With spring football well beyond completion, it’s time to address some of the things that Iowa State has to look forward to this upcoming fall. Spring football, in essence, is just a time to be optimistic about your team for the next football season. The first thing you need to know about spring football is that it is very difficult to provide measurable means about how “good” your team is going to be. No matter how you draw it up, from a competitive perspective, it’s impossible to predict how many games your team is going to win based off of the spring game. It is a glorified scrimmage that is open to the public. This is important to be mindful of, and head coach Paul Rhoads recognizes this. “The stats go straight to my toilet.” That being said, optimism to return to a bowl swirls between the goalposts (and massive renovations) like a late-November Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. The spring game is a flirtatious tease, and these are a few things that we caught a glimpse of in April that will exert some excitement for a fan base that is starting to get somewhat of a bad taste in their mouth because of a total of five wins (3-9, 2-10) the past two seasons.
The primary reason Cyclone fans are excited for the 2016 campaign because of the newly bowled in stadium renovations made possible by a generous donations by the Sukup family in Iowa. The expansion project includes a significant upgrade to the former facility, and it will increase the stadium capacity to 61,000, not to mention another monstrous scoreboard, more club seat suites, and a bar area. The expansion project is set to be completed by the home opener on Saturday, September 5th against the UNI Panthers. I fully expect a record crowd on hand for this game due to the instate matchup and the new project being completed.
The receiving corps is primed to have a breakout year with Allen Lazard, D’Vario Montgomery, and the return of 2013 standout Quenton Bundrage. The combination of these three receivers should be amongst the best in the Big 12. Returning senior quarterback Sam B. Richardson is in year two of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s offense, and he will look to improve his passing statistics with these towering receiving corps. All have great size (above 6’2”) and hands. Cyclone fans should be excited to see them in action. Montgomery came on strong toward the end of the 2014 season and ended up leading the team in receiving yards (605). Lazard finished second on the team in yards (593), as well as second in receptions (45)—both in which rank 2nd all-time for a Cyclone freshman wide out. Finally, we all should be ecstatic about the return of 2013 playmaker, Quenton Bundrage. Bundrage suffered an injury just four plays into the 2014 season, but proved to be a huge difference-maker for the offense during the 2013 campaign. His 97-yard touchdown catch and run against the Texas Longhorns highlighted his nine touchdown catches during the 2013 season. I’m not saying this will for sure happen, but do not be shocked if the Cyclone passing offense creeps into the top half of the league.
Last but not least, an improved defense…(please). The 2014 season truly could not have gone much worse than what was exhibited. The Cyclones gave up an average of 38.8 points per game and an average of 528.9 yards of total offense a game. To be blunt, that’s awful. If the Cyclones even want to taste a bowl-berth, those numbers must drop significantly. The secondary returns some good pieces in junior cornerback Nigel Tribune and Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Kamari Cotton-Moya at free safety. The real concerns lie in the front seven. The Cyclones are missing a proven linebacker, as well as any real pass-rush threat with the graduation of defensive end Cory Morrissey. Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham has his work cut out for him this season, but look for the numbers to be improved. Defensive tackle Demond Tucker should come in and be a force immediately, and there were a lot of players that got some experience last season that should contribute. From a total yard perspective, the defense is still going to rank in the bottom half of the league, however, if they can force some turnovers and improve the run defense, Iowa State might be able to make a few surprises.
There you have it Cyclone fans, 2013 and 2014 were tough seasons to sit through, I know, but these are some things that should shine through the at least some of the darkness. If nothing else, tailgating is always a good option to look forward to and basketball season starts in November.
**If you want a chance to win FREE Big 12 gear from your favorite team, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter! **