2008 Iowa State Preview - Offense

Posted Apr 28, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Iowa State Cyclone Offense

Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Iowa State Preview | 2008 Iowa State Offense
- 2008 Iowa State Defense | 2008 Iowa State Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Iowa State Preview | 2006 CFN Iowa State Preview 

What you need to know:
Offensive coordinator Robert McFarland needed all year to finally get the offense moving after it did next to nothing for the first eight games, averaging just 15 points per outing. The attack didn't explode, but it got better, and now there should be a big jump in production even without veteran QB Bret Meyer and top WR Todd Blythe. The line was night-and-day better than in 2006, and it should be far superior this year with four returning starters and at least two of them being knocked out of jobs by better prospects. The running back trio of Alexander Robinson, Jason Scales and J.J. Bass is excellent. The key will be the passing game. Austen Arnaud and former WR Phillip Bates will combine for the quarterback job, while a dangerous receiver or two has to step up with Blythe not there to catch all the touchdown passes.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Austen Arnaud
20-37, 267 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Alexander Robinson
118 carries, 465 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: R.J. Sumrall
54 catches, 434 yds, 0 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Alexander Robinson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Austen Arnaud
Unsung star on the rise: Junior C Mike Knapp
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OG Ben Lamaak
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Robinson, 2) Lamaak, 3) RB J.J. Bass
Strength of the offense: Running back, veteran line
Weakness of the offense:
Wide receiver, big plays


Projected Starter
It's going to be an ongoing battle for the starting job, and there should be a quarterback shuffle at times, but for now, sophomore Austen Arnaud is the leader going into the fall. The 6-3, 230-pounder has a nice arm, completing 54% of his passes for 267 yards with an interception in his limited time, and he has good mobility for his size running for 18 yards. He has a good command of the offense and is the best pure passer, but he'll still be in a rotation.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Phillip Bates is a fantastic athlete. So good that the coaching staff put him on the field as a receiver last season, where he caught five passes for 73 yards. While having a receiver at quarterback might not seem ideal, Bates got it right away and showed that he could handle the workload. While he's not the passer Arnaud is, he's a dangerous speedster who gives the offense another look. At 6-1 and 207 pounds, he's like a running back when he takes off.
Watch Out For ... a rotation. The coaching staff will likely go with the right quarterback for the right situation. While Arnaud can run, he's not the athlete that Bates is, while Arnaud will be on the field when the Cyclones need to throw.
Strength: How do you prepare for both options? Losing a leader and longtime starter like Bret Meyer might hurt on the surface, but it's not like he produced much for the offense. Now there's Arnaud and Bates, who combined might be an overall upgrade for the situation.
Weakness: Can either guy get into a groove? When you have two starting quarterbacks, you have none, or so the old adage goes. Considering there's always going to be a No. 2 option ready to step in, it could be hard for either one to make a mistake without worrying about getting yanked.
Outlook: The combination of Arnaud and Bates might not seem like the best idea on the surface, but each can play and the rotation should allow the coaching staff to be versatile with what they do. Throw true freshman Jerome Tiller, who might play right away with his strong rushing ability, and the quarterback situation should be interesting. After last year when the passing game threw for just nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions, things can't be that much worse.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters
There's a good trio of backs ready to make the ground game more dangerous and more explosive with the 5-9, 178-pound sophomore Alexander Robinson looking to build on a strong late charge rushing for 1489 yards against Missouri and 127 against Colorado. He finished the year as the team's leading rusher with 465 yards and six touchdowns, and was fourth with 23 catches for 167 yards, but he was just trying to figure out what he was doing. Now he appears to be a more confident runner and stronger at knowing the offense.

Projected Top Reserves: While Robinson is a speedster, 5-9, 217-pound senior Jason Scales brings more between-the-tackles power. The former Iowa high school superstar finished third on the team rushing for 333 yards and three touchdowns, and caught ten passes for 28 yards, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy, with a knee injury the biggest problem so far, and was limited to just seven games last season. He's able to be a workhorse if needed, running 31 times for 115 yards and two scores against Nebraska.

The wild-card at this point is senior J.J. Bass, the most talented back of the three main options, but also a troubled one. The 6-0, 200-pound former JUCO All-American ran for 468 yards and four touchdowns before suffering a shoulder injury that kept him all but out of the mix over the second half of the year, and then he got suspended from spring ball and is questionable for the fall. He has the size, 4.5 speed, and the hands to be used far more in the passing game, but he's the number three back when he gets back on the team, if he does get back.

The most talented back on the roster might be 6-1, 220-pound Bo Williams, a former Florida Gator who won't be ready to roll until next year, but should dominate on the scout team in practices. A star recruit for the Gators, he should be a 25-carry-a-game back for the Cyclones next season, but he'll have to wait his turn. With tremendous speed to go along with his size, he's special.

Also looking to be part of the mix next year, and possible getting in some work as a true freshman, will be Jeremiah Schwartz, a 5-11, 230-pound power back who had a shot to go to Wisconsin or Virginia, but is good enough to play a role right away if needed. If Bass is back, Schwartz will probably redshirt.

When the offense uses a fullback, it'll be 5-11, 223-pound junior Brian Ekwelundu handling the workload when Derrick Catlett is at tight end. Catlett will probably be the main option, mostly as a blocker, but Ekwelundu, a former defensive end who hasn't seen any real time yet, is built more like a fullback.
Watch Out For ... for more production. The ground game averaged a mere 3.1 yards per carry with 1,484 yards on the year with 16 touchdowns, but the trio of backs returning are too good to not do far more. Now they need more help from the line.
Strength: Options. Assuming Bass is coming back, the Cyclones have three good backs to work around. The coaching staff can go with the hot hand, or it can come up with a rotation to use all the talents and keep everyone fresh. There will be enough work to go around.
Weakness: More production. Give part of the blame to an average line and no passing game to take the heat off, but the ground game didn't do enough. The backs are all good, but none of the three main options averaged more than four yards per carry. While they can all catch, none of them did much when they got the ball in their hands.
Outlook: The running backs should be a strength this year, and they'll only be better next year when Williams is ready to roll. Going into the fall, Robinson is the starter, Scales is second, and Bass is third, but that could quickly change depending on the matchup and which way the wind is blowing. They're all No. 1 backs.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters
The loss of Todd Blythe leaves a gaping hole as far as a go-to target, he caught five of the team's nine touchdown passes, but senior R.J. Sumrall led the team in receiving with 54 catches for 434 yards. While he hasn't been a scorer, he has yet to find the end zone in three years, he has the potential to be the team's best receiving weapon. At 6-1 and 200 pounds he has the size, he has three years of experience, he has great hands, and he has the speed. One of the team's fastest players and a track star, there's no excuse for only averaging eight yards per catch.

Sumrall's running mate on the other side will be junior Marques Hamilton, a good third target last year catching 45 passes for 534 yards and a touchdown. For old coaching staff thought about bulking up the 6-3, 221-pounder and making him a tight end, but he wanted to be a wide receiver and now he should play an even more prominent role with Blythe gone.

The third spot is up for grabs, but 6-3, 167-pound senior Wallace Franklin has the inside track early on. He only caught two passes for five yards, but he had one of the four non-Blythe touchdown catches. While the former JUCO transfer has good wheels and experience, he'll have to produce like mad to hold off some of the young prospects.

With top tight end Ben Barkema gone, it'll be up to junior Derrick Catlett, a part-time fullback, to take over. He
caught 21 passes for just 112 yards and two touchdowns, but at 6-3 and 246 pounds he's a good-sized target and a good blocker.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 194-pound junior Houston Jones was one of the better producers in spring ball as he looked to make an impact as the No. 3 receiver. He's fighting with Franklin for the starting spot, and although the former quarterback caught just one pass for six yards, he's improving.

One of the major players to watch out for will be sophomore Jason Carlson, a 6-0, 195-pound JUCO transfer with tremendous speed. A Minnesota state high school champion sprinter, he runs a 10.7 100 and will stretch the field playing behind Hamilton.

Former JUCO transfer Collin Franklin is a tough tight end option behind Catlett, but at 6-6 and 237 pounds is more of a really big wide receiver than a scary blocker. He has the size to be a go-to target with a bit more work, and he could end up seeing starting time at tight end if Catlett is used as a fullback.
Watch Out For ... Jones and Carlson. Sumrall and Hamilton are fine, but they haven't set the world on fire. Jones and Carlson had good enough off-seasons to demand far more work and Franklin is too fast to not be more of a player.
Strength: Steady targets. Sumrall and Hamilton are strong, big, veteran receivers who have been around long enough to be good, reliable playmakers to keep the chains moving. They might not be fantastic, but they're good enough to ease in the new quarterbacks.
Weakness: Scoring. Blythe caught 13 of the team's 21 touchdown catches over the last two years. Hamilton has just two of them and Sumrall doesn't have any. Who's going to be the one to break through and get into the end zone on big plays?
Outlook: There's a good mix of veterans and rising unknowns, but there isn't anyone who's going to throw a big scare into secondaries quite yet. There's speed, size, and experience, and now it all needs to come together to create a more effective passing game. Big plays will be the key after the passing game averaged a pathetic 9.6 yards per catch.
Rating: 6

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
The lineup is probably going to undergo some major changes with several players pushing for various spots, but the one sure starter will be Ben Lamaak, the question will be where he ends up. The 6-4, 320-pound sophomore is a former high school quarterback who was considered to be a tight end when he came to Ames, and he's versatile enough to play any spot on the line. While he has the talent to play tackle, where he started on the right side all of last year, he's better suited for a guard spot and will likely start out on the left side.

Stepping up and becoming a major prospect at the other guard spot is Kelechi Osemele, a 6-5, 333-pound redshirt freshman who was the offensive scout team player of the year. A big, bruising run blocker, he'll go into the fall with the lead in the battle for the right guard spot.

Brandon Johnson started every game last year at center, but 6-3, 275-pound junior Mike Knapp has the edge going into the fall. Knapp dominated at times this off-season and took over the position like he had been playing it for years. He's not huge, but he's tough and he's great at finishing off his blocks.

The tackles are a bigger question mark than the interior. 6-7, 290-pound sophomore Matt Hulbert has the inside track at right tackle after spending last year as a reserve. While he needs more experience, he has excellent upside and should be a fixture at one tackle spot for the next three years.

6-3, 288-pound senior Doug Dedrick started every game at left tackle after transferring over from Scottsdale CC. He bulked up over the last year, but he still remains one of the team's quickest linemen. While he's not dominant, he's consistent and good in all phases.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 311-pound senior Brandon Johnson started every game last year at center, and while he was fine, he lost his job to Knapp, a lighter, quicker blocker, this off-season. Now Johnson will work mostly at guard, a seemingly more natural position for the former defensive lineman.

Reggie Stephens is a 6-3, 331-pound side of beef who is a strong run blocker and a decent veteran having started every game last year at left guard. While he's hardly out of the battle for the starting job, he'll have to fight to push Lamaak out of the spot.

284-pound senior Joe Blaes was a key JUCO transfer who didn't do too much a reserve. Expected to step into the right guard role going into spring ball, now he has to fight for playing time at either guard spot after the emergence of Osemele, who's almost 50 pounds heavier than Blaes.

Hulbert is hardly a sure-thing to start at right tackle with redshirt freshman Trey Baysinger right in the hunt for the job. The 6-6, 316-pounder has more size and plenty of upside, and if nothing else, he'll be a key reserve in the rotation.

Is Scott Haughton ready? The 6-4, 310-pound freshman has the Big 12 body to step in right away and play, and while he was a great defensive tackle and a good guard, he'll be worked out at both tackle spots where he could be a key backup from day one.
Watch Out For ... a lot of lineup shifting. A lot. Noting was set in stone after a wild spring of player shifting, and it might take every fall practice to sort out the mess. At the very least, there are several interesting options to work with.
Strength: Experience and upside. Four starters returned from last year's line and two of them, Stephens and Johnson, might be out of a job this fall. Even if they are, they're too experienced not to see playing time somewhere. They didn't stink this off-season; other players stepped up.
Weakness: Continuity. That wouldn't be a problem if everyone was back in the spots they manned last year, but with so much shifting and so much changing around, it might take a little while to form a cohesive unit.
Outlook: It got swept under the rug with all the great coaching jobs done in the Big 12 last year, but the work done by offensive coordinator Robert McFarland and his group with a line that did nothing, nothing in 2006 has to be considered one of the best. After allowing 57 sacks in 2006, the line gave up just 17 last year while doing a far better job for the running game. Now there's a great situation with four starters returning, emerging stars who are better than some of the steady veterans, and a few key cogs in Lamaak and Dedrick to keep it all together.