College basketball is heading down the home stretch, college baseball has started, but let’s not forget (I know many of you aren’t) that spring practice is already getting underway across the country. We will handle spring previews for every Big 12 football team and roll them out based on when their respective spring practices begin. Next up is the Iowa State Cyclones, who will start up spring practice on Monday, March 19th.
Most Exciting Returnee: RB David Montgomery
Montgomery is the most explosive player on the offensive side of the ball for the Cyclones. He finished last season third in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game, was 6th in touchdowns, 5th in all-purpose yards and his six 100-yard rushing games was T-3 in the conference. But Montgomery is a dual-threat player as well, as he had 36 catches for nearly 300 yards. With players like Allen Lazard gone (more on that below), Montgomery becomes an even more important part of this offense (if that’s even possible). One more solid year in Ames and he should be skipping his senior season and heading to the NFL Draft. As a running back with three years of wear and tear, it’ll be time to go.
Most Exciting Newcomer: S Greg Eisworth
Replacing Kamari Cotton-Moya isn’t an easy task, but that is arguably what Greg Eisworth is being asked to do. Eisworth comes out of Trinity Valley Community College and is the third ranked JUCO safety in the Class of 2018, along with being a top 10 JUCO player in Texas. Eisworth was a three-star prospect when he signed with Ole Miss in 2016, but decided to transfer out after just one semester. He was a former QB who held offers out of high school from Baylor, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and SMU, amongst others. At one point last season, Iowa State had four of five seniors listed on the depth chart at safety, so this is a position of need for Matt Campbell’s team. Plus, unlike most JUCO players, Eisworth will have three years of eligibility in Ames.
Replacing veteran wide receivers
As mentioned, Allen Lazard is gone, but so is Trever Ryen. At 6’5’’, 220, Lazard was one of the great deep threats in the Big 12 and averaged 72 receiving yards per game with 10 touchdowns. He is off to have a successful NFL career. Ryen was solid in the slot with 47 catches for 469 yards. Both were leaders on this team as well. Also missing is Marchie Murdock, who had five touchdown catches. ISU is losing 16 of its 27 receiving touchdowns from last season. Iowa State has a solid group ready to take on more of the production with Hakeem Butler, Deshaunte Jones and Matthew Eaton. Butler and Jones were just sophomores last season and could become one of the best 1-2 WR duos in the Big 12. Other youngsters I’m hoping to see make a jump for Iowa State at wide receiver include redshirt sophomores Jalen Martin, Landen Akers and maybe more target for sophomore TE Chase Allen. Then there’s a group of redshirt freshman ready to make their presence felt, like Tarique Milton, who picked ISU over Michigan State and Louisville, Josh Johnson, who ESPN named a four-star player, and had offers from Notre Dame and Oklahoma State, along with Parker Rickert, who chose to walk-on at Iowa State over offer from Louisiana Tech.
For the first time since 2015, Iowa State will return more than half its starters on the offensive line. But two starters and leaders, Jake Campos and Robby Garcia, must be replaced. Campos was a leader, great in the classroom, and was the ultimate team-first player. Replacing those two will tough, but there is still reason for optimism. Julian Good-Jones has started 24-straight games, while Josh Knipfel, Bryce Meeker and Sean Foster all started games last season. But finding a left guard and some depth will be important this spring. Also, there’s the new offensive line coach, 25-year-old Jeff Myers, who is the youngest assistant coach in the Big 12.
“Replacing” Joel Lanning
In fairness, no one replaces Joel Lanning. From his abilities (2nd in the Big 12 in tackles), to leadership and humility (switched from quarterback to linebacker), players like Lanning don’t come around very often. But it’s an important position for a team that was often carried by it’s defense last season. Along with Lanning, productive linebackers Evrett Edwards and Mackenro Alexander are also gone. Willie Harvey finished fifth on the team in tackles and has played in 35 games over his first three seasons in Ames. He’s the perfect player to step into that role as the leader of the unit. There’s also Marcell Spears, who was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 last season. Tymar Sutton and Jake Hummel are a couple players that played sparingly as freshmen last season and should see increased playing time and responsibilities this spring.
Plus, don’t forget names like redshirt freshmen O’Rien Vance, who was named a top 50 outside linebacker by most major publications coming out of high school, along with Cordarrius Bailey, who had offers from Arizona, Louisville and Mississippi State, but decided to play for the Cyclones.