Friday, April 11, 2014
Spring game preview: Iowa State
By Jake Trotter
This weekend, Iowa State will hold its annual spring game, which will be open to the public. Here’s a closer look:
When: 2 p.m., Saturday
Could Sam B. Richardson be the answer at QB for Iowa State?
Where: Jack Trice Stadium
What to watch for:
New offense: Before the spring, coach Paul Rhoads gave few clues as to what Mark Mangino’s new offense would look like. Iowa State is going to be transitioning to a no-huddle attack, but after that, much is left to be revealed. In the interest of competitive advantage, the Cyclones are sure to hold back most of the playbook on Saturday, but at least Iowa State fans will get a glimpse into what the Mangino offense will look like in the fall.
Quarterback battle: More than a decade later, the Cyclones are still essentially trying to replace Seneca Wallace. After multiple seasons of musical quarterbacks, a problem that has handcuffed the Cyclones in the past, could this be the year Iowa State finally uncovers the long-term answer at the position? It could be. Sam B. Richardson, who opened last year as the starter before getting injured, has shown promise when healthy. Grant Rohach, who finished last year as the starter, closed out the season with two strong performances in Iowa State wins. The two have been getting the majority of the snaps this spring. But don’t rule out redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, either. The former high school wrestler has impressed the Iowa State coaching staff with his toughness, work ethic and big arm. He could be the darkhorse in this competition, which figures to linger into August.
WR D’Vario Montgomery: With All-Big 12 candidates E.J. Bibbs and Quenton Bundrage leading the way, the Cyclones could wind up featuring the program’s best collection of pass-catchers in years. Montgomery, who sat out last year after transferring in from South Florida, could add to that corps. On Saturday, Montgomery will get to show the fans what he can do with his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame.
Veteran offensive line: The offensive line should be one of the best in the Big 12, with the entire unit coming back from last year. Tom Farniok is an All-Big 12-caliber center and one of the team’s unquestioned leaders. Left tackle Brock Dagel has been out this spring with a cut on his leg that got infected, but he has the potential to play in the NFL some day. Guard Daniel Burton is physical and one of the smartest players on the offense, and right tackle Jacob Gannon has a ton of experience. The Cyclones could push several opposing defensive lines around next season, and with Iowa State still rebuilding its front seven, the offensive line ought to dominate in the spring game, too.
Depleted defense: While the offense will be operating at close to full strength, the defense will be operating with a dearth of able, experienced bodies. On top of graduating five starters, injuries, defections and expulsions have hampered coordinator Wally Burnham’s unit this spring. Tackle Rodney Coe was kicked off the team last month and safety Devron Moore has since left, at least temporarily, after getting homesick. Both players were potential starters. Linebacker Luke Knott is still recovering from a hip injury, and defensive linemen Pierre Aka (concussion) and David Irving (shoulder) have been knocked out with ailments. Reinforcements will arrive in the summer, but it will be interesting to see how the defense copes on Saturday. It also will be an opportunity for younger players to make their mark.