For as much time, energy and focus that they put into it, the future of the Iowa State football program (at least on offense) may not be as dependent on out-of-state athletes from Texas, Florida or California as you'd think .
Often criticized for the lack of division-1 talent it produces, some of the more iconic players in the modern era of Iowa State football (which I'm defining as 2000-current...deal with it old timers), have come from within Iowa's borders. To be more specific, a large amount of the talent that's come through the Cyclone program in that time span has originated right in Iowa State's backyard from the Central Iowa Metropolitan League (the CIML is now defunct as Iowa's largest football class has since abolished conferences and moved to reorganized districts).
Names like Nik Moser, Todd Blythe, Austen Arnaud, Jake Knott and now Allen Lazard are just a few of the central Iowa alums who played their prep football in what was the state's largest conference, and they're certainly not alone. More often than not, when Iowa State has mined the limited talent the CIML has to offer, it's managed to pluck a few dandies from the litter. And when you consider some of the walk-ons that have succeeded at Iowa State, guys like Jesse Smith, Jeff Woody and Jake Williams, it begs the question of whether or not the Cyclone program should be more reliant on recruiting talent locally from central Iowa's largest schools.
Alright, now before everyone gets carried away, yes, I realize it's debatable about whether or not the schools that made up the CIML produce more top talent than the large schools in the eastern half of the state, and for that matter, the schools that comprise class 3A and smaller, but it's undeniable that with a quarter of the state's population within a 50-mile radius, it's critical that Iowa State at least be cognizant of the blossoming talent in the area.
Paul Rhoads and crew face enough challenges on the recruiting trail, so it would stand to reason that they make their job easier by locking up any and all talent in central Iowa.
Iowa State opened the 2015 campaign with five former CIML products in the starting line up, those being Allen Lazard (Urbandale), Jake Campos (Valley), Ben Boesen (Dowling Catholic), Levi Peters (Fort Dodge) and Cole Netten (Ankeny). Ryan Glenn of Waukee and Joel Lanning of Ankeny are also former CIML alums on scholarship on the roster.
Three of those guys in particular, Lazard, Campos and Lanning just might be the three most important players on the offensive side of the ball going forward. Coincidentally, Lazard and Campos were both 4-star prospects that could have gone anywhere else and Lanning would appear to be the heir apparent at quarterback after this season, if not sooner.
So what does this mean? Should Iowa State pull back the reins on its recruiting efforts in places like Florida and Texas? Probably not, but it might suggest that there's more and perhaps better talent locally than many have given the state credit for.
Take a look at the 2016 class. 247 Sports ranked the top two prospects in the state, John Raridon (Valley) and Jake Heinrich (Urbandale), from local schools. Both were rated as 4-star prospects and while each will be leaving the state to play their collegiate ball (Raridon committed to Nebraska while Heinrich is headed to Arkansas), it shows that there is talent to be had locally. Additionally, 247 Sports has Caleb Bright from Urbandale (committed to Bowling Green) and Michael Frankl from Ames (uncommitted) ranked in its top ten from the state.
The 2017 class is no different and arguably more important from a Cyclone standpoint going forward, given that most of the 2016 prospects have already given their verbal pledges. 247 Sports has Colin Newell, an offensive tackle from Ames, and Rocky Lombardi, a quarterback from Valley ranked among its top five in-state prospects. Both Newell and Lombardi hold Iowa State offers and each is a 3-star prospect.
Even Kirk Ferentz at Iowa has made a push for central Iowa talent in recent classes after ignoring the Des Moines metro area altogether for several years. In the last three classes, Iowa has signed guys like Jon Wisnieski (Dowling), Keegan Render (Indianola), Ryan Boyle (Dowling), and former Iowa State commit, Anthony Nelson (Waukee).
With the recruiting, the lesson as always is that you have to protect your local turf and keep home-grown talent...well, home. Iowa State was able to do that with guys like Campos, Lazard and Lanning and it will remain critically important that the Cyclone program continues to do so going forward.