The debate's getting serious.
AllCyclones.com began listing ISU's best 50 players for 2014 earlier, Nos. 50-26 — using production, potential, positional value and a little bit of by-the-gut reasoning.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty, beginning our one-by-one countdown of No. 25 to No. 1, a task that'll run through Spring Football.
The envelope, please ...
No. 20: Jamison Lalk, Offensive Guard, JR
Lalk's sophomore season was riddled by injury, forcing him to miss three games and most of the contest against Iowa, and saw him play out of position some while replacing Tom Farniok at center. Because of that, it's likely he hasn't found his ceiling as a player yet, which makes the 6-foot-6, 300-pounder an intriguing talent.
A junior this fall, Lalk will battle Oni Omoile for an opening at guard. He should be the favorite as new line coach Brandon Blaney comes in, but who really knows? Lalk is much bigger than Omoile (6-foot-3) — in a pulling scheme that power helps him, but in a zone scheme Lalk needs to show he's quick in the feet.
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.