants to win now and everyone is hoping for surprises, but the 2013 Cyclones are built on upgraded depth, talent level and options to play around with. The offense has to undergo an overhaul at receiver, but a slew of good underclassmen like Quenton Bundrage and Tad Ecby will get time to grow into their roles. Sam Richardson is an exciting quarterback with the upside and potential to become a Big 12 star over the next few years, and the deep group of running backs is building up the base to work around veteran James White.

The defense still has to find big play performers, but the linebacking corps looks like it could be something special in a few years when all the freshmen grow up, and the secondary has some nice-looking young options at corner. The line is undergoing a youth movement, too, with end Willie Scott and tackle Walter Woods the only seniors in the mix – and they're not going to be irreplaceable.

So consider this a true stepping-stone season with the pressure on next year. For a program not used to a ton of success, patience has been a virtue, but in the meantime, another six-win season with a bowl would be par for the course.

What to watch for on offense: Can the receivers emerge in a hurry? The running backs are deep and versatile, the tight ends are a strength, the line has a strong starting five that should be excellent at times, and Sam Richardson is a rising superstar at quarterback. Now the Cyclones have to find wide receivers. Jarvis West is a speedster who hasn't broken out with any big plays, and Quenton Bundrage is a nice sophomore who could turn into a No. 1 target, but the offense loses Aaron Horne, Chris Young and Josh Lenz, the top three targets last season. It's going to take a little bit of time.

What to watch for on defense: How fast can the linebacking corps come together? The Cyclones lost two of the greatest linebackers in their history in A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, but there's lots of size, lots of promise and lots of talent returning. Jeremiah George is about to become a statistical superstar moving to the middle, and he has to be a leader of a young group that should get big production from junior outside defenders Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens. The excitement is about the freshmen backups with Alton Meeks, Darius White and Luke Knott – Jake's brother – all terrific backup options who should form a whale of a starting threesome in two years.

The team will be far better if … the pass rush shows up. If you can't get to the quarterback in the Big 12, you're dead. It was a night-and-day season for the Cyclone pass rush last season cranking up 14 sacks in the first seven games and one – ONE – over the final six games and two in the last seven. The results? Oklahoma State – one sack, 415 yards passing. Baylor – no sacks, 426 yards passing. Oklahoma – no sacks, 405 yards passing. Texas – no sacks, 387 yards passing. The rest of the defense has to press way too much when the line isn't getting the job done, and while the secondary should be a plus, it's going to need a lot more help.

The schedule: Basically, as always for the Cyclones, it's going to take a few out-of-the-blue upsets to go bowling. It's a strangely planned out slate with two weeks off in September and none the rest of the way. The Cyclones open up with the always-feisty in-state game against Northern Iowa before getting a week off to get ready for Iowa and a trip to Tulsa. But just when teams begin to hit their stride, all of a sudden, there's another bye week before starting Big 12 play against Texas.

As if starting out against the Longhorns wasn't bad enough, ISU has to go on the road three times in the next four weeks going to Texas Tech and Baylor before hosting Oklahoma State and going to Kansas State. It's not like things ease up with TCU to follow before going to Oklahoma. Finally, there seems to be a bit of a break getting Kansas in Jack Trice, but the year finishes up at West Virginia.

Best offensive player: Senior TE Ernst Brun. Quarterback Sam Richardson is the one who has to make the offense great, and James White is a nice all-around running back who'll be a steadying force, but Brun is the best offensive player with good pro potential. With all the top receivers gone losing Aaron Horne, Chris Young and Josh Lenz, Brun will be used even more as a go-to target with good deep speed and athleticism for a 251-pound tight end with nice hands and great route-running ability. He's tested and reliable with the upside to do even more if given more opportunities.

Best defensive player: Senior FS Jacques Washington. The secondary should be fine if it gets some help from the defensive front. Deon Broomfield will go from being a good nickel defender to starting at strong safety, and the corners should be good once everyone is healthy. Washington is the best of the bunch with 192 career tackles and 11 broken up passes. Big, tough and feisty, he might need to do more against the pass, but he's a rock against the run.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Willie Scott. He's built like a smallish outside linebacker with tremendous burst and great athleticism, but he's never been able to rip it up. The defense desperately needs one guy who can pin his ears back and blast away on quarterbacks on a regular basis, and while the pass rush will be manufactured from several different spots, if Scott can be that guy, all of a sudden the focus of the defense changes.

The season will be a success if … Seven wins. After two straight six-win seasons and just one seven-win campaign since 2004, winning an extra game this season would be a major positive for a team with so many big holes and concerns. There might not be anything pretty about the 2013 season, but this should be another feisty and competitive team that should sneak out a few upsets and, at the very least, has to expect a bowl appearance.

Key game: Sept. 14 vs. Iowa. The Cyclones always take a special pride in beating their in-state rivals, even if the games aren't exactly scintillating – 9-6 is fine. This year when it's going to be tough to manufacture more than six wins with another tough Big 12 schedule, beating Iowa wouldn't be just a nice early moment, it could be necessary. With a week off to prepare, if Iowa State can win, and if it doesn't gag against Northern Iowa in the opener and gets by the road trip at Tulsa, it'll be 3-0 to end September going into the Big 12 opener against Texas. There might not be a true layup in conference play, but a three game base of wins would take some of the pressure off.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 83 for 711 yards – Iowa State 63 for 552 yards
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:43 – Iowa Sate 27:17
- Fumbles: Opponents 25 (lost 12) – Iowa State 11 (lost 9)
- 2013 Iowa State Preview | 2013 Iowa State Offense
- 2013 Iowa State Defense | 2013 Iowa State Depth Chart