2009 Iowa State Preview - Offense
Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson
Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson
Posted Jun 28, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Iowa State Cyclone Offense



Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Iowa State Preview | 2009 Iowa State Offense
- 2009 Iowa State Defense | 2009 Iowa State Depth Chart
- 2008 ISU Preview | 2007 ISU Preview | 2006 ISU Preview

What you need to know: New offensive coordinator Tom Herman will bring in the spread attack that helped make Rice an offensive juggernaut over the last few years. That means the tight ends should shine, and there are two good ones in Collin Franklin and Derrick Catlett, and it means the quarterbacks will do some bombing away. Austen Arnaud is a promising passer, who got better as last year went on, but speedy Jerome Tiller will get his chances. The receiving corps returns everyone of note but R. J. Sumrall, who led the team last year, while the running backs are better with Florida transfer Bo Williams and Jeremiah Schwartz bringing more power to the equation. And then there's the line. It's full of veterans and there are several options to play around with, but going from a man to a zone blocking scheme is going to take a little while. Staying healthy up front, something that didn't happen last year, will be the key.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Austen Arnaud
247-401, 2,792 yds, 15 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Alexander Robinson
153 carries, 703 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Darius Darks
49 catches, 477 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Austen Arnaud
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT Kelechi Osemele
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman QB Jerome Tiller
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


Projected Starter
Junior Austen Arnaud was in a battle for the starting job going into last year, but he quickly took over and turned out to be the main man as the season went on, pushing the athletic Phillip Bates aside. The 6-2, 220-pound junior is a decent runner, gaining 401 yards and five scores, but he wasn't able to get away from the rush enough and he didn't make enough things happen when plays broke down. On the plus side going forward, he completing 62% of his passes for 2,792 yards with 15 touchdowns, but he threw ten interceptions with six coming in the final four games. He proved he could get the passing game going in shootouts, closing out the year with 326 yards and two scores against Missouri and 440 yards and three scores against Kansas State, and he'll have to get used to bomb away on a regular basis in this transitional year.

Projected Top Reserves: Phillip Bates was a dangerous No. 2 quarterback option who added a rushing element to the equation. He left the team after not getting enough playing time, but redshirt freshman Jerome Tiller appears ready to fill the void, and then some. The 6-4, 185-pound speedster was fantastic this spring completing 14-of-24 passes for 250 yards and two scores, and tore off a long touchdown run, in the spring game. While he's not going to push Arnaud for the starting job like many are going to likely predict, but he's good enough to see a few snaps a game to throw a curve-ball into the mix.
Watch Out For ... Arnaud to put up record-book passing numbers. The defense is going to need a while before it jells, like two years, and the Cyclones are going to be in shootout after shootout. Arnaud might throw for well over 250 yards per game.
Strength: Running skills. Arnaud moves extremely well for his size while Tiller is a dangerous option who can crank out big yards whenever he has the ball. These two aren't going to be the team's best rushing options, but they'll certainly have their moments.
Weakness: Interceptions. Arnaud is going to have to press too much. He'll come up with some huge games, but he'll also throw too many interceptions just trying to make things happen. Tiller will probably have an even ratio of touchdowns to interceptions when he's in.
Outlook: This is a good situation to build around. Arnaud is the team, and even though Tiller will have his time in the spotlight, it's going to be about throwing the ball. Just keeping the chains moving from time to time will be important, and Tiller will look great in the spread offense, but so will Arnaud.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters
5-10, 184-pound junior Alexander Robinson has been a nice all-around back in his first two season and was steady last year with 703 yards and six touchdowns highlighted by a 101-yard, two score day against Colorado. A speedster, he had a hard time finding room, averaging just 4.6 yards per carry, and he continued to be a solid receiver making 17 grabs for 160 yards. This year, he'll be used even more both in the backfield and under center in a "Wildcat" formation. 

Projected Top Reserves: Bringing a combination of talents is Bo Williams, a transfer from Florida who showed flashes of quickness to go along with his strong running style. A star recruit for the Gators, he has the size and the toughness to be a workhorse from time to time. Robinson will be the team's star back, but Williams will get his share of carries using his 6-0, 217-pound size and decent hands in a variety of ways. He has special skills, but he has to stay healthy after missing all of last year hurt.

Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Schwartz is a 5-11, 238-pound power back who chose Iowa State over Wisconsin and Virginia. Originally considered to be part of the mix going into last year, he ended up redshirting and now will bring an attitude to the offense with his toughness between the tackles. He'll likely be the team's short-yardage back. 

Senior Derrick Catlett is a tight end, but he'll move into the backfield when a fullback is needed. The 6-4, 252-pounder is a nice receiver, but he'll never carry the ball; he'll be a tough blocker.
Watch Out For ... Robinson at quarterback. While Austen Arnaud and Jerome Tiller are mobile quarterbacks who'll work well in the spread, having Robinson in will add a whole other element to the attack. Tiller might be just as effective a runner under center, but the coaches will put in Robinson here and there just to keep defensive coordinators working.
Strength: Power and quickness. Schwartz brings a hammer with his rushing style, Robinson is the speedster, and Williams has both. If the line provides a little help, this trio could be fantastic.
Weakness: The line. A problem for the last few years, the line is once again going to be average and the defense is going to be such a liability that the ground game might never get a chance to get into a lather. This could be an underutilized trio.
Outlook: The backs should be one of the team's biggest strengths and will have to try to make things happen even when the rest of the team is breaking down. Any of the three can carry the load, but the rotation should keep everyone fresh. The only question will be if there's enough work to go around considering the shootouts the team will likely be involved in.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters
Top target R.J. Sumrall is gone after leading the team in receiving can catching ten of the team's 17 touchdown passes. Sophomore Darius Darks appears ready to take up the mantle of the team's No. 1 receiver after a fantastic true freshman campaign with 49 catches, second-best on the team, for 477 yards and a score highlighted by a seven-catch, 113-yard game against Oklahoma State, and now he'll do more. While he's a wiry 6-1 and 175 pounds, he's tough and isn't afraid to make a tough grab.

Senior Marquis Hamilton has blossomed over the last two seasons after coming close to becoming a tight end a few years ago. Instead, he's a 6-4, 228-pound big target who provides a tough matchup. He regressed, making 26 catches for 301 yards and three scores a year after making 45 grabs, but he has the experience and size to be used as a steady mid-level target. He might not make any deep plays, but he'll average around 12 yards per catch.

Sophomore Sedrick Johnson was a nice reserve as a true freshman making 18 catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns as a steady performer throughout the year. The 6-4, 199-pounder from Texas was a great get for the program, and now he needs more passes to come his way. He has the upside to grow into a dangerous deep threat.

A part-time starter and a key part of the two tight end sets, former JUCO transfer Collin Franklin is a 6-6, 248-pound junior who caught 15 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 17.2 yards per catch. More of a big wide receiver than a tough blocker, he came on at the end of last year and will likely end up being starting more if Derrick Catlett is mostly used at fullback.

Projected Top Reserves
Senior Houston Jones had a nice spring ball in 2008 and it translated into a good season starting for most of the year and finishing third on the team with 32 catches for 384 yards. He didn't blow up, but he was consistently good as a very smart, very precise route runner. While he'll end up as a starter in one of the three spots, he'll likely work in a rotation with Hamilton on the outside.

Part fullback and part tight end, senior Derrick Catlett will be used as a blocker when he lines up in the backfield from time to time, and while he's a good blocker, he's a stronger receiver with 20 catches for 230 yards. At 6-4 and 252 pounds he has impressive size and uses it well. Used in spurts, catching six passes against Missouri, he could get the ball on a regular basis as a short-range, move-the-chains receiver.

Adding more speed to the equation is Jason Carlson, a 6-0, 205-pound former JUCO transfer who was a Minnesota state high school champion sprinter, he runs a 10.7 100 and will stretch the field playing on the outside. The junior was supposed to make an impact last year, but he ended up redshirting and now will get his chance to be a home-run hitter.
Watch Out For ... Darks to become the main man. This is a decent group of receivers with different skills and talents, but Darks has the most to offer and the upside to the a No. 1 target who makes things happen even when the full attention is paid to him by the opposing secondary.
Strength: Veterans. Sumrall is gone, but counting RB Alexander Robinson, the next seven targets are returning. The tight end situation is solid and there's good depth at receiver to form a nice rotation.
Weakness: Big plays. The average yards per catch was a pedestrian 11.4 yards and there were only a few plays over 50 yards. Considering how wide open the offense is going to need to be this year, someone has to step up and make more big catches.
Outlook: This isn't the most talented receiving corps in the Big 12, but it'll be effective with a nice blend of size, a little bit of speed, and a lot of experience. There will be several targets for the quarterbacks to choose from and the passing game will be spread around well.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
Junior Ben Lamaak was the one sure-thing starter going into last year, and he ended up being the main man at right guard for the first seven games. He moved to tackle for a game, but was hurt and missed most of the second half of the year. Now he'll likely be tried out at left tackle where he has the best combination of athleticism and size on the line. The 6-5, 320-pound former high school quarterback came to Ames as a tight end and has a good combination of athleticism and toughness. He should be a good pass protector with more time on the outside after starting on the right side two years ago.

If Lamaak sticks at left tackle 6-6, 317-pound sophomore Trey Baysinger will get a long look at right guard. Versatile enough to play tackle if needed, his size and relatively decent athleticism should make him a strong zone blocker on the inside, but he'll need more time and he'll need to prove he can be more consistent for the running game.

There are a few different options at center, but with Mike Knapp done due to a knee injury, senior Reggie Stephens will likely move over from guard to be a big block in the middle. He started every game at left guard two years ago and was the main man in the same spot for the first half of last year before moving to right guard. While he'll get a work at left guard, the 6-4, 338-pounder could be better suited to the middle where he won't have to move as much in the new scheme.

Junior Alex Alvarez stepped in at center midway through last year and could end up starting in the middle again. If Stephens ends up playing inside, the 6-2, 294-pound Alvarez will move to left guard where he should work out well. Able to play tackle, also, he has good enough feet to be strong on the move and will get time to make mistakes.

The one player who appears to have his spot set is sophomore Kelechi Osemele, a 6-5, 338-pound top prospect who was solid in his first season working as a spot starter at guard, mostly on the left side. He'll move to right tackle where he should be tough for the ground game and be just decent enough in pass protection to get by. He'll have problems with the speed rushers, but he should be great for the spread.

Projected Top Reserves: If Lamaak stays at right guard, 6-3, 354-pound junior Hayworth Hicks will likely get the first look at left tackle. While he didn't get any starting work, he was a key backup and has the bulk to beat up pass rushers to protect the quarterbacks' blind side. He has the bulk, but he has to prove he can be mobile.

If it's not Hicks at left tackle, and if it's not Lamaak, junior Matt Hulbert will get a long look. The 6-7, 299-pounder is built like a tackle and got the experience he needed last year starting two times at left tackle and four times on the right side. While he's not the most consistent blocker, he has upside with the potential to take one of the tackle jobs and not let it go if he can be better in pass protection.
Watch Out For ... a lot of lineup shifting. A lot. This was supposed to be an issue last year, and it was because of injuries. There are several combinations for the front five with Lamaak the key piece. He was tried out in several different areas this spring, and where he ends up this fall will get the dominoes falling.
Strength: Veterans. Because of all the lineup changes last season there were several players thrown to the wolves a bit earlier than the coaching staff wanted. Now the new coaches have a veteran group with good versatility and decent depth.
Weakness: Getting it. The line is going to need a while to come together and figure out what it's doing. The starting five is far, far from set, so it could be a little while before there's any sort of continuity.
Outlook: While the team might have stunk under Gene Chizik, one of the unnoticed areas of improvement was the line. It was hardly the best in the Big 12, but it was night-and-day better than it was a few years back. Now the line has to go from lining up and beating people up man-on-man, it has to deal with a zone blocking scheme which puts a premium on timing and consistency. That might be a problem, but there's a nice base of veterans to work with.