ISU Superlatives: The Jewel, The Steal & More

We promise: This is the most fun you'll have on National Signing Day. A comics artist does his best Allen Lazard, as well as seven other signees, as introduces you to The Jewel, The Steal, The Project, the Secret Weapon and Recruiter of the Year

Fans of college football wake up on Signing Day with an insatiable thirst for content. No matter how much stuff is out there, ready to be read, watched and listened to, it's always a bit underwhelming: Some faxes roll in, teams hold a press conference, then by 5 p.m. the business day is over and the signees become old news.

To help the content linger a little longer and be more memorable, I wanted to try something different for this Superlatives piece, in which we slap some labels on notable 2014 signees and have fun at the expense of their likeness.

These illustrations come via freelancer John D. Massingill, who I worked with last year at my college paper, The Daily Texan. He did these all on Tuesday because I forgot to ask him earlier. The check's in the mail, John.

Introducing ...

It'll finally be official today, Allen Lazard to Iowa State, over a year since he committed. Lazard stuck to his word, increasingly rare these days, and he attracted other big-time players to Ames despite a 3-9 season.

For as good as Lazard is (No. 23 WR in the class), the importance of Iowa State signing him runs deeper than that. For the second consecutive year the Cyclones have reeled in an Army All-American from the Des Moines area, despite seasons ranging from lukewarm to very bad.

Think about it this way: Nobody in the state signed a better high school prospect. That should mean a lot to the Cyclones.

What a heist. Weeks left in the recruiting period, the Cyclones went into Oklahoma and took one of the state's best running backs (Warren averaged 9.1 yards a carry his senior season at Lawton).

It's not like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State didn't have Warren on their radar. The Sooners, after learning he was going to qualify, would have offered had five-star back Joe Mixon not committed. The Cowboys had extensive talks with Warren but never offered.

Warren will get to Ames with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove those two wrong, and he has the raw ability to do so. Expect a learning curve as Warren learns pass protection but he — along with fellow running back commit Martinez Syria — has a high, high ceiling.

The Cyclones were last in the Big 12 in sacks a season ago, with 15 (league-leader Texas notched 39).

They were ninth in the stat in 2012, eighth in 2011 and dead last in 2010.

Frankly, it's time Iowa State got after the passer. JUCO transfer Dale Pierson of Pasadena fits the bill: He's strong enough to handle Big 12 offensive tackles, but savvy and quick, too, and he straight showed-off as a sophomore, posting 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

Right now we'd tab Pierson as the favorite to take over Willie Scott's vacated spot at end. If Pierson produces, he'll make life easier for an incredibly deep defensive line — including two other JUCO d-line transfers. The Cyclones will have to make all the pieces fit, but Pierson is unquestionably good enough to start from Day 1.

What does "That Dude" mean? Good question. We almost went "Total Badass" but maybe that would've looked weird.

One of the final commits of the 2014 class, Peavy was a low-flying player in one of Texas' toughest districts. What caught Iowa State's attention, though, was his fluid athleticism and closing speed.

The 5-foot-10 Peavy has been able to dunk since ninth grade, he started on Westfield's varsity basketball team sophomore year and is also a meet-winning long jump champion. He's got a swagger about him, according to Westfield's high school coach, and Peavy won't be scared of anybody in the Big 12.

If secondary coach Troy Douglas is again game with the inevitable speed bumps of a freshman cornerback, Peavy could be in line for playing time in 2014.

Lee-Campbell, the No. 47 quarterback in this class, will arrive in Ames over the summer as a polished read-option engineer with advanced decision-making, ball skills and field vision.

It would have been perfect for Courtney Messingham and Chris Klenakis' offense.

Those two aren't at ISU anymore, but Lee-Campbell wouldn't have stuck with his Cyclones pledge if he didn't think he could adapt to Mark Mangino's offense (which right now can combine elements of the spread, read-option and run-and-shoot offense).

There's a good right arm on Lee-Campbell, but to make it in the Big 12 he'll need to improve his accuracy substantially. If he can do that, he'll be a big problem for defensive coordinators. This should be a fun project for Mangino.

For the schools looking for a punter, Downing was no secret. Penn State offered and hometown favorite Wisconsin offered him the chance to walk on and earn his keep.

By secret weapon, we just mean nobody's going to talk about Downing this summer or during fall camp, and he's going to trot out there for the season opener and rip off a long punt, and the casual fan might just assume Kirby Van Der Kamp got a fifth year of eligibility.

Downing's a potential four-year starter at a position that has been vital to the Cyclones over the years. That's a huge boon for Paul Rhoads.

Just like Van Der Kamp, Downing is a good athlete — he played an ice hockey game the night before Signing Day — who can pull the fake every now and then. In time, the "secret" part of this label will wear off, and Downing will just be a field-flipping weapon.

Sam Seonbuchner's favorite player? Green Bay's Clay Matthews. Makes sense. Seonbuchner is an outside linebacker. He grew up in Wisconsin. He has very long, blonde hair.

Obviously, it's a major stretch to mention the two in the same breath. Obviously. However, Seonbuchner, while finding a way to fly under the radar, has some of the most impressive tape we've seen of any defender in the 2014 class. He is everywhere, he does everything — blitz off the edge, defend the pass, track down the running back's run to the strongside.

We'd predict Seonbuchner gets a redshirt year. The Cyclones have several experienced outside linebackers, anyway. But just wait. This kid could be something special.

As the Cyclones entered the home stretch in January, they were in the running for the services of three-star wideout Kenric Young and, as reported, were talking to Simmie Cobbs.

Fans wondered whether ISU already having three wide receivers in its class scared off potential commits. As Orion Salters is the lowest-rated of the pass-catchers, behind Allen Lazard and Jauan Wesley, it was natural he caught a bit of flack.

While Salters' frame doesn't lend itself to a high volume of targets, he's a shifty, explosive player who can line up in the slot or in the backfield, as well as return kicks. At the peak of his college career, Salters could be a Jarvis West prototype — the guy you feed three or four times a game when in need of a big play. That'll be Salters' role, and it's an important one. He'll just have to prove he doesn't need to be a 50-catch receiver to make his mark.

We don't intend this to be a knock on any of the Cyclones' other coaches and their recruiting skills. Graduate assistant Derek Day got three Wisconsin commits with the snap of a finger and would have had Tommy Mister if not for staff shakeups. Todd Sturdy got ISU three JUCO players out of California. Troy Douglas and Wally Burnham flexed their muscle in Florida.

Even Louis Ayeni and Mark Mangino, the newest additions, helped solidify the Houston region — Chris Klenakis did a good job down there — while Ayeni joined Paul Rhoads on flights to see Terry Ayeni and Michael Warren as the weeks wound down.

And of course, the collective effort — from the recruiting support staff and the graduate assistants and up — to work double-overtime after the tragic death of Curtis Bray a day before the silent period ended.

But you know who else was on the plane with Ayeni and Rhoads? Shane Burnham, the defensive tackles coach who continues to sweet-talk his way around Florida, selling snow to kids who grew up running their fingers through sand.

Burnham will surely be kicking himself for the lack of a true defensive tackle in this class, but he made it a priority to get versatile Terry Ayeni with two weeks left until Signing Day, and he was instrumental in that and just about every other recruitment, too — it was Burnham who sung "Happy Birthday" and cut cake with Allen Lazard on an in-home in December when the Cyclones were trying to weather one final push by Notre Dame.

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