By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
Follow Ian on Twitter @IanWSmith3
If Tom Farniok is nervous about replacing an NFL-caliber center, it certainly doesn’t look like it.
The Sioux Falls, S.D. native is sporting a hairdo even Fabio would be jealous of and has a cool demeanor to match.
Farniok – a redshirt freshman – is the leading candidate to step into the rather large shoes of his predecessors, Ben Lamaak and Reggie Stephens. Lamaak is an Oakland Raider and Stephens a Cincinnati Bengal.
“It’s big shoes to fill, obviously,” Farniok said. “It won’t be easy. I just can’t get too consumed with the fact that I’m replacing those two guys. I’m going to do the best I can and hopefully that will be enough.”
The early reviews are in Farniok’s favor after a strong spring. If the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder plays the same way in fall camp, he will have a chance to anchor the Iowa State offensive line. It’s not so much because of his size and strength, but because of what’s inside his helmet.
“He’s always been a smart football player,” Iowa State offensive line coach Bill Bliel said. “When we recruited him, the high school coach just couldn’t say that enough. He’s a good player, he understands, he likes football.
“Tom picked up on the system very quickly. He’s very aggressive, extremely aggressive. He’s got his strength and his weight up. The thing that he does is he gets everybody going the right direction. The center for us, we joking say, ‘The carpet has to match the curtains.’ He does that for us.”
Having Lamaak – who now suits up for the Oakland Raiders – around definitely helped. During his redshirt season, Farniok studied Lamaak the way he made line calls. He also picked up just how much film study a center needs to do.
When the bullets start flying in September, Farniok is confident he can make the correct line calls.
“It depends on what the defense gives you,” Farniok said. “We watch so much film, most of the time you’ve seen it on film so you can kind of diagnose what’s going to happen.”
The Cyclones hope that’s the case. Iowa State is breaking in new starting quarterback this fall and will lean heavily on the run game to keep the chains moving. A talented stable of running backs should be able to fine room behind the offensive line.
“I like this offensive line,” Bliel said. “It’s a physical group. It’s probably the strongest offensive line we’ve had. The backups, we have great depth. The starting group is athletic and very strong. I think they are going to do some real positive things.”
With Farniok possibly leading the way, Iowa State is hoping it can win the battle in the trenches and on the scoreboard.