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Player to Watch: The Offensive Line

It’s strength vs. strength matchup this week.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Akron David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, I outlined Johnnie Lang as a player to watch, with the coaching touting a possible change in the kick return unit against Akron. Well, that didn’t happen. Johnnie had one carry for negative two yards, and never returned a ball on special teams. I’ll try to do better this week.

This week, I’m going to cheat a little bit and go with the entire offensive line. Against Texas’ ultra-talented defensive line, including Poona Ford and Malcom Roach, the offensive will need to get some push to allow David Montgomery, at minimum, room to make a cut. Expecting the line to get consistent push forward against the Texas defensive line is probably unrealistic, but if the line can at least create space for the running game, David is plenty talented enough to make a cut and get upfield against a soft Texas secondary.

To this point, the line has done a good job with providing Jacob Park enough time to make a read. The protection has had slip-ups here and there, but Park’s ability to make reads and fire the ball downfield quickly has made their job much easier, as demonstrated by the line having allowed only one sack on the year. Jacob Park is very good at buying time with his feet and throwing on the run, but if the line can give him a consistent pocket like they did against Iowa and Akron, he should be able to utilize all of those talented receivers to burn the secondary.

With the offensive line actually becoming a relative strength of the team over the last year. many Cyclone fans are curious to see what an offense can look like when the line, quarterback, running backs, and wide receivers all have talent and are playing well. Historically, Iowa State has had some talent, but never in every group simultaneously, and certainly never playing well at the same time. In that light, we’re entering some uncharted territory.

This offense is well-coached and talented enough to be successful against this talented Longhorn defense, but the offensive line will be the group that drives the bus.