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Iowa State vs. the Big 12: Wide Receivers

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Allen Lazard will lead a group of inexperienced wide receivers for Iowa State in 2016.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Iowa State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s edition of the WRNL position previews covers one of the groups that is young and ready to burst onto the scene: the wide receivers.

Talent

We all know Iowa State has never been a hotbed that wide receiver commits to come running to. However, we’ve had our fair share of talented wideouts within Jack Trice Stadium. Todd Blythe, Lane Danielson and Quenton Bundrage to name a few.

Right now, we may be seeing the most talented player ever to play receiver at Iowa State in Allen Lazard. Statistically, he may not be on par with the previous guys mentioned, as the ISU offense tended to stall out quite a bit in his first two years in Ames. With a new offensive coordinator in Tom Manning and a presumed emphasis on getting Lazard touches in the passing game, we might see those numbers grow.

Outside of Lazard, the receiving corps includes Trever Ryen and Dondre Daley, who had 42 receptions and 3 touchdowns last season combined. We should expect their numbers to rise with more experience. Something fun to watch this fall will be Ryen lining up all over the field as the offense tries to take advantage of his speed on the outside.

Carson Epps, a sophomore, had eight receptions last season and is second on the initial fall depth chart behind Daley. He could see more snaps if fall camp goes well for him. Incoming freshman Jalen Martin could see some time as well, as early reports on him are promising.

With opposing defenses likely leaning towards taking away the run game with Mike Warren, the passing game will open up more than it has in the past. The receivers should have space to move and get open. Quarterback Joel Lanning will have no problem getting the ball out, but the rest is up to the receivers to make the plays and make life easier on Warren and Lanning.

Depth

Just like a broken record, depth may be an issue here as well. Behind the players listed above, the cupboard is rather bare with an absence of names that stick out.

Before the season even started, the depth chart took a major blow. D’vario Montgomery left before spring ball, and Jauan Wesley soon followed him. We’re going to see a lot of new names surfacing out of fall camp, and it will be interesting to see who can make a leap to be a threat other than Lazard, Ryen and Daley.

Darius Lee-Campbell moved from quarterback to receiver, and when he was recruited, the coaches raved about his speed in the open field. We should soon see if that translates onto the field at receiver. You may see names like Cole Anderson, Sam Harms and Hakeem Butler too. All have yet to log playing time for the Cyclones, which is why depth issues come to forefront.

However, Butler is 6-foot-6 and a freshman. With that size, he should be able to withstand corners in the Big 12. He may be the one to keep an eye on in camp.

Stacking Up Against the Big 12

The Big 12 is known for offense — we all know that. Receivers at Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are always putting up insane numbers. Iowa State’s stats have not even been close. Lazard was the lone Cyclone to crack the top 10 in Big 12 receiving last year; meanwhile, Baylor had two players and Oklahoma State had three.

The leading receiver last year in the big 12 was Corey Coleman with 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. In comparison, Iowa State’s leading receiver was Lazard with 808 yards and 5 touchdowns and was ranked 9th overall. Each of the top five receivers in the league had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Top 10 is nothing to frown upon, but when other schools are producing multiple targets that rank within the top 10 of the league, there’s room to grow for ISU’s passing offense.

We may be looking at another year with just Lazard gracing the top 10. Until ISU’s group of receivers can gain experience, it could be tough sledding to jump up into the league’s top tiered receiving groups.

Outlook

While the Cyclones’ receivers may be young and inexperienced, there’s talent to make waves. I don’t expect Lazard to reach 1,000 yards receiving this year, but he should come close. The bulk of our yardage early in the year will likely come via the running game, which ultimately could take some of the pressure off the younger receivers as they try to get their feet wet in real games.

Ultimately, all eyes will be on Lazard. Opposing coaches will look to take him out of the game and put the pressure on the others in Iowa State’s lineup. If the other receivers like Ryen, Daley and Martin (assuming the freshman has a great camp) can make plays when necessary, Lazard will have more freedom and give Lanning that threat deep down the field and in the red zone.