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Know Your Enemy, Spring Edition: Iowa State Cyclones

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The ol’ in-state rival returns a veteran team and some unique challenges

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing on with our weekly Spring look-in at the 12 teams on the 2017 Iowa football schedule, it’s time to see what’s shakin’ with those boys up in Ames. Should we be at all concerned with the progress Matt Campbell is making as he heads into his second season at the helm?

Let’s have a look:

2016 Synopsis

As I just mentioned, the Cyclones were under a coaching transition in 2016. As most expected, is was a bumpy first season for their new head coach, logging wins over only San Jose State, Kansas and Texas Tech. That said, Campbell had his team ready to play in games against Baylor and Oklahoma – and two of Iowa State’s wins came in the last three weeks of the season.

Who did they lose?

Looking at the boys in the trenches, the Cyclones lost three starters on the offensive line. They also lost cornerbacks Nigel Tribune and Jomal Wiltz to graduation – which impacts the depth in the Cyclone secondary. They’ll also be without defensive tackle Demond Tucker. The ju-co transfer overcame a lack of size at his position to have a solid couple of years in Ames.

Who do they return?

In terms of skill position players, Iowa State has pretty much everyone back. Both quarterbacks – Jacob Park and Joel Lanning – are back, but Park figures to be the regular starter. Lanning will be used in more of the same H-back role as he was last season, perhaps with less snaps from under center and more plays as a receiver. He’s also going to get plenty of reps on defense – basically the Iowa State version of Jabrill Peppers. They also return two backs in Mike Warren and David Montgomery. Both joined Lanning in eclipsing the 500-yard mark on the ground a season ago.

Additionally, three of Iowa State’s top-four pass catchers are back from last season, including Allen Lazard – one of the best receivers the Hawkeyes will face this coming season.

On defense, the Cyclones return two very capable corners in Kamari Cotton-Moya and Brian Peavy. They also have a couple of defensive ends in J.D. Waggoner and DaQuan Bailey who can cause damage. Bailey in particular looks like a guy who might very well make a nice living on Sundays.

Why should Iowa be worried?

The cornerback vs. receiver matchup on both sides of the ball should be a concern. Iowa will start two new corners against a seasoned corps of Cyclone receivers, while the suspect receiving corps from Iowa could be overmatched by Iowa State’s veteran secondary. The Hawkeyes run the risk of being too one-dimensional on offense against a well-coached and slightly more experienced Iowa State team.

Why should Iowa not be worried?

Just like against Wyoming, Iowa should be able to win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball in the run game. That will allow Iowa to dictate the tempo, which is huge against an in-state rival on the road.

Key player for Iowa State

Joel Lanning – The do-it-all weapon is going to put extra stress on the Hawkeyes leading up to the game, as Kirk Ferentz and his staff will need to account for the extra wrinkles Lanning’s versatility enables within the Cyclone attack.

Key player for Iowa

Josey Jewell – Speaking of versatility, Jewell will need his head on a swivel against the Cyclones. He’ll likely be covering Lanning at some point on obvious passing downs and will play a key role in keeping the Iowa State attack as vanilla as possible.