An Early Look at Iowa at Iowa State - 2011

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Iowa State

The Game

Event: Iowa at Iowa State
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
When: September 10, 2011- 11:00 AM
TV: FSN


The Basics

Location: Ames, IA
Head Coach: Paul Rhoades
Mascot: Cyclones
Conference: Big XII
2010 Record: 5-7 (3-5)


The Offense

Returning Starters: 6
Key Players: OL Kelechi Osemele, WR Darius Darks
Key Losses: QB Austin Arnaud, RB Alexander Robinson, TE Colin Franklin, OL Ben Lamaak

Though the Cyclones return 5 starters on offense (6 if you count Jerome Tiller who started at QB while Arnaud was out), they lose a lot of their skill players including their top passer, top 2 rushers, and top 2 receivers. They return 3 along the offensive line, including All-American candidate Kelechi Osemele. Center is the likely weak link with Ben Lamaak graduating and his replacement a freshman, 270-lb Tom Farniok.

Running behind the line will be Shontrelle Johnson. As a freshman, Johnson had just 218 rushing yards but averaged 6.2 yards per carry and was a solid kick returner (585 yards on 25 returns). The next likely running back is Jeff Woody who had 47 carries for 191 yards a year ago. I would also expect the starting quarterback to be a major factor in the running game.

There is no clear starter at QB at this point, but Tiller is the likely choice as he was the backup the past two years and has a couple starts under his belt including Iowa State's win over Nebraska in 2009. As a runner, Tiller had 66 yards (which is really 150 yards minus sacks) on 42 carries last year and had over 200 yards in 2009. Competing with Tiller is Steele Jantz, a JUCO transfer from City College of San Francisco. He provides more of a run threat and had 601 yards and 14 TDs carry the ball for CCSF.

Whoever wins the number one QB spots will have a rather deep pool of receivers to throw to. Though the Cyclones lose their top receiver and tight end from last year, they have plenty of returning talent. Darius Darks is the top returning receiver. He caught 29 passes for 255 yards last year while slowed by injury. In the final game of the year, fully healthy, Darks had 9 receptions for 107 yards. Joining Darks in the receivers with experience club are Josh Lenz and Darius Reynolds.


The Defense

Returning Starters: 7
Key Players: CB Leonard Johnson, LB Jake Knott, LB A.J. Klein
Key Losses: SS David Sims, DE Rashawn Parker

Iowa State returns its two top tacklers from 2010. Linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein both finished last season with over 100 tackles. The two were also the team leaders in interceptions with 4 and 3 respectively. Filling out the starting linebacker unit will be Matt Tau'fo'ou, who missed much of last year due to a leg injury. He was arrested in January for drunk driving, but is back on the team. Tau'fo'ou had 20 tackles in his limited playing time.

In front of the experienced linebackers, the Cyclones return 5 players that have at least 1 start. Jacob Lattimer is the top returner of the bunch with 39 tackles and a team-leading 4 sacks, though they all have similar stat lines--30 or so tackles with a couple tackles for loss. The unit was overall unimpressive last year and record just 11 sacks, 4th worst in nation. With an additional year of experience, I would expect a slightly better showing from this line, but it will still be relatively weak.

Rounding out the defense is what should be a fairly decent secondary despite losing both safeties. Like Iowa's Micah Hyde, Iowa State has cornerback Ter'Ran Benton looking to fill the void at safety. Benton was the team's 6th leading tackler last year and had 2 INTs. The other corner, who will definitely be staying at CB, is Leonard Johnson. Johnson is probably the Cyclone's best defender and is a legitimate lock-down corner. He's started nearly every game of his career and amassed 175 tackles and 5 picks in that time. Another CB staying put is Jeremy Reeves who started in 9 games and was the team's 5th leading tackler.

The Special Teams

Returning Starters: 2
Key Players: PK Grant Mahoney, P Kirby Van Der Kamp
Key Losses: KR David Sims

Grant Mahoney is returning yet again. Last year he was mostly used to try long range field goals and struggled. He made just 4 of 11 from beyond 40 yards. He made 8 of 17 overall and was 32 or 33 on PATs. Punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was a surprising star for Iowa State last year. As a true freshman he averaged over 45 yards per punt (which was 10th in the nation), had 22 downed inside the 20, and had 19 over 50 yards.

Initial Thoughts

Iowa State is in a similar position as Iowa on offense. Most of their starting skill position players from last year are now gone, but there are some experienced backups now ready to step up. Still, I expect this game to be on the low scoring side.

Iowa's biggest advantage looks like it will be the offensive line versus Iowa State's defensive line. If the O-line can get to the second level and get a man on ISU's veteran linebackers (and they should be able to) then Marcus Coker will have a big day and carry the Hawkeyes to victory.

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