2010 Iowa State Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 31, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Iowa State Cyclone Offense

Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2010 - Offense

- 2010 Iowa State Preview | 2010 Iowa State Offense
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What You Need To Know: The pieces are there for offensive coordinator Tom Herman's offense to shine, but the production has to come. The line that was among the best in the Big 12 North gets three good starters back, the receiving corps is loaded with experience and size, Alexander Robinson is one of the league's most explosive backs, and Austen Arnuad has the potential to be a dangerous all-around playmaker after refining his technique a bit. So why was it like pulling teeth to score over the second half of last year? The Cyclones finished last in the league in scoring offense and couldn't get the passing game moving deep, but they have the pieces in place to do far more and be far more consistent. The pass protection will be great, the running game will shine, so if Arnaud has a good year, the offense could be one of the surprises of the Big 12 season.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Austen Arnaud
178-303, 2,015 yds, 14 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Alexander Robinson
232 carries, 1,195 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Jake Williams
36 catches, 403 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Alexander Robinson
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore OT Brayden Burris
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Beau Blankenship
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Kelechi Osemeli
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Robinson, 2) Arnaud, 3) Osemele
Strength of the offense: Backfield, Pass Protection
Weakness of the offense: Big Pass Plays, Scoring


Projected Starter: Senior Austen Arnaud appeared to be ready to take over as one of the Big 12's best all-around quarterbacks, but he struggled and sputtered in his third offensive system in four seasons. He completed 59% of his passes for 2,015 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he threw 13 interceptions and wasn't consistent. With 6-3, 226-pound size, he's a big, strong passer with excellent rushing skills finishing second on the team with 561 yards and eight touchdowns. Tough to bring down, he's a bruising runner who always gets the hard yards, but the most important part of his game should now be his passing ability after looking sharper and far better as a decision maker this offseason.

Projected Top Reserves: Serving as the understudy to Austen Arnaud, sophomore Jerome Tiller has the promise and potential to be a weapon with great running ability and an improving arm. The 6-2, 193-pounder was forced into a starting role against Nebraska, and while he didn't do much of anything with the offense, he gets credit for being the quarterback for a big win. He completed 56% of his passes for 376 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions in his limited time, and he ran for 216 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, with two scores. He needed to work on his passing fundamentals, but he's a dangerous player who'll eventually become a consistent playmaker.

Trying to groom for a future job is James Capello, a 5-11, 200-pound redshirt freshman who was the 2008 Player of the Year in Pennsylvania. A good passer with excellent mobility, he's not all that big and he doesn't have a huge arm, but he's a playmaker who can be a nice emergency option this year and a baller of a backup next season.

Watch Out For … Arnaud to be much better. After an inconsistent 2009, he worked hard on refining his mechanics and tightening his throwing motion, and now he should be on the verge of a big 2010 as dangerous all-around playmaker.
Strength: Mobility. Arnaud should be the team's second leading runner again, Tiller is a threat every time he has the ball in his hands, and Capello can move. There will always be a rushing threat from the Cyclone quarterback.
Weakness: Proven passing efficiency. Arnaud might be better and there could be more big plays down the field, but there's a long way to go to simply be decent. The Cyclones were 11th in the Big 12 in passing efficiency and threw way too many picks. Arnaud and Tiller combined to throw 15 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.
Outlook: Arnaud might never be Peyton Manning, but Peyton Manning will never run like Arnaud. There's a chance for a big jump up in consistency and production in Arnaud's senior year, while Tiller will be too good to keep off the field in some way, he's purely a No. 2 man at the moment. If Missouri's Blaine Gabbert struggles a bit, Arnaud could turn out to be the Big 12 North's best quarterback.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: The hope was for Alexander Robinson to go from good to terrific, and he did that going from 703 yards as a sophomore to 1,195 yards and six touchdowns as a junior averaging 5.2 yards per carry with six 100-yard days. The 5-9, 186-pounder has great speed who makes things happen on his own, and he was dangerous in the open field catching 17 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns averaging 15.4 yards per play. From time to time, he can also be used in a Wildcat formation; he threw a ten-yard touchdown pass to add even more to his versatility.

Projected Top Reserves: Next year's main running back weapon will likely be Beau Blankenship, a 5-8, 200-pound sophomore who got a little bit of work but only ran four times for 11 yards. Never quite healthy all year and struggling through a minor knee injury this offseason, staying on the field will be an issue for a player of his size. When he's right, he should be a dangerous all-around playmaker who can be used in a variety of ways.

With Blankenship banged up, 5-8, 182-pound redshirt freshman James White will be in the mix for the No . 2 spot. Extremely quick, the Texan and scout team star adds more explosion to the running game and has the types of moves that defenses have a nightmare of a time dealing with; he can make something out of nothing.

Watch Out For … Robinson to be a lock for 1,000 yards. He isn't going to blow up with Arnaud taking away yards and Blankenship and White getting several carries, but he should average over five yards per carry again and should be a 100-yard regular.
Strength: Tremendous quickness. Robinson can cut on a dime, while Blankenship and White move extremely well. Iowa State recruits to a type, and the backs with burst are there.
Weakness: Big power. Robinson runs hard and the backs are all willing to get inside, but there isn't a big thumper who can be a sure-thing on a one-yard run. 234-pound true freshman Jeff Woody is the biggest option.
Outlook: As long as the line comes up with another good year, and as long as everyone stays healthy, the backs should combine for well over 1,500 yards. Robinson is going to be fantastic, Blankenship, now healthy, will be a factor, and White has some good pop.
Unit Rating: 8


Projected Starters: One of the biggest shockers of last year was the emergence of walk-on Jake Williams, a 6-1, 206-pound senior who turned out to become one of the team's steadiest player finishing second on the team with 36 catches for 403 yards and a team-leading five scores including a 47-yard touchdown in the win over Nebraska. He's not all that fast and he doesn't do anything special, but he catches everything that comes his way.

After exploding on to the scene as a freshman with 49 catches for 477 yards and a score, junior Darius Darks was never quite healthy throughout last year fighting through a hamstring injury. He finished fourth on the team with 28 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 10.8 yards per catch, but he didn't have the same explosion and he couldn't get to 100% until the second half of the year. After working hard on rehabbing his leg and working out differently, he should be back to his 2008 self and he should be the team's most dangerous receiver.

Junior Sedrick Johnson came up with a strong true freshman season making 18 catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns, but he struggled to find his niche after suffering an ankle injury early. Never right all year, he made just seven catches for 36 yards averaging 5.1 yards per grab. The 6-3, 211-pounder has excellent size and enough talent to be a factor (he was a great recruit out of Texas), and he could be a strong deep threat not that he's healthy and has a bigger role.

Senior Collin Franklin came to ISU from the JUCO ranks and had a nice first year catching 15 passes for 258 yards and two scores, averaging 17.2 yards per catch, and he did a bit more last season catching 18 passes for 192 yards. The 6-5, 241-pounder isn't a big blocker, but he has reliable hands and should grow into a more dangerous target with the departure of Derrick Catlett, who caught 29 passes for 301 yards and two scores. Franklin should be a better receiver than Catlett, but he's not the same blocker.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Darius Reynolds appeared to be on the way to a special year catching 13 passes for 72 yards, but he suffered a broken leg in the fourth game and missed the rest of the season. A good short range receiver with great route running ability, the 6-1, 203 pounder is back and will be a key part of the rotation working behind Sedrick Johnson.

5-11, 190-pound sophomore Josh Lenz turned in a surprisingly strong true freshman season catching 20 passes for 186 yards while turning into the team's main punt returner. He struggled averaging just 4.8 yards per punt return and he averaged only 9.3 yards per catch, but he's extremely fast with excellent quickness in the open field. He'll work behind Darius Darks.

Sophomore Kurt Hammerschmidt saw a little time last year but didn't register any stats. A strong, aggressive blocker and a promising tight end, he's 6-5 and 251 pounds with good skills and the potential to shin in a two-tight end set. He might not be the receiver that Collin Franklin is, but he can catch.

Watch Out For … Johnson. Now that he's healthy, he has the potential to blow up and become a dangerous deep threat. He worked his tail off this offseason and he should be a more polished, more refined all-around playmaker.
Strength: Veterans. Marquis Hamilton might be gone, but Williams, Darks, Lens, and Johnson can all produce. The offense spreads the ball around so the loss of any one target isn't that big a deal. As QB Austen Arnaud improves, the receiving corps should do even more.
Weakness: Big plays. This has been a huge problem over the last few seasons averaging just 11.4 yards per catch two years ago and 10.9 yards per grab last season. The offense is wide open and spreads out the production, but the biggest play all year from the receivers was just 47 yards.
Outlook: As long as everyone can stay healthy with Reynolds and Johnson ready to go, the receiving corps is loaded with promise. There might not be any one standout playmaker, but there are more than enough veterans to get the ball to. Deep plays have been a problem and it would be nice to have someone who could hit the occasional home run, but there's a good blend of size, skill, and experience.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Working at left tackle is the star of the line, 6-5, 327-pound junior Kelechi Osemele , a tremendous pass blocker who earned second-team All-Big 12 honors. A guard earlier in his career, he moved over to the outside and was fantastic in all phases with the quickness to work at left tackle even though he would be more dominant on the right side. While he's not great against the speed rushers, he's proven and will be the anchor.

A regular at right guard for the last several years, 6-4, 315-pound senior Ben Lamaak will step in for all-star Reggie Stephens at center. A rock over the last three years, he grew into the job even after missing time in 2008 hurt, and now he should shine in the middle. The former high school quarterback has been tried out at tackle and has the strength and size, along with decent athleticism, to be the quarterback up front. He might not be Stephens, but he'll be good.

With Lamaak moving over one spot, now the line has to do some scrambling with Scott Haughton getting booted from the team. The starting right tackle last year was going to move over to right guard, and now the hope is for sophomore Drew Davis to be ready for the job. At 6-8 and 337 pounds he's not built leverage-wise for the position, but he has a big frame and is a tough prospect who'll be given every shot to win the job.

Sophomore Brayden Burris is back from a torn MCL and will settle in at right tackle. He's not huge at 6-6 and 276 pounds, but he's experienced, getting the start against Texas A&M, and he moves well. He's a to-the-whistle blocker who's always moving and always hustling, but he's not going to barrel over anyone. His strength will be as a pass protector.

Back after starting every game last year, senior Alex Alvarez is a versatile left guard who could see time at center if needed. If Ben Lamaak moves to right guard, Alvarez could play in the middle even though he's a far better fit at guard. At 6-2 and 300 pounds, he has nice size with great feet as an interior pass blocker. He might not be an all-star, but he's a valuable veteran who knows what he's doing.

Projected Top Reserves: Coming In from the JUCO ranks is Jon Caspers , a 6-4, 291-pound junior who'll get a long look at left guard. If Alex Alvarez moves to center, Caspers will step into the starting spot and he should be ready to go right away after earning honorable mention NCJAA All-America honors. He's a strong mauler who'll be fine if and when needed.

It would make everyone's life a lot easier if senior Sean Smith became really good at playing football. The 6-4, 294-pound veteran backup has seen action over the last two years, but he hasn't been strong enough to be a regular part of the rotation. The opportunity is there to become a factor at center, and if he could show he's worthy of starting time, Ben Lamaak could move over to right guard.

Redshirt freshman Kyle Lichtenberg was one of the team's top recruits last year and should eventually be a key starting tackle. He's not all that big at 6-5 and 261 pounds, but he's a quick, aggressive blocker with a world of upside. He'll start out behind Kelechi Osemele at left tackles, but he could quickly step in on the right side.

Watch Out For … the right guard situation. Will Davis really step up and become the starter, or will Lamaak move over and the center job will be up for grabs? Right guard might be the least important spot on the line, but it has become a big deal.
Strength: Pass protection. The coaching staff emphasized getting more out of the pass blocking and it paid off. The Cyclones finished third in the Big 12 and 21st in the nation giving up just 16 sacks while also paving the way for the league's third best ground game. There might be two new starters up front, but the line will be solid.
Weakness: Proven backups. The concern last year was over the thin depth, and things aren't that much better coming into this season. There's decent potential and some good prospects in Lichtenberg and Caspers, but they need time.
Outlook: The line was one of the few positives in the Gene Chizik era, and last year it all came together under Paul Rhodes as the zone-blocking scheme found its timing and consistency early and was great all year. Losing Reggie Stephens in the middle is a problem and the booting of Scott Haughton is a problem, but as long as the right guard/center situation is quickly rectified, and as long as everyone stays healthy, this should be a strength once again.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2010 Iowa State Preview | 2010 Iowa State Offense
- 2010 Iowa State Defense | 2010 Iowa State Depth Chart
- Iowa State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006