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. 19: Jacob Gannon, Offensive Tackle, SR
Gannon was not immune to the adversity that struck Iowa State's offensive line in 2013, missing three games with injury and starting just eight, but he began the season as a starting tackle and finished it the same way. Compared to the rest of his beef mates, Gannon's presence was largely a steady one in this regard.
Now a big offseason awaits the fifth-year senior. Gannon started two games apiece as a freshman and sophomore in 2011 and 2012, respectively, before jumping up to full-time starter status a year ago. That's plenty of blood spent for the program, but it's not that much, and it won't make him untouchable in the looming competition, especially under a new line coach (ISU's third in three years).
So, maybe in 2005, Gannon is a top-10 player — or at least most important — but the Cyclones these days can live with one of their tackles being average, so long as he can hold his own and win a few more battles than he loses. Gannon was inconsistent in 2013 but he has a great frame (6-foot-7, 300 pounds) and is very intelligent — perhaps he can take a step forward.
You'll see Brock Dagel land very high on this list and that's because his talent and ceiling stack up to the positional value of a left tackle. Reservations about Gannon's sheer level of talent, and the fact that it's OK to have a mediocre guy at right tackle if the rest of the offensive line is above-average, land him at No. 19.
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.