Spring football is in full swing across the Big 12. All ten teams in the league have officially begun to work through their fifteen allotted practices, with some of them set to wrap up soon. The Iowa State Cyclones started their spring on last Thursday, and will conclude in early May. Below, we give an overview of the program and provide an idea of what questions the Cyclones will seek to answer over the course of their remaining practices.
Expectations are high for the Cyclones this season, as 2020 turned out to be a historic year for Iowa State. Though they stumbled to start the season, Iowa State went 8-1 in conference play and qualified for a berth in the Big 12 title game for the fist time ever. After falling narrowly to Oklahoma 27-21 in Arlington, the Cylcones beat Oregon 34-17 in the Fiesta Bowl, ending their season on a high note.
Now, Iowa State is looking to not only qualify for a championship game, but possibly win it. With only three starters gone from last year’s squad, the Cyclones will go into 2021 as a likely Top 10 team and nearly undisputed No. 2 in the Big 12 behind the Sooners. The pieces are there to not only repeat last year’s success, but to bring home Iowa State’s first conference trophy in over a century. Whether they will live up to those expectations, however, is the real question that needs to be answered.
PRACTICE BEGINS: April 1st
SPRING GAME: N/A
LOCATION: Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, IA)
Offensive Questions For The Cyclones
Offensively, a Cyclones squad that averaged 34.7 points per game in Big 12 play last season returns all but one starter, so expect them to be productive offensively. The winner of the conference traditionally also has the best offense, though, so the Cyclones will need to develop along every position. The real question mark on this side of the ball, though, is probably at wide receiver.
Iowa State hasn’t had a 1,000 yard receiver since 2018, an asset that could really be helpful for an offense eyeing a conference title. Xavier Hutchinson was the closest last season, picking up 771 yards. With the loss of tight end/fullback Dylan Soehner, there likely will be yards to go around elsewhere.
Defensive Questions For The Cyclones
On defense, Iowa State will likely be hoping to elevate what was already a high level of play in 2020. The Cyclones had one of the best defenses in the Big 12, including the best scoring defense, which yielded only 20.9 points per conference. If Iowa State can improve on last season’s defensive performance, they can be more assured of returning to the title game.
The pass defense likely needs the most attention, and that starts up front with the pressure coming from the defensive line. JaQuan Bailey was the team’s second-leading sack leader last year, and now that he’s off to the NFL, it’s fair to wonder who will make up for the loss of his production. Will McDonald, who was highly productive last year, will man that end spot, but can the Cyclones develop another elite player among this group?
On the back end, the Cylcones do lose safety Lawrence White IV, who’s currently preparing for the NFL Draft. Look for Villanova transfer Jaquon Amos to possibly take over that spot. Hopefully, Iowa State can take steps forward this spring throughout that secondary, where they also lose a couple of backups to the transfer portal.