New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino is known for molding his offensive schemes to fit his players’ skill sets, and his magic touch is surely needed with a squad that had FBS rankings of 76th in passing yards and 88th in rushing yards in 2013.
That 2013 Iowa State football team didn’t have much to celebrate after amassing a 3-9 record, but the Cyclones return a nucleus of talent on the offensive side of the ball and will be looking to rebound from the second season without a bowl trip of the Paul Rhoads era.
Let’s take a look at some players poised for a breakout year:
RB Aaron Wimberly
During the first half of last season, Wimberly looked like the best back the Cyclones have had since Alexander Robinson. The speedy junior carried the ball for an average of 5.3 yards per carry in ISU’s first four games before suffering an injury against Texas Tech.
After tweaking his hamstring, Wimberly wasn’t the same. He managed to rush for only 3.4 YPC in the Cyclones’ final eight games, including DNP’s against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Opponent strength may have factored slightly into those stats, but it was obvious Wimberly was being a little more cautious post-injury.
If Wimberly can stay healthy, look for him to get the majority of the touches out of the backfield and get more involved in the passing game this year.
WR Allen Lazard
The Cyclones’ top ranked recruit out of Urbandale, Iowa, is likely to compete for a starting job come fall. ISU fended off strong pushes late in the recruiting process from Notre Dame and Stanford to keep the talented wide receiver in a cardinal and gold uniform.
Lazard doesn’t possess all-world speed or athleticism, but has the size at 6-foot-5 that Iowa State hasn’t always had the luxury of having at the wide receiver position. Don’t be surprised if it’s Lazard lining up opposite of junior Quenton Bundrage in August.
Another year, another summer unsure of who will line up at the quarterback position in the fall. Sam Richardson began last season as the starter, but lack of production along with injuries eventually caused him to lose his starting job to Grant Rohach. Rohach struggled at first, but eventually grew into his starting role and led the team to victories against Kansas at home and West Virginia in Morgantown.
Coach Mangino has said that whoever can be accurate and make the right passes will end up being the starter. Just for comparison’s sake, in Mangino’s last year as head coach at Kansas, quarterback Todd Reesing threw for 313 completions. Last year, Richardson and Rohach combined threw for 231 completions COMBINED. With former offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham finally gone, whoever captures the starting job should have plenty of opportunities in the passing game in Mangino’s scheme.