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. 11: Tom Farniok, Center, SR
A four-year starter who should end his career with 47 or 48 total starts deserves better than No. 11 on this list, but that's the nature of the center position, which I value below tackles and guards.
It's no knock on Farniok, who'll be playing his third blocking scheme in three seasons. While he's athletically limited, there's no question his presence gives the Cyclones' line an oomph, and he's in line for votes for the preseason All-Conference team, though he'll likely lose out to Texas' Dom Espinosa, also a four-year starter.
Farniok was not at his best in Chris Klenakis' scheme in 2013 — and he did not hide his pleasure when Klenakis took the Louisville job. Pulling every play wasn't his thing. Under Brandon Blaney, there'll still be pulling, but Farniok will enjoy getting back to the zone-blocking principles. Farniok has country strength and a nasty streak and he's at his best when finishing off d-tackles on down blocks.
An aside: Farniok was a two-star recruit in 2010 with offers from North Dakota, North Dakota State and South Dakota State, and the Cyclones have helped him add 40 pounds and turn into an all-conference type player. Paul Rhoads prefers to mine sleepers from Texas and Florida and cross his fingers the Aggies and Seminoles don't get involved at the 11th-hour, but Farniok's the perfect example of Iowa State zeroing on a semi-local sleeper it knew it could win and develop. It doesn't happen much anymore, because the Cyclones are at a stage in their program when they can regularly nab acclaimed players, but what a nice building block for Rhoads to get early in his tenure.
Farniok is behind left guard Burton and tackle Dagel in the rankings because a) positional value and b) Farniok isn't "better" than either of those two.
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.