The top 10 Iowa State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Mike Warren
The Cyclones have their star back to work around, and now he just needs a little bit of help. The 6-0, 200-pounder is a workhorse with quickness, power and speed – he’s the type of back who can balance out a high-octane passing game, if the Cyclones can get one.
While he wasn’t a top recruit, and he was ignored by the local schools, the Oklahoma native turned out to be one of the league’s best offensive weapons last season rushing for 1,339 yards and five touchdowns averaging 5.9 yards per carry – ripping up Texas Tech for 245 yards on 23 carries and running for 125 yards or more in six games. He’s going to be a marked man, but this coaching staff knows how to maximize the rushing production.
2. DT Demond Tucker
The All-Big 12 interior presence did a decent job of holding up as an anchor – or at least as much of one as the Cyclones had. While he came up with 28 tackles, he was at his best trying to get into the backfield with six sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He needs help around him to generate more production for a run defense that didn’t do nearly enough in key moments. This will be his defensive front with everyone working around him.
3. WR Allen Lazard
On just about any other team, he’d be a national star. The team’s leading receiver and even more dangerous as a punt returner, he doesn’t look like he’s supposed to be tremendously quick, but he can move for his 6-5, 223-pound size.
He averaged a whopping 19.45 yards per punt return and the most consistent target in a good receiving corps, catching 56 passes for 807 yards and six scores, averaging over 14 yards per grab. He came up with 147 yards and a score on five catches against TCU, and was one of the lone bright spots against Oklahoma with eight grabs for 101 yards.
4. CB Brian Peavy
An all-star in his first season getting the starting gig, the 5-9, 184-pounder is a good hitter for his size leading the team with 82 tackles and doing a nice job of getting into the backfield from time to time. While he came up with two picks, he was good enough when the ball was in the air breaking up ten passes for a secondary that got lit up time and again. Very athletic and very tough, now he needs to be a lock-down type on one side.
5. QB Joel Lanning
It wasn’t supposed to be his starting gig last year with Sam Richardson in place, but Lanning turned out to be the main man with 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns with just four picks, while running for 330 yards and four scores. At 6-2 and 232 pounds, he’s a good-sized dual-threat passer who can pound away a little bit. Physical, he handles himself well under the pass rush, and he showed the ability to get hot at times for the passing attack completing 71% of his throws against Baylor and 75% against Kansas State. Iowa State lost both games, but he’s got the upside to start doing a lot more once he gets in a little more work. It’s his job for the next few years.
6. LB Willie Harvey, Jr.
The team’s fourth-leading tackler came up with 59 stops with two sacks and three tackles for loss, and now he knows what he’s doing. While he’s only 6-0 and 222 pounds, the Florida native can move with the upside to grow into a pass rusher and factor against the quick-passing teams. He’s not going to bring too much thump, but he’ll get around the ball and is great in space. He’s about to become a major statistical star.
7. S Kamari Cotton-Moya, Sr.
All set to become one of the stars of the defense before suffering a hamstring injury, the 6-1, 197-pounder made 77 tackles as a freshman and started out last year big with 40 stops in six games before getting hurt. He’s big and has range, but he’s more of a good run defender than a playmaker on the ball. While he’ll work as a free safety, and he’s not a thumper, he’ll be a key factor against the run.
8. OT Jake Campos, Jr.
Very smart and very dependable, he was out this offseason but will be one of the key leaders for the line at left tackle. He started the last 23 games and was one of the keys for the ground game, while also using his 6-8, 297-pound frame as a decent pass protector. He’s not great at dealing with the speed rushers, but even for a line that allowed 42 sacks, he was solid. A great get for the program, he’s turning into the blocker on the outside to work the line around.
9. S/CB Jarnor Jones, Sr.
So what is he? The former JUCO transfer came in and had a strong first year coming up with 49 tackles with two sacks, six broken up passes and seven tackles for loss, but where is he going to play? The 6-3, 209-pounder who started off his career with NC State – at least that was where he was supposed to go – has the size and range of a safety, but he spent the offseason working as a corner. He’ll find a role somewhere with his experience and tackling skills.
10. C Julian Good-Jones, RFr.
Is he going to be the answer in the middle? The 6-5, 295-pound versatile blocker has the quickness and frame of a tackle, but he’s coming off a tremendous offseason taking over a key role in the interior. The O line needs a rebuilding job, but it’ll be a massive help if Good-Jones really can handle the work quarterbacking front five.