Steady growth: That’s been the story of the first half of Allen Lazard’s career in Ames.
Lazard tallied 593 yards and three touchdowns on 45 receptions during his freshman season. His numbers improved to 808 yards and six touchdowns on 56 receptions – all team-highs – as a sophomore.
At this rate, the 6-foot-5-inch, 223-pound, junior should be a top receiver in the Big 12 this fall.
The conference’s top pass-catchers from last season – Baylor’s Corey Coleman and TCU’s Josh Doctson – moved on to the NFL, which leaves the door wide open for Lazard to ascend to the top of a league known for great wide receivers.
Athlon recently tabbed Lazard as preseason first-team All-Big 12. ESPN’s Jake Trotter believes Lazard is one of the conference’s top pass catchers too.
The thing that might hold Lazard back from being the top wideout in the conference are his statistics.
Although (in terms of yardage) Lazard is returning as the second leading receiver in the Big 12, the downside is new Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell has never had a receiver total more than 840-yards receiving in his last three seasons as the head coach at Toledo.
In fact, Campbell only had one 1,000-yard receiver in his time at Toledo – Bernard Reedy in 2012.
The top four receivers last season in a pass-happy Big 12 had 1,200-yards receiving or higher.
Campbell’s offensive mindset isn’t like most leaders in the Big 12. But Iowa State’s new coach has stated that his focus is to get the ball into his playmakers hands on offense. That’s Lazard.
A thing that bodes well for Lazard’s statistical case is that he is Iowa State quarterback Joel Lanning’s go-to receiver.
In the first six games last season, when Sam Richardson was still the man under center for the Cyclones, Lazard averaged 67-yards per game. But in the last five games in which Lanning started, Lazard averaged 80-yards per game.
Lazard’s main competitors for the top receiver spot are Oklahoma State’s James Washington and Baylor’s K.D. Cannon, which both play in pass-heavy offenses.
With Campbell wanting to get his playmakers the ball, a full-year with Lanning at quarterback and being the Cyclones best receiving option, expect Lazard to make a bigger leap in 2016 and maybe even becoming the best pass catcher in the Big 12.