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Examining Iowa State’s 2017 Football Roster

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Who’s back, who’s gone, and how you should feel about it.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The calendar has turned to 2017, meaning football season is just around the corner. OK, it’s actually basketball season, and let’s be thankful our team hasn’t forced us to look ahead to football.

What should the expectations be for 2017? Is a 6- or 7-win season possible, or will this team continue to build upon the improvement we saw this past season?

To the casual observer, a 3-9 season might not seem like an improvement, but Cyclone fans know better. Of the 9 losses, one was by 5 to FCS UNI in Campbell’s first game as head coach. The remainder: losses to Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State by a combined 15 points; a 10-point loss to the Sooners; awful performances against Texas and TCU; and downright blowouts against West Virginia and the West Chicago Hawkeyes.

In summary, the Cyclones showed they were frustratingly close to putting it all together at times, and other times were just plain frustrating. Youth and inexperience will do that.

That youth and inexperience has the potential to carry the 2017 Cyclones to greater heights. Though many pieces return on both side of the ball, there are still some gaps on the roster that need to be filled.

The Departed

Jomal Wiltz, Nigel Tribune, Dondre Daley, Justin Chandler, Cole Netten, Patick Scoggins, Brian Bobek, Nick Fett, Brian Seda, Kane Seeley, Josh Jahlas, Pierre Aka, Demond Tucker, Jhaustin Thomas, Gabe Luna, Mitchell Meyers, Janor Jones, Karson Green.

There are some losses here that undoubtedly hurt. Jomal Wiltz, Patrick Scoggins, Demond Tucker, and Jhaustin Thomas played at or near an all-conference level this past season. You might also notice the departure of 4 (gulp) offensive lineman as well as 5 (double gulp) defensive linemen, undoubtedly leaving a void in the trenches. Lastly, the loss of Cole “Swole” Netten may have more of an impact than any of the aforementioned players.

The Newcomers

Eyioma Uwazurike, Carson Lensing, Josh Bailey, Tymar Sutton, Jatairis Grant, Arnold Azunna, Zeb Noland, Sean Foster, Keenan Forbes, Oge Udegou, Josh Mueller, Dylan Soehner, Chase Allen, Jalen Martin, Matt Leo, Matt Eaton, Ray Lima, Richard Bowens III, Kamilo Tongamoa, Kam White.

While there are more newcomers than this, these are the players we feel could make impact on the field this fall. This list includes help on the defensive and offensive lines, two talented tight ends, junior college defensive standouts, and help in the defensive secondary. Keep in mind that while some of these are redshirt freshman (Grant, Sutton, Bailey, Azunna), and some are players that must wind up signing with the Cyclones (White, Tongamoa).

The Depth Chart

It is the goal of every team to be able to rotate the number 2 to number 1 and move their talent through the system. Due to the nature of ISU’s roster, it is probable that we will see certain players fall behind newer and better talent as CMC signs each recruiting class. Therefore, there is a degree of speculation. I’m not above speculation with regard to the 2017 depth chart. As such, I’ve prepared one that I believe would be ideal heading into spring practice.

Newcomers are in bold, asterisk denotes key player.

Offense:

QB1 - Jacob Park* (rJR)

QB2 - Zeb Noland (rFR) or Joel Lanning* (rSR)

QB3 - Kyle Kempt (rSR) or Devon Moore (FR)

RB1 - David Montgomery* (SO)

RB2 - Mike Warren (rJR) or Kene Nwangwu (SO)

TE1 - Chase Allen* (rFR), Dylan Soehner* (rFR)

F1 - Sam Seonbuchner (rJR), Cole Anderson (rJR), Sam Harms (SR)

WR1 - Allen Lazard* (SR), Hakeem Butler (rSO)

WR2 - Deshaunte Jones* (SO), Trever Ryen (rSR)

WR3 - Jalen Martin* (rFR), Carson Epps (JR), Matt Eaton (rJR), Marchie Murdock (rSR), Darius Lee-Campbell (rJR)

LT - Jake Campos* (rSR)

LG - Robbie Garcia (rSR)

C - Will Windham (rJR)

RG - Bryce Meeker (rSO)

RT - Julian Good-Jones* (rSO) or Grad Transfer

OL - Sean Foster* (rFR), Shawn Curtis (rSR), Josh Mueller (SO), Kory Kodanko (rJR), Oge Udeogu (rJR), Keenan Forbes (SO)

Defense:

E - Spencer Benton (rJR) or Matt Leo (rJR), Carson Lensing (rFR)

NG - Jamahl Johnson* (SO), Josh Bailey (rFR)

DT - Vernell Trent (rSR) or Ray Lima* (rJR), Kamilo Tongamoa (rJR)

Leo - JaQuan Bailey* (SR), Eyioma Uwazurike* (rFR) or J.D. Waggoner (rSR)

WLB - Willie Harvey (rJR), Reggan Northrup (rJR)

MLB - Brian Mills (rJR), Bobby McMillen (rSO), Jake Hummel (rFR)

Star - D’Andre Payne* (rJR), Evrett Edwards (rSR)

SLB - Tymar Sutton* (SO), O’Rien Vance* (rFR), Cordarrius Bailey (FR)

LS - Kamari Cotton-Moya (rSR), De’Monte Ruth (rJR)

RS - Mike Johnson (rSO), Kam White (FR), Braxton Lewis (rSO)

LC - Arnold Azunna*, (rFR), Jatairis Grant* (rFR)

RC - Brian Peavy (rJR), Mackenro Alexander (rSR)

Special Teams:

P - Colin Downing (SR)

LS - Steve Wirtel (SO)

H - Kyle Starcevich (rJR)

PK - Chris Francis (rJR)

PR - Trever Ryen (rSR), Allen Lazard (SR)

KR - Kene Nwangwu (SO),

Returning Numbers From 2016

Starts: 63 on both offense and defense (~65%)

Touchdowns: 17 rushing (94%), 21 passing (100%), 18 receiving (86%)

Yards: 2,116 rushing (99%), 3,106 passing (100%), 2,360 receiving (85%)

Tackles: ~600 (65%)

TFL: 43.5 (55%)

Sacks: 12 (63%)

Turnovers: 4 INT (44%), 5 FF (83 %)

Strengths

  1. RB - The Cyclones get the luxury of having 3 running backs who are potential RB1s. Each is capable of a big game; therefore, it will be important to get a lead horse a solid amount of carries with the others providing rest and a change of pace. ISU really can’t go wrong here.
  2. QB - Jacob Park needs to continue his development to take advantage of his prodigious skill set and natural talent. Assuming he puts in the work and makes strides, he will be much improved in 2017. Lanning is a specialist. He is best used as a runner or a surprise passer, and he could even catch the ball as well. If Park is hurt, I think Lanning would then occupy the starting role, with Noland emerging as an effective QB2.
  3. WR - Mostly due to one Allen Lazard. The most important offensive position will be WR3 or the Z position. Jones and Lazard will attract plenty of attention from defensive coaching staffs, so the Z has to then be a threat. Look for Martin to step into that role and for it to be better than we’ve seen in years past.

Note: No defensive position group appears here, as attrition hit hard on an already weak unit. The Star position is definitely a strength, but not as strong as the 3 mentioned above.

Weaknesses

  1. DT/NG - The junior college signees must be able to play, and play well. Johnson has the potential to be a tremendous player, but still lacks strength. If JaQuan Bailey continues to develop, expect to see him in the Jhaustin Thomas role, provided his technique and strength improve.
  2. LB - The Cyclones were weak at this position in 2016, and will be in 2017 unless the newcomers arrive and play with instinct and aggression. Sutton, Vance, and Hummel all need to be “dudes” and replace the former starters.
  3. S - KCM must, must, must improve in pass coverage, and better play is needed out of the other safety spot. Edwards and Payne will remain on the field together, but an emergence from a newcomer is needed to cover up for deficiencies elsewhere.

Summary

Overall, the roster needs strength up the middle. The newcomers must be ready to play now and play at a higher level than we saw in 2016 if this team wants to reach 5 or 6 wins. The offensive line will be improved with a healthy Campos, and experienced JGJ, and a Foster that plays to his projections.

In closing, CMC has an outside-in roster and an inside-out philosophy. Spring practice updates and the spring game will be worth your attention this year and should serve as a guide as you set your level of enthusiasm for 2017.