By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
Yesterday, I outlined how Iowa State’s depth on the offensive line was critical to the Cyclones getting to 6-6 and making a bowl appearance in 2011.
That isn’t the only place where increased depth was evident on this Iowa State roster this season.
Some other signs of program development in year three of the Paul Rhoads era include:
— What Iowa State’s running backs did in 2011 was amazing to me. Back in July, we were told that the Cyclones could go four-deep at this position. The coaching staff was adamant about that. As it turns out, that wasn’t coach speak.
Sophomore Shontrelle Johnson went down with a neck injury on Oct. 1 against Texas. After that, James White, Jeff Woody and Duran Hollis stepped in and all three played like starters. White ran for 701 yards on the season and led Iowa State in touchdowns with eight. Then there was Woody, a bruising sophomore who was a mad man throughout the last month of the season. Woody quietly ended 2011 with five rushing touchdowns on the season.
White, Woody and Hollis combined to average 4.4 yards per carry. Not bad huh?
Think back to the year 2009, when Paul Rhoads took over as the captain of Iowa State’s ship.
Alexander Robinson got injured midway through the season and his backup was? If you guessed Jeremiah Schwartz, you’re correct. Schwartz is now playing ball at Hampton University. Enough said.
The Cyclones went four deep in 2011 and they’ll have the ability to potentially go six deep in 2012, assuming that red-shirting Rob Standard and DeVondrick Nealy are still at the position.
— I’ve already singled out the offensive line and the running backs, but really every position on Iowa State’s offense deserves some love for the depth that showed during the 2011 season.
Freshman quarterback Jared Barnett entered the season as a backup to junior Steele Jantz. After a hot start, Jantz got dinged up in a win at UConn and wasn’t the same player after suffering a foot injury. Barnett stepped in as a starter, won his first three games and now, the Cyclones are bowling.
— What about the wide receiver position?
Seven Cyclones caught 20 passes or more this season.
Sophomore Albert Gary didn’t catch a pass during the first six games of the season, yet he led Iowa State in receiving in three of its last four games.
Specifically looking at the wide receiver position, things will only get better from a depth standpoint in 2012. Three freshmen (who all probably could have played as true freshmen) Ja’Quarius Daniels, Tad Ecby and Quenton Bundrage, will all invade the lineup and look to make an impact. The Cyclones will have to replace Darius Reynolds and Darius Darks.
— Defensively, Iowa State’s depth up front was telling in 2011.
Over the last month of the season, the Cyclones went as far as 11-deep in certain games, allowing the starting lineup to take some much needed blows.
Playing 11 men on the defensive line in one game was only a pipe dream back in 2009.
— Conventional wisdom told us that there was a potential problem at free safety heading into the season.
After losing two crafty seniors in Zac Sandvig and Mike O’Connell, the Cyclones reloaded at the position with sophomore Jacques Washington, who ended the regular season third in tackles for Iowa State.