2016 ISU FOOTBALL PREVIEW
By BRANDON HURLEY
Two former Rams will represent Greene County football on the ISU team this fall as freshmen walk-ons. Daric Whipple and Noah Jurgensen have been practicing with the Cyclones in Ames since early August. Whipple and Jurgensen were not available to the press as the ISU program does not allow freshmen to talk to media. As of Tuesday, Whipple was listed on Iowa State’s roster as a running back. Jurgensen was listed as a defensive end.
AMES – With change comes a few certainties.
The Iowa State Cyclones know they will have playmakers, even as an entirely new coaching staff enters.
Head coach Matt Campbell takes over for the departed Paul Rhoads to lead a team that features deep-threat Allen Lazard at the receiver position and freshman sensation, Mike Warren at tailback.
The fan buzz for the regime started to build over the spring and summer even following a 3-9 campaign. Campbell and company hope to keep the momentum going into the fall.
The Cyclones take on in-state foe and FCS opponent, UNI, Saturday, Sept. 3 in the season opener.
Campbell relishes the enthusiasm but wants expectations to be a little more tempered, as even he doesn’t know what to expect with such a new team. Forty-one new players joined the roster over the offseason. But the past eight months, he said, has been chance to turn the program around from the bottom up.
“They (the fans) should be excited. Our job is to continue the momentum and the excitement,” Campbell said. “I think it’s really hard for us as a coaching staff today to honestly say, ‘here’s where this team is and this is what we are capable of doing.’ Because we don’t even know yet. We’ve just been through eight months of starting to build a culture.
Campbell hasn’t imposed unrealistic goals on his new team but wants to make sure visible improvement is made each practice. He said the success may not be measured in wins or record-breaking performances, but there will be progress.
“What I told our kids on our first meeting my expectations for this team are really simple – can we get better every day, can this team reach our full potential,” the coach said. “What that is and what that looks like, I can’t put a number on that. I challenge them to reach our full potential, individually and collectively. And if we can do that then we are making really good head way.”
One Iowa State’s most talented and heralded athletes, junior wide receiver Allen Lazard enters the 2016 season poised for a breakout.
Lazard caught 56 balls for 808 yards and six touchdowns a season ago. Campbell immediately realized the Urbandale natives importance to the 2016 offense.
“(He’s) got to be the starting point for us in our offensive game planning, Allen has to touch the ball,” Campbell said. “We have to find ways to create match ups, find ways to get the ball in his hands.”
The head coach touched on his receiver’s on-field on IQ in addition to his football talents. It’s what he feels sets Lazard apart.
“Not only is he a physically skilled player and good at the craft of the wide receiver, but he’s a really intelligent football player as well,” Campbell said. “That really lends to a guy like that being able to play all the positions and know what to do and know what to do.”
That awareness to how special Lazard can be and the importance he is to the offense is why Campbell said fans can expect to see the junior all over the field come fall.
“I think we will see him at any position other than offensive line,” Campbell said.
Sophomore tailback Mike Warren is the Cyclones’ other offensive stud. As a freshman, the Lawton, Oklahoma native rushed for 1,339 yards and five touchdowns.
Warren will no longer be a surprise to opposing teams, Campbell said.
“He’s got to be able to adapt to how they are going to take him away,” the coach said. “He has some of those skill sets, he can be a mismatch. My biggest thing w him is consistency.
With that being said, Campbell has seen progression among the young back over the last several months.
“He looks bigger and stronger,” the coach said. “He had a really good summer and he will continue to understand the whole game.”
With a core of playmakers like the Cyclones posses, the other guys around them must step up, Campbell said.
“The key is, they have to be multiple in their skill-sets and the guys around them have to raise their level and be factors,” Campbell said. “We have to be able to execute and that’s what I really like about our football team is they have raised their level.”
A 7 p.m. kick-off is set for the opener with the Panthers.
2016 IOWA STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 - UNI, CYCLONES.TV
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 - @ Iowa, Big Ten Network
11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 – @ TCU, Fox Sports 1
11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 – San Jose State, FSN
TBA Saturday, Oct. 1 – Baylor
TBA Saturday, Oct. 8 – @ Oklahoma State
TBA Saturday, Oct. 15 – @ Texas, Longhorn Network, Cyclones.TV
TBA Saturday, Oct. 29 – Kansas State (Homecoming)
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 – Oklahoma, ESPN
TBA Saturday, Nov. 12 – @ Kansas
TBA Saturday, Nov. 19 – Texas Tech
TBA Saturday, Nov. 26 – West Virginia