A week after signing day, the composition of Big 12 rosters is starting to come into focus for 2016.
Some programs used the Class of 2016 to address needs, while questions about other positions are poised to linger into the spring and beyond. Now is the perfect time to take a closer look at each program in the Big 12 -- specifically the strength and weakness of each team post-signing day.
We continue the series with Iowa State:
Biggest need heading into signing day: Offensive line
New Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell will have to replace four seniors from an offensive line that paved the way for redshirt freshman running back Mike Warren to become Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2015. Jamison Lalk (31), Brock Dagel (27) and Oni Omoile (21) combined to start 79 games during their Cyclones careers. If Warren is expected to soar as a sophomore, Campbell will need to revamp Iowa State’s offensive front.
How it was addressed: Iowa State added six offensive linemen to the fold on signing day, including three transfers led by Rhode Island graduate transfer Tyler Catalina. Guard Oge Udeogu, the No. 8 junior college guard in the nation, and Karson Green, a three-star juco prospect, join Catalina to give the Cyclones some older options along the offensive front in 2016.
Yet the gem of Iowa State's offensive line class -- and arguably the entire group of signees -- is Sean Foster. The four-star prospect is tall (6-foot-8, 285 pounds) and can use his length to keep defenders at bay. A one-time Minnesota commit, Foster picked Iowa State over the Gophers, Nebraska, Purdue, Virginia Tech and others.
Position of strength: Cornerback
Overshadowed by Warren, a fellow Class of 2014 signee, cornerback Brian Peavy was one of the Big 12's best newcomers in 2015. Nigel Tribune returns with a 26 career starts and Jomal Wiltz returns after sliding into the lineup late last season, giving Iowa State some solid options in the secondary.
Campbell then doubled down, signing four cornerbacks in this class, including three junior college prospects. Thadd Daniels headlines the juco transfer trio as a mid-term signee who is already on campus. He’s a versatile defensive back who can play anywhere in the secondary.
“I’d say that in the secondary it’s a lot like recruiting a quarterback today in the game of football,” Campbell said. “Those guys have to be special. They have to be communicators, they have to do a great job getting guys lined up and also have a passion for themselves, and Thadd has that.”
D'Andre Payne, a sophomore signee from Arizona Western, was the No. 269 player in the 2014 ESPN 300. And Lonnie Johnson, who brings terrific size at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, was the other junior college cornerback signee.
Campbell may be new to the Big 12, but he clearly understands the importance of quality depth in the secondary.
Biggest remaining weakness: Defensive line
Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year Demond Tucker is the foundation of this group as a disruptive force in the middle at defensive tackle. Yet there aren’t many proven difference-makers on the defensive line after Tucker. Defensive end J.D. Waggoner came on as a sophomore and defensive end Jhaustin Thomas has the physical gifts to make a difference.
The Cyclones signed six prep defensive linemen to add some youthful competition to their ranks. JaQuan Bailey is the highest-rated of the bunch as a three-star signee with a grade of 79. The one-time Florida commitment picked Iowa State over offers from the Gators, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and others.
“I think it’s huge,” Campbell said of landing three defensive ends in his first Cyclones class on signing day. “It’s probably why I was up until 1 o’clock in the morning last night, because of that defensive line. Not that we got all the answers, but what we were able to do is bolster that.”
Adding young talent to the squad was critical for Campbell, but it remains to be seen how quickly their impact will be felt on the turf at Jack Trice Stadium.