Most of Iowa State's 2014 recruiting class — the high schoolers in it, at least — will spend their first year in Ames playing on the scout team, improving their bodies via world-class weight training and standing on the sideline, only needed in case of dire emergency.
Everyone redshirted in 2012. Nearly the entire 2013 class did, too, the exception being cornerback Nigel Tribune, who started seven games.
Zero, one. The line graph is beginning to crawl north.
Of the incoming high schoolers, it's a sure bet Colin Downing (Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin) plays this season. The Cyclones need a punter, Kirby Van Der Kamp off to the NFL after four splendid seasons, and they didn't accept Downing's commitment in September so he could waste a scholarship spot and back-up walk-on Holden Kramer.
And don't tell anyone, but Downing's been working on a "secret" punt to unveil on gusty Saturdays.
"I locate the ball really well with the way I hold it," Downing says of his new trick.
How does the rest of the class stack up?
"If we're thinking about this with clear heads, it wouldn't be the worst thing if [Lazard] took a redshirt."
The fan base and media will apply pressure for four-star wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowo) to play right away and he will, barring injury or change of strategy. Given Lazard's size and leaping ability, he can help the Cyclones in 2014 — and he should energize the fan base — but if we're thinking about this with clear heads, it wouldn't be the worst thing if he took a redshirt.
Lazard faces a sharp upgrade in competition from the lilliputian cornerbacks he saw in high school. During the practices for the Army All-American Game, Lazard said he was taken aback at the strength and skill level of the corners he was going against and knew right then the big thing to work on in the summer was getting off his routes against jams. If the Cyclones redshirted him this fall, it'd allow Lazard to adjust and hone his game, while also improving his quickness, and set in motion a four-year run of alpha-dog level production, from 2015 to 2018.
If Lazard plays as a freshman, he'll be below tight end E.J. Bibbs and wideouts Quenton Bundrage and Jarvis West on the targets totem-pole. Bibbs and West are seniors while Bundrage, a fourth-year junior, could opt to go pro after this season. Lazard will get his looks, especially in the redzone, but's not going to be a star, not yet.
Really, this could be any of the three cornerbacks the Cyclones signed in 2014 (De'Monte Ruth, Mike Johnson) but, in terms of guys ready to play immediately, I like Peavy the best. He's an athletic three-sport star and is very, very confident, having gone against the best talent in Houston at Westfield High.
As Iowa State ended spring with questions at cornerback opposite Nigel Tribune, the thought is that one of these three will contend for playing time. I'm betting my money on Peavy.
Iowa State lost nickelback Charlie Rogers for undisclosed reasons when he transferred to Iowa Western in the offseason and the Cyclones right now are leaning on Drake Ferch to fill the void. If Ferch struggles, there's a more athletic option in Reggan Northrup, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound hybrid safety/linebacker form Jacksonville, Florida.
Iowa State got good springs from all four of its scholarship running backs and the Cyclones will use all four of them this fall, head coach Paul Rhoads saying he likes depth to go three-and-a-half deep at tailback, that half (Tyler Brown, probably) being in case of injury.
So, Michael Warren (Lawton, Oklahoma) probably's not going to play. If injuries crop up, though, the Cyclones might be forced to burn his redshirt. Warren didn't start at Lawton until his senior season so is still green in terms of the rudimentary basics for a running back, such as pass protection, but he's a dynamic runner.
A caveat: While Aaron Wimberly, DeVondrick Nealy and Tyler Brown are mostly speed guys, Rob Standard was the lone scholarship back on the roster this spring who fits as a power, goal-line type. If Standard is injured, the Cyclones could elect to go with 2014 signee Martinez Syria off the bench. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Syria is a bigger runner who some schools recruited as a fullback or H-Back.
Everyone else. This is Paul Rhoads' best recruiting class, and some of that is buoyed by the signings of seven JUCO players, but there's a ton of potential in the high school ranks, guys who will be ready to contribute or even start as redshirt freshmen, à la Alton Meeks this season.