Media day has come and gone, and that means college football has officially (unofficially) started.
Iowa State has released their “way-too-early” depth chart, and there are some position battles on it that deserve discussion.
A look at the first depth chart of the season. pic.twitter.com/4EieH6B10p— Dylan Montz (@dylanmontz) July 16, 2018
Before we dive in, through, some words of caution is needed before we peer into this football-shaped crystal ball.
It is important to note that the depth chart released after fall camp will go 3-4 deep at most positions, so there may be some names you were expecting to see that are missing here. Additionally, coaches often use too-early depth charts to mess with the minds/motivate players that they want to push.
That said, we’ll be covering the offense in part one of this series.
The offensive in general has an interesting mix of proven commodities, young guys who cut their teeth in 2017, and young players who will have to step up in 2018.
The offensive line finds themselves somewhere in the middle of those three situations.
For the first time in what seems like decades, Iowa State does return starting experience on the offensive line. In fact, the projected starters have a combined 50 starts: Sean Foster (played in 10, started 6), Josh Mueller (played in two games), Julian Good-Jones (24), Josh Knipfel (started 13), Bryce Meeker (played in 22 games, started 7).
Maybe the best stat about that group? Their ages: Two sophomores (Foster and Mueller_ and three juniors (Good-Jones, Knipfel, and Meeker).
In terms of backups with playing experience, Iowa State has two seniors and one junior (the lone seniors on the o-line) slotted as backup guards and 3rd string center: Will Windham, Oge Udeogu, and Collin Olson, respectively. Listing Oge as a senior just makes me sad, as this JUCO transfer sat out his redshirt season and the promptly missed 2017 due to injury. Windham, on the other hand, has played in 19 games primarily on special teams. Collin is a smaller linemen at 280 pounds, and saw action in one game in 2017.
The rest of the offensive line depth is made up of young guys, and really young guys at that. But the talent is definitely there. Trevor Downing, Colin Newell, Alex Kleinow, and Robert Hudson all enter the 2018 season as freshmen, with Newell, Kleinow, and Hudson fresh off a redshirt season. All four have the size to compete in the Big 12, and were top-100 offensive linemen in their recruiting class.
I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention Jacob Bolton, the 105th offensive linemen in his class here. Bolton is currently taking a leave of absence from the team, but is free to return. His return would be nice, as the coaching staff considered playing him during his redshirt freshman season.
The thing to watch here is the young depth behind the starters. The coaching staff is hoping Colin Newell can take over the center position, pushing JGJ to left guard. Other young guys to watch are the two mountains that are Robert Hudson (6-6. 320) and Trevor Downing (6-4, 304).
The only other group that really warrants discussion is the wide receiver position. Clearly, losing Allen Lazard is not ideal. At all. Marchie Murdock was sneaky productive as well, as was the speedy Trever Ryen, so losing their services cannot be overlooked.
However, Iowa State has some proven weapons, as well as some young guys ready to step into the spotlight. Hakeem Butler, who played almost as a tight end in 2017, will move outside to the X position, with Matt Eaton playing the more possession-type Z spot. Deshaunte Jones (he’s back!) looks to make himself more of a weapon going forward as well.
Butler pulled down 41 receptions for 697 yards and 7 touchdowns a year ago, and is looking to add consistency to his game. If he can do so, he will be almost impossible to stop. Matt Eaton showed promise in 2017, with 208 yards and 4 touchdowns. He showed great hands, and a knack for getting open in the end zone that should serve ISU well in 2018.
Deshaunte Jones was a proven commodity. After being the best freshman receiver in the Big 12 in 2016 (536 yards, 6 TD’s), he took a step back in 2017. Trever Ryen’s play, and the emergence of RB1, are both likely explanations for the dip in production. By all accounts, though, he sounds ready to go in 2018. Let’s move on to the young guys.
The coaching staff has raved about the speed of Tarique Milton and Landen Akers. Landen figures to play more of a possession/middle type role, with Milton spelling Jones as the shifty option. In his limited playing time last season, 6-3, 211 pound sophomore Jalen Martin showed that he may be ready to replace Hakeem “The Dream” whenever he leaves Iowa State. Some other guys who didn’t make the two-deep that are worth watching are Josh Johnson and Carson Schleker.
Additionally, it’ll be fascinating to watch how Iowa State involves both running backs and tight ends into the offense. Kene Nwangwu is certainly to be a factor, and possibly Johnnie Lang, and Chase Allen showed an impressive catch radius in limited targets in 2017. One final thing to watch will be who catches the bubble screen/behind the line passes. Last season, Ryen and Murdoch received the bulk of these tosses.
Be sure to look for a breakdown of the defensive side of the ball in part 2 of this series.