NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 26: A visible illustration of the benefits of depth at every position (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Last week, Iowa State football released the first depth chart of the 2012 season. There's nothing too surprising contained within the chart; the quarterback question is still up in the air, Jake Knott and AJ Klein are still starting linebackers and Tom Farniok hasn't decided to forgo his starting spot a center and try out for wide receiver. A lot of stuff on this extremely early depth chart is expected.
But looking through the depth chart is interesting for a few reasons. Most notably, which players have the lead in taking over for departing seniors? Obviously it's still early; fall practices haven't even started yet. Iowa State's starting roster is still in flux, and the starters listed on this chart don't necessarily reflect who the starters will ultimately be. But the players at the top of the depth chart now have a leg up to be the starters versus Tulsa on September 1st.
Secondly, how quickly are younger players moving up the depth chart? Several highly-touted players are coming off of redshirts, how likely are they to see playing time this season? These questions answered for Iowa State's offense after the jump.
Tight End: Redshirt senior and excellently-named Teutonic Truncheon Kurt Hammerschmidt claims the top spot at tight end. An underwhelming junior season saw Hammerschmidt only catch 13 passes for 126 yards, but Hammerschmidt has the size to compete in the Big XII. At 271 lbs, Hammerschmidt is more of a extra lineman that occasionally catches passes. Reports from spring also spoke highly of redshirt junior Ernst Brun (jesus, Cyclone tight ends could stage their own production of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" this year), so expect him to contribute valuable minutes this year as well.
Offensive Line: The most pressing need entering 2012 for the offensive line is finding viable replacements for NFL-bound Kelechi Osemele and Hayworth Hicks. Redshirt senior Carter Bykowski is the early favorite to replace Osemele at left tackle, with redshirt freshman Brock Dagel as a backup. Bykowski has plenty of game experience, and performed admirably while filling in for an injured Brayden Burris last year, so the left tackle position shouldn't see too much of a drop off in production.
Taking over for Hayworth Hicks at right guard appears to be redshirt junior Kyle Lichtenberg. Fun fact: Lichtenberg has made the honor roll all four years at Iowa State and currently has the highest GPA of any player on the team. Hopefully this will help him remember the snap count to cut down on some of the more ridiculous false-starts Hicks was charged with last year.
Tom Farniok, Ethan Tuftee and Brayden Burris hold onto their starting spots at center, left guard and right tackle, respectively.
Wide receiver: As the leading returning wide receiver, senior and current top-statistical-quarterback-on-the-team Josh Lenz has one of the starting spots locked up. But one of the biggest surprises on the latest depth chart is the fact that redshirt freshman Quenton Bundrage apparently claimed another starting spot, surpassing spring starter Albert Gary. How much of this is due to Gary's questionable legal status and how much is due to Bundrage's talent is currently unknown. Still, it's encouraging to see a talented freshman like Bundrage pushing the upperclassmen at his position.
Redshirt sophomore and tiny-Devin Hester-clone Jarvis West appears to have a hold on the starting slot receiver position. The afore-mentioned Albert Gary backs West up, while redshirt freshman Tad Ecby and redshirt senior Chris Young round out the two-deeps at wide receiver. But with as many receivers as Iowa State puts on the field in a game, you probably shouldn't read too much into the starters at this point in time.
Quarterback: Yeah, still no answers here.
Running Back: Running back is probably the deepest position on the team, even before Shontrelle Johnson was cleared to play last week. This bodes well for Iowa State's success this season for a few reasons. One; running backs coach Kenneth Pope has options. He can put in a bruiser like Jeff Woody in short yardage situations, he can use James White or DeVondrick Nealy's speed and catching ability as a receiver out of the backfield, or he can use shifty backs like Johnson or Rob Standard as the situation dictates.
Secondly, running backs get hurt easily. It's a difficult position to play, as a back is expected to run through five 300-lb lineman, avoid being tackled by seven 250-lb linemen and linebackers, THEN get upfield with enough quickness to avoid cornerbacks and safeties diving at your knees. There's a reason running backs have the shortest careers out of all players in the NFL. So having five legitimate running backs is important to a run-first team like Iowa State.
So there's you're extremely early, in-no-way-definitive look at Iowa State first 2012 depth chart. Check back tomorrow for a look at the defense.