AMES — ISU freshman wide receiver Allen Lazard wore a “Hakuna Matata” T-shirt as he answered reporters’ questions.
It means “no worries,” (as fans of the Disney classic, “The Lion King”, undoubtedly know).
And it seems an appropriate — and “wonderful” — phrase for the crown-jewel recruit from Urbandale to cling to as he prepares for his first career start in just his second game as a Cyclone.
“It’s still the same old game of football,” said Lazard, who caught one pass for 48 yards Saturday after starter Quenton Bundrage went down with a season-ending ACL injury in the 34-14 loss to North Dakota State. “It’s still 11 guys on the field. Obviously a lot stronger, a lot faster. It’s not like practice. You’ve just got to slow the game mentally down a little bit.”
Bundrage helped set the learning speed to slow-and-steady earlier.
ISU’s leading receiver resolved to be a leader beyond catches, yards and touchdowns during the offseason.
“I think Quenton’s been an extraordinary leader ever since I’ve gotten here,” Lazard said. “He always brought it during practice and in the meeting room and stuff. He helped me out a lot and I think he’s still going to do that. Obviously he can’t do the physical part of it on the field now, but he’s definitely helped me a lot and I’m sure he’ll continue to do (that).”
This was to be Bundrage’s breakout season in terms of consistent production, but that’s on hold until next year.
Now it’s the 6-5, 221-pound Lazard’s time to break through — beginning, he hopes, in Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12 opener against 20th-ranked Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium.
“Nothing’s changed for him,” ISU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said. “He’s ready to take this challenge head on. Maybe in some instances you might have people that shy away and are worried about the expectations. Not him. He’s ready to go. He’ll do whatever you ask. He’s never been fazed by all the notoriety he’s received in this state as a high school prospect and a signee here. He won’t be fazed about lining up and playing a Big 12 opponent, either. He’s just that type of personality.”
No worries, indeed.
And Lazard and the Cyclones are all about creating a passing (and rushing, for that matter) craze after the offense produced just 253 yards and 14 points in the season opener.
The Wildcats held ISU to a season-low 126 yards through the air in last season’s 41-7 rout and also recorded three interceptions.
“We’re getting ready for them,” Cyclone quarterback Sam Richardson said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to attack it in the ways we know we can.”
Lazard will play a big role in that plan of attack.
He showed that as he closed his high school career in a gym, not on a field.
Lazard helped Urbandale reach the 2014 state basketball tournament after a 4-8 start.
The J-Hawks won 10 of their next 12 games to advance to state.
“He’s very humble but he’s still hungry,” Urbandale hoops coach Brad Bjorkgren said of Lazard last winter. “I would say that’s really true of him.”
So would Mangino, who said the best is definitely yet to come as Lazard grows within his system.
“He’s going to be a phenomenal player in this program,” Mangino said. “He’s smart, he’s mature beyond his years. He takes coaching really well. He’s a detail guy. For a freshman, he pays attention to the details. That’s remarkable for a true freshman to do that.”