Big 12: Dondre Daley

Iowa State was counting on receiver Quenton Bundrage to carry a significant portion of its passing game in 2014.

“He’s a big playmaker,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “Quenton Bundrage is a very big part of our offense.”

[+] EnlargeBundrage
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesWR Quenton Bundrage scored nine touchdowns last season for Iowa State.
 Everything changed four plays into the 2014 season after Bundrage was lost for the year after tearing his ACL in the Cyclones’ 34-14 loss to North Dakota State. After leading ISU with 48 receptions for 676 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013, the junior saw his season come to an end before making a catch this fall.

Now, after the worst season-opening performance from a Big 12 offense, ISU has to try to put the pieces back together without its top receiver. Replacing Bundrage won't be easy for Rhoads' team.

“We've got guys there,” Rhoads said. “It’s time for them to step up.”

It is critical for the Cyclones' offense to have someone fill the void left by Bundrage. Against NDSU, 16 of Sam Richardson’s 31 pass attempts were intended for receivers behind the line of scrimmage as ISU receivers struggled against man coverage. If ISU hopes to turn its season -- and offensive production -- around, a perimeter and deep threat needs to become a consistent part of the offensive attack.

Here’s a closer look at the guys who could step up in Bundrage’s absence.

True freshman receiver Allen Lazard: Lazard had a solid debut with one catch for 48 yards in his first collegiate action. The ESPN300 receiver showed a glimpse of his potential on the long catch-and-run, using his size (6-foot-5, 208 pounds) to create a large target for Richardson before galloping inside the NDSU 10-yard line. He was targeted three times by Richardson after playing the majority of the game in Bundrage’s absence. He’s listed as the starter on ISU’s depth chart.

Sophomore D’Vario Montgomery: Montgomery is a transfer from South Florida with terrific size (6-foot-5, 219 pounds). He had six receptions for 65 yards with USF in 2012. He will suit up in a Cyclones’ uniform for the first time against Kansas State after missing the season opener due to a violation of team rules. He’s listed behind Lazard on the depth chart.

Senior tight end E.J. Bibbs: A preseason All-Big 12 pick, Bibbs can handle the burden of being the No. 1 target, but he will see plenty of double teams if Lazard, Montgomery or another ISU receiver is unable to emerge as a legitimate threat. Nonetheless Bibbs is the lone Cyclone who has the proven ability to consistently win one-on-one situations in the Big 12 so he should force double teams or catch passes as a main man in the passing attack.

Sophomore Dondre Daley: ISU’s leading receiver in the season opener, Daley had five receptions for 32 yards last weekend. He flashed some playmaking ability but wasn’t a deep threat against NDSU with four of his five catches behind or within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. If he’s going to replace Bundrage, Daley will have to become a deep threat as well.
Four Big 12 teams will kick off their spring games this weekend. We'll be offering quick looks at each game on the blog throughout today.

Iowa State

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

What you need to know:
  • Admission is free.
  • You can see a further preview on Cyclones.tv.
What to watch:
  • Sam Richardson's progress. Iowa State is one of two Big 12 teams that will have the same quarterback starting Week 1 that it had to end last season. Sam Richardson played well in a blowout win against Kansas, but struggled in the Cyclones' final two games of the season -- against West Virginia, and in a lopsided bowl loss to Tulsa. Can he show some progress? The biggest thing I want to see is a vast improvement in his completion percentage, which plummeted to below 50 percent after a blistering 85 percent performance against KU in his first real action. He needs to be more around 60 percent to be really effective.
  • The new-look defense. The past three seasons, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein have run the show for Iowa State's defense. For one, it needs new linebackers, but more than that, it needs new leaders, too. Jeremiah George looks like he might be ready for that role, but Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens are likely to open the season as starters, and will have to show off what they learned from watching Knott and Klein. Miller got some valuable first-team work last spring after Knott had surgery, but this will be a whole new ballgame.
  • The new-look receiving corps. The Cyclones' top three receivers are gone from last season's team, but it should be interesting to see what ISU has at what has been a position of weakness for them for a few years now. Freshman Tad Ecby has fought his way to a possible starting spot, as has fellow freshman Dondre Daley. Jarvis West, Albert Gary and Quenton Bundrage have a little more experience, but those guys have to help Richardson get adjusted.

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