MONDAY MUSINGS (mailbag): What could trip up the Cyclones in 2018?

Nov 4, 2017; Morgantown, WV, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday!

There aren’t many hot topics going on in Cyclone Land today so I thought I would give the floor to you guys, the Fanatics via the form of a mailbag. Starting with…

Indycyclone writes: What is the biggest obstacle that would prevent men’s basketball and football from having great seasons, i.e 9-10 wins in football and a Sweet 16 in basketball, besides injuries, of course?

CW: Can I first point out that I believe your expectations might already be a bit high? Don’t get me wrong: Iowa State is certainly capable of achieving those heights next season, but to place them as baseline expectations seems dangerous to me.

Top to bottom, this is as good of a 1-85 football roster as I’ve seen while covering Iowa State. Still, my guess is that Vegas puts the season O/U number anywhere from 6.5-7.5. So you’re talking about a massive overachievement by even putting the number at nine. Campbell’s squad did do it last year, with the number at 5.5. They won seven.

The basketball roster is loaded. But that’s a lot of young guys to work in and it’s hard to make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Fred Hoiberg only did it once at Iowa State.

Let’s attack the heart of your question:

In football, it’s the continued development of the offensive line. David Montgomery is a freak and really carried that offense on his back at times last year. He needs some help though. Having Kyle Kempt back is great, but the sixth-year senior has obvious physical limitations when it comes to arm strength and also athleticism. The best way to allow him to utilize the talent that Iowa State has at wide receiver and tight end is to establish a legitimate running game that is more than David Montgomery improvising 10-yard scrambles. If the offensive line can exponentially improve in 2018, watch out. The sky is the limit.

I’m not worried about the defense at all.

Let’s go to hoops, where Steve Prohm will face a chore that most coaches at good programs face every November … chemistry. He’s already in an exponentially better spot than he was a year ago given there are a number of quality returners from last year’s roster. The sit-out transfers will add experience too. Working those young guys in and keeping their egos in check will be a chore, but once complete could result in hefty awards come March.

Roll recognization and development … that’s your key.

Keeping Cameron Lard’s eye on the prize is important too.

RealisticCy writes: 2018 is shaping up to be a solid year for football, but I think 2019 could be the massive breakthrough year for the Cyclones with who they could have back, the relatively low number of impact seniors that we lose, and some the young guys that could be contributing. Give us a couple players whose progression this year could set up great things for 2019: My list would be Zeb Noland (best long-term scenario: he wins the starting job this year), Sean Foster (top recruit needs to perform like it), and any young defensive back (Peavy and Payne gone after this year).

CW: The first name that came to my head was Kene Nwangwu at running back. I’m probably getting ahead of myself but I do think it is possible David Montgomery will leave early. If that happens, Nwangwu is more than ready to step into the lead role and carry Iowa State’s offense.

I like your take on Noland.

I continue to hear great things about young wide receivers Tarique Milton and Jalen Martin.

I think any of the young offensive linemen fit in that category. To me, that’s where Iowa State will grow the most between 2018 and 2019. It’s where this program was weakest when Campbell took over and it also happens to be his specialty. If you’re good up front (on both sides of the football), everything else just falls into place.

On defense, I’m bullish on young linemen Angel Dominguez and Enyi Uwazurike. It feels like 2019 could be the year where Matt Leo will really shine. Hopefully, that’s 2018 but I’m being conservative here.

The young cornerback Arnold Azunna should be able to step right in and fill one of the holes created by the Peavy/Payne departures.

Ripvdub writes: When will they announce the black football uniforms and how bad will everyone flip out over them?

CW: Do we know for sure that there is going to be a black uniform? It would make sense as if you pay attention to Campbell’s non-game day gear, he’s ALWAYS wearing black. He likes the look a lot.

Regardless, of course, some people will flip out.


I can hear the angry calls coming into Cyclone Reaction already…

Uniforms are like music. Everybody has his/her preferred taste. Personally, I love the idea.

Regardless, I’m just glad that we’re actually talking about a winning football team these days. The uniforms and entrance songs are only secondary topics.

CyCloned writes: Who is going to be the first redshirt freshman offensive that will get snaps?

CW: Colin Newell is currently projected to start at center so I think he is the obvious answer here.

Sigmapolis writes: Which conference is Iowa State in come 2027 or 2028? And who is in that conference with them?

CW: I have two answers to this…

My basic answer is the Big 12 in its current form. But that’s boring and likely not what you were fishing for.

My bold take on this: A super-conference that combines the current Big 12 with the Pac-12 – and perhaps BYU/Central Florida. Yes, four time zones.

The Pac-12, in my opinion, is in greater danger these days than the Big 12. Because of its crappy television deal and unfortunate geography, it makes sense for the Pac-12 to want to hold hands with a league to the east. Still, because of that geography, I can’t see the Pac-12 actually breaking up.

From the Big 12’s perspective, Texas and Co. have flirted with the Pac before. The academic ties to the Pac-12 are very appealing to the folks in Austin.

These two leagues are perceived to be in the worst shape (although I’d argue that the ACC is in the exact same category) going forward so I could see them coming together and being proactive prior to the 2024 mix-up that is bound to happen.

JP4CY writes: Will Kliff Kingsbury be Tech’s coach when they play Iowa State?

CW: For those wondering, that’s an Oct. 27 game in Ames next season and yes, Kliff Kingsbury will still be the coach. I know Tech isn’t projected to be very good next season but it would have to be an incredibly disastrous start for Kingsbury to be fired that early in the year.

Coolerifyoudid writes: What is your favorite spot on campus and why?

CW: The Pete Taylor Media Room inside of Hilton Coliseum holds a special place in my heart. In a more traditional sense, I’ll go with some coffee, a book and central campus on a spring day. That’s tough to beat.

Bsaltyman writes: Your pick where Lazard gets drafted?

CW: I don’t really have a “pick” but do believe that Allen’s stock has risen in recent weeks. If you haven’t already, check out this piece that Rob Gray wrote for us last week after his interview with ESPN’s NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. I’ve asked Allen what he “thinks” and he really has no idea.

Stay tuned for another Lazard/Lanning podcast that I’ll be recording with the guys on Tuesday afternoon. If you missed the first one, check it out here.

Cyclonetrombone writes: Do you see women’s basketball and wrestling taking a step forward next year?

CW: Absolutely.

Women’s basketball will boast one of the best players in the conference next season in Bridget Carleton while some of those young players, like Madison Wise, will improve with a year under them. I don’t want to hype her up too much but I’ve heard from the day she stepped on campus Tennessee transfer Alexa Middleton is the real deal. That trio could be very special.

For wrestling, last season was basically an “establish the culture” year. Every coaching change in the history of sports – for better or worse – has experienced this. It’s a trimming of the fat. It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where things get worse in 2018.

AgronAlum writes: LeBron or MJ? And who are your favorite football and basketball players of all-time. (Not limited to ISU).

CW: I’m a Bulls fan who grew up during the Jordan era so I’m clearly biased towards him. However, I’m a huge NBA fan in 2018 and appreciate the hell out of LeBron.

I don’t have the time to fairly debate this right now …

I’d probably have to go with Randy Moss and Dennis Rodman.

Moss, mainly because he was the best player on my favorite team as a kid. Definitely not a role model…

I’ve learned to love Rodman more recently. There is something about a guy who is physically limited choosing to be the BEST at all of the little things in the sport – not scoring – that appeals to me. He’s cooky, no doubt, but I respect the hell out of Dennis Rodman, the competitor.

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