Hidden in a 3-9 season was plenty of quality-to-elite talent. It's one man's list, but we've set off to rank Iowa State's best players, counting down from No. 50 all the way to No. 1. In this installment we rank players from Nos. 40 to 31, giving us 20 total
Today we're rolling through Iowa State's best players, Nos. 40-31. Beneath the list is an overview of what we're doing, including the rankings so far of Nos. 50-31.
To read yesterday's list of Nos. 50-41, which includes notes on each player, Click Here.
No. 40: Duaron Williams, Guard, SO — Didn't play as a sophomore, stuck behind Daniel Burton, Jamison Lalk and Oni Omoile at guard. Here comes Wendell Taise from the JUCO ranks. Williams in high school was one of the best guards in the nation in high school before tearing his ACL — can he get back to his old form? For now, he provides solid depth at a position that struggled last season, but you've got to think this is a big spring and fall camp for him. There's a spot open for grabs with new line coach Brandon Blaney. Per the rules I outlined (positional value), this doesn't make too much sense, having Williams ahead of two cornerbacks in Peavy and Lynn, and a pass-rusher in Justin Madison, but I'm just high on Williams' potential.
No. 39: Tad Ecby, Wide Receiver, JR — One of the more curious developments of 2013 was the plummeting production of Tad Ecby, who caught 14 passes for 52 yards in the first three games and the rest of the way had eight receptions for 81, eventually being usurped by Dondre Daley in the lineup. Ecby's a possession guy, not a burner, and he'll have chances in Mark Mangino's offense to carve out space in zone coverage.
No. 38: Tyler Brown, Running Back, FR — The mystery man in the running back rotation as spring ball gets underway, Brown impressed in the fall with his speed and shiftiness. He figures to get a few touches in 2014.
No. 37: Mitchell Meyers, Defensive End, SO — Very strong redshirt freshman season for Meyers, who played in every game and notched 14 tackles. He doesn't flash on tape, but he seems to be in the right spot every time. Meyers was very productive in high school and though he's not a speed-rusher of any sort in college, he will get good numbers given the opportunity.
No. 36: Gabe Luna, Defensive End, JR — Suddenly, the Cyclones have a ton of depth at defensive end. Luna is one of four JUCO ends ISU signed, though Terry Ayeni could slide to three-technique once fall camp begins. Luna's a grinder with quick, technical hands against bigger offensive linemen, and as Paul Rhoads has mentioned, has a tremendous motor. Probably not a starter, but I'll be shocked if he doesn't play a nice role this fall.
No. 35: Cole Netten, Kicker, SO — Had a good freshman season, making 13 of 18 field goals. Had a 28-harder blocked against West Virginia but was strong from short-to-intermediate range, hitting 10 of 11 attempts from 20-39 yards. Will need to improve long range after going 3-for-7 from 40 to 49 yards with a long of 41.
No. 34: Rob Standard, Running Back, JR — Thought to be the heir to the Jeff Woody short-yardage role, Standard should be an improvement in that area, given his pass-catching abilities. Not a star, but will get important touches.
No. 33: Dondre Daley, Wide Receiver, SO — Daley started the final five games at the X. He'll have to hold off D'Vario Montgomery to do it again in 2014, but Daley's a very talented, smooth pass-catcher who demonstrated reliable hands in his first season of action.
No. 32: Wendell Taiese, Guard, JR — Taise's tape from Laney JUCO probably had Chris Klenakis salivating: Taiese's 350-pound frame did not hinder him from nimbly pulling down the line of scrimmage and crushing d-linemen and linebackers. The Cyclones were hoping Taiese would get to Ames in January and, although he signed his LOI in December, he did not graduate on time and will instead enroll in June. With Klenakis and his power-pulling scheme gone to Louisville, it's a little murkier how Taiese fits in. I think he'll contend for a starting guard spot, but he'll have to get acclimated to a zone-blocking scheme, which won't take full advantage of his size but will at least allow him to show off his quick feet.
No. 31: Jared Brackens, Strongside Linebacker, SR — Tough 2013 for Brackens. Despite his pedigree including some former time at defensive back, Brackens didn't do a good job a) being in the right spot in coverage and b) defending the ball/receiver if he was. Brackens is plenty athletic, though, and did nice things in the first two games rushing the passer (two sacks). Against Iowa, he was easily one of ISU's best defenders. Can he shore up those coverage skills? Can the Cyclones find creative ways to use him from his post at strongside 'backer?
Check back tomorrow for numbers 30 through 26.
It is with caution that I dip my toe into what will likely be choppy waters. Ranking Iowa State's 50 best players is an arduous task. With a number that allows for the two-deep (22 on each side) plus a few, any omission might be construed as an insult. That's not at all what I set out to do here. I wanted to locate and then rank the most valuable Cyclones for the 2014 football season. Read that again. For the 2014 football season. Not from last season. Or for 2017. How'd I do this? I looked at production, sure, and of course I looked at short-term potential — can this player contribute in 2014, and at what level?
Phone calls were made, brains were picked, contributions considered. I tried to think like an NFL executive: Quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback are by many accounts the most important positions in football, but I didn't always obey that rule, not unless the talent stacked up. I went back to my notes for the first and second watches of all the 2013 games, but those were last season's schemes, at least on offense, and I project the change to Mark Mangino's scheme will shake things up.
50: Brian Peavy
49: Jevohn Miller
48: Pierre Aka
47: Joel Lanning
46: Kamari Syrie
45: Colin Downing
44: Kamari Cotton-Moya
43: Michael Warren
42: Kenneth Lynn
41: Justin Madison
40: Duaron Williams
39: Tad Ecby
38: Tyler Brown
37: Mitchell Meyers
36: Gabe Luna
35: Cole Netten
34: Rob Standard
33: Dondre Daley
32: Wendell Taiese
31: Jared Brackens