Iowa State Cyclones Football: 2015 Team Preview and Prediction


Paul Rhoads faces a now or never season at Iowa State as the Cyclones head coach looks to make serious improvements after last year’s dismal 2-10 campaign.

2014 was a lost season in Ames, Iowa; Paul Rhoads’ Iowa State Cyclones sputtered to a 2-10 finish, complete with a blowout loss to FCS foe North Dakota state, and a winless Big 12 conference campaign. If not for an early season victory over in-state rival Iowa, all seemingly would have been lost for the Cyclones.

More from College Football News

However, with a solid returning core, and stability among the coaching staff, there is no reason to believe that Iowa State can take small steps forward in 2015.

Offensive Outlook

Returning from last year’s 89th ranked offense is senior quarterback Sam B. Richardson, who passed for 2,669 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. Richardson should improve on those stats this year, his second with offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. Richardson showed promise with his feet as well, rushing for 421 yards and 3 touchdowns. With a full offseason under his belt, Richardson could be one of the pleasant surprises in the Big 12.

The wide receiving core is sneakily good; sophomore Allen Lazard caught 45 passes for 593 yards and three touchdowns last year as a true freshman. Even more significant is the return of talented senior Quenton Bundrage, who tore his ACL in last season’s opener.

Bundrage caught a school-best nine touchdowns in 2013; he and Lazard are also flanked by junior D’Vario Montgomery, a 6’6” monster who caught 44 passes for 605 yards and two touchdowns last fall. The wide receivers are undoubtedly the team’s strong suit, and will be a nightmare for even the top defenses in the Big 12. Tight end, however, must scramble to find a replacement for the departed EJ Bibbs, who caught eight touchdowns last fall.

For as much as they return at wide receiver, Iowa State returns even less at running back. Gone are Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy, who combined for over 900 yards and 8 touchdowns last season. Replacing them will be redshirt sophomore Tyler Brown, who ran 24 times for 113 yards last season. Martinez Syria, a sophomore who ran for 53 yards and a touchdown, will also see a good chunk of time, and redshirt freshman Mike Warren has impressed in practice.

Defensive Outlook

Iowa State, to put it lightly, was horrific on defense last season. The Cyclones finished 125th in total defense, which leaves them nowhere to go but up. Wally Burnham returns as defensive coordinator, and must work miracles on that side of the ball for the Cyclones to remain competitive this fall.

Fortunately, returning defensive ends Dale Pierson and Trent Taylor, both seniors, racked up a total of four sacks last season, and should provide Burnham with solid building blocks on the defensive line. Bolstering the line will be two juniors; tackle Devlyn Cousin, as well as end Mitchell Meyers, who finished 2014 with 30 total tackles.

Luke Knott, he of 74 total tackles in 2014, anchors the linebackers. Knott will be joined by junior Kane Seeley, who finished with 52 total tackles, and Brian Mills, a sophomore who finished with 26 total tackles. However, there is not much depth outside of the starting front seven, and Burnham must use the summer to find viable reinforcements.

Finally, the secondary returns almost everyone, including their two starting cornerbacks. Sam E. Richardson, not to be confused with the Cyclones’ starting signal caller, looks to improve on a 2014 campaign which saw him finish with 58 total tackles and four interceptions.

Nigel Tribune will cover the other side of the field, and was solid in 2014, finishing with three interceptions and 64 total tackles. Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya was a stud in his redshirt freshman season, ending the year with a team-leading 77 total tackles. Darian Cotton, a senior, is in line to flank Cotton-Moya, especially after a solid 27-tackle 2014. With a front seven full of question marks, it will fall on the secondary to keep Iowa State in the game.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

In a make-or-break year for Paul Rhoads, Iowa State should improve on last season’s unmitigated disaster. They get to play Iowa in Ames, and have two more winnable out-of-conference games in Northern Iowa and Toledo.

A home date with Kansas is another possibility for a win. Despite this, given the rough-and-tumble nature of the Big 12, the Cyclones may take huge strides forward and still win only one or two conference games.

In short, five wins is possible, but three or four may be the ceiling for an Iowa State team that is continuing to rebuild.

Next: Top 25 Most Surprising Seasons in Last 10 Years

More from Saturday Blitz