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Replacing Bundrage will be tough for ISU

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.”

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.