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2019 Season

Big 12 Spring Wrap-Up: Iowa State Can Contend For A Conference Championship

Despite losing a few key players from last year’s team, there’s enough depth for Iowa State to compete for a league title.

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Getty Images - David K. Purdy

Big 12 football teams have been done with spring football for a few weeks now, and we’re beginning to gain more clarity as to what the league’s 2019 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some of the possible issues and potential surprises in store for each Big 12 team.

Up next are the Iowa State Cyclones, who should enter Matt Campbell’s fourth season with a fair amount of optimism. Iowa State had historic success in 2018 in putting together back-to-back eight win seasons, and despite their personnel losses, the Cyclones seem to find a way to get better every year. With a couple of offensive stalwarts gone to the NFL, Iowa State once again had the challenge of figuring out who’s going to step up next season.

Here we get into some tentative impressions of this year’s Cyclones, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations about Iowa State football (You should also definitely check out the Ten12 Podcast’s post-spring football discussion). 

PROJECTED 2019 STARTERS
OFFENSE DEFENSE
QB Brock Purdy (So.) E JaQuan Bailey (Sr.)
RB Sheldon Croney Jr (Sr.) NG Ray Lima (Sr.)
WR Deshaunte Jones (Sr.) E Matt Leo (Sr.)
WR Tarique Milton (So.) LB Marcel Spears Jr. (Sr.)
WR Landen Akers (Jr.) LB Mike Rose  (SO.)
TE Charlie Kolar (So.) LB Will McDonald (Fr.)
LT Julian Good-Jones (Sr.) STAR Braxton Lewis (Sr.)
LG Collin Olson (Sr.) FS Lawrence White (Jr.)
C Colin Newell (So.) SS Greg Eisworth (Jr.)
RG Josh Knipfel (Sr.) LC Anthony Johnson (So.)
RT Bryce Meeker (Sr.) RC Datrone Young (So.)

Who Steps Up As A Pass Catcher? 

For the second year in a row, Campbell’s offense will have to replace a headline-making wide receiver who’s off to the NFL. Senior Deshaunte Jones is set up to be the next star of the receiving corps, but he’s not the same type of wideout Iowa State’s had these past two or three years. 

Tight end might end up being more of a focus for quarterback Brock Purdy, who was phenomenal last season as a rookie. There’s depth at that position, as both starter Charlie Kolar – a freshman standout a year ago – and junior Chase Allen are two of the better tight ends in the conference. 

Whatever ends up happening, there are options available to carry the passing game of the Cyclones in 2019. 

The Offensive Line Should Be Improved 

The offensive line was probably the position group that struggled the most in 2018 for Iowa State. In a year where they return 115 starts and all five starters from a year ago, there should be improvements up front for the Cyclones.

 It may not sound like a ringing endorsement to say that there’s no where to go but up for this unit, but there’s good reason to think that a group which has progressed under Matt Campbell will only continue to do so.

Defensively, Iowa State Could Be Very Good

High quality defense has been key to Campbell’s success in turning things around in Ames since he’s been there. This year, the Cyclones return many of the key players who helped them contain the Big 12’s best offenses in 2018. 

Credit is definitely due to defensive coordinator Jon Heacock, whose 3-3-5 is beginning to gain a reputation for its success in slowing down elite Air Raid attacks.  In conference play, Iowa State led the league in scoring defense and rush defense last season, and with 16 players back from last year’s two deep, they’re set up to be even better. 

Of all the defenses in the Big 12, the Cyclones have the fewest questions headed into 2019 season, and that definitely bodes well for Heacock’s side of the ball. 

This Team Has A Serious Chance At The Title

Campbell inherited a team in 2016 that had perpetually been a Big 12 bottom dweller, but after an initial 3-9 start, he has consistently been able to move the program forward to the point where Iowa State had a real shot at playing for a Big 12 title late in the season. 

This staff has repeatedly shown that they can evaluate and develop players for their program, so betting on their continued ability to do that seems like a winning proposition. Iowa State was a game away from playing in Arlington last season, and it would be no surprise to see them in the mix this season. 

 

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