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. 7: Aaron Wimberly, Running Back, SR
The takeover of the spread offense in college football has taken the spotlight off the running back. Only once since 2006 has a quarterback not won the Heisman Trophy. QB is clearly the golden position of this generation and it's hard to imagine a scenario in which that changes.
At any rate, a successful run game is still important. Four BCS-bound teams finished in the top 20 in yards rushing per game in 2013, while Florida State — known for its Heisman-winning QB — was No. 28.
Thanks to the spread, which places a premium on creating space, the modern-day running back has more room to run than he would have, say, in 1993. The best offenses combine lethal vertical attacks to back safeties off with successful wideout screen actions, which serve as constraints to force a defense to bump its cornerbacks up, then stuff the ball down the throat of a five-man box. A runner has 10 yards of grass to make a safety miss with a cornerback — if it gets off his block — now chasing from behind.
Yes, I just described Baylor's blueprint.
It is in this climate that senior running back Aaron Wimberly can thrive. He was one of the stars of spring, eluding defenders and bouncing off would-be-tacklers like a pinball. Wimberly was superb in a few contests in 2013, such as Texas and Tulsa, but injuries wasted three midseason games for him.
The Cyclones will try to get Wimberly involved in the passing game as much as possible. In the spring game, he caught two passes for 25 yards. Given his slipperiness, he could be a killer in the screen game. Offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will make him a priority.
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.