With Iowa State’s spring practice in the books, here’s what we know and what we learned about the Cyclones as we head into summer drills.
Iowa State is a very different team than it was at this time last year, Matt Campbell’s first in Ames. There’s more confidence, continuity and overall depth. But will it be enough to catapult from 3-9 in 2016 to the Cyclones’ first bowl game in five years? That’s the goal for a squad with the offensive upside to emerge as a Big 12 sleeper in 2017.
Iowa State Spring Practice Redux
1. This Is Jacob Park’s Offense
Based purely on raw talent, Park delivered an impressive debut at Iowa State, throwing 12 touchdown passes in a part-time role. This spring, his first in Ames, he carried himself like a far more complete quarterback.
Park has displayed leadership, maturity and a better grasp of the system this offseason, all of which will help him when the season kicks off. His arm talent and moxie combined with advancing intangibles could result in a huge year for the former Georgia transfer, especially considering his surrounding support staff. The Cyclones boast one of the Big 12’s better collections of skill talent, bolstered by the emergence of 6-6 redshirt freshman TE Chase Allen and the addition of touted 6-foot-4 JUCO transfer WR Matt Eaton.
2. Joel Finds New Lanning Spot
The Cyclone who shared the quarterback job with Park a season ago, Joel Lanning? Yeah, he’s now on the fast track to capturing the opening at middle linebacker.
That Lanning can ascend so quickly at a position he last played in eighth grade is a testament to both his versatility and Iowa State’s dearth of proven players on the defensive side of the ball. Lanning has already brought toughness, athleticism and the leadership of a fifth-year senior to the second level. How busy he is this fall will hinge in large part on the evolution of newcomers, like DT Ray Lima, the El Camino (Calif.) Community College transfer who has immediately attracted praise from Campbell and the coaching staff.
3. If the O-line Gels, It Won’t Happen Until August
The only way Tom Manning’s offense will regress in 2017 is if the line is unable to adjust to the loss of four senior starters.
The Cyclones have some quality parts up front. Jake Campos is a fifth-year senior returning from a broken leg that forced him to miss all of 2016. Julian Good-Jones was a full-timer as a redshirt freshman. Sean Foster impressed in his first spring in the rotation. And Dave Dawson, a former four-star recruit of Michigan, is coming on board in the summer. The problem for Iowa State is that the likely starting five didn’t have an opportunity to work together, so any attempts at cohesion won’t happen until at least the summer.