The Cyclones open preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 4. To get you ready for the season, AllCyclones.com will be gauging the depth at every position on the roster. In this installment, we're looking at the tight ends.
Projected Starter:E.J. Bibbs, Sr., Arizona Western (JUCO); Chicago (IL)
Projected Backup: Ben Boesen, Jr., Des Moines
Other Players: Quan West, So., Willis (TX); Alex Leslie rFr., New Braunfels (TX); Scotty Schaffner, Fr., Raymore (MO); Jake Ortale, Fr.,, Las Vegas (NV)
The Leader:E.J. Bibbs
Well, duh. The only thing the all-conference tight end is really missing is a quarterback. Whoever wins the Cyclones' QB competition is sure to look Bibbs' way frequently. As a junior in 2013, Bibbs snagged 39 passes — t-13th nationally among all tight ends — for 462 yards and two touchdowns. Bibbs is far and away Iowa State's best and most vital player. If he stays healthy, he can catch 70 passes and be a terror to defenses in the middle of the field and in the screen game, where the Cyclones targeted him in the spring game, which allows Bibbs to get his big body moving forward with a head of steam.
The Wildcard:Quan West
Technically, West isn't even a tight end. He'll never line up in a three-point stance. The Cyclones list him as one, though, so we'll play along. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound West is a Y receiver — a flexed-out tight end. The coaching staff is expecting West to earn a few snaps per game. In that case, he might get a nice amount of looks over the middle of the field. Bibbs will play both tight end and Y in sets that call for the latter and not the former, which could prevent West from too much action. He'll likely play a much bigger role in 2015.
The Future:Alex Leslie
Having added over 10 pounds since his high school days, Leslie is still working to get stronger. At 244 pounds, the redshirt freshman likely needs to get to 255 or 260 to hold up against the middle linebackers of the Big 12. That's really the only thing holding up back. Next season he'll probably be the starting tight end, his pass-catching ability giving him an edge over blocking specialist Boesen.
Leslie caught 56 passes for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at New Braunfels, a campaign that had the tight-end needy Texas Longhorns interested after their top target at the position decommitted. Leslie's a major talent with exceptional hands. If he can fill out that frame, he'll be the favorite to replace Bibbs in 2015 and beyond.
Iowa State signed Scotty Schaffner out of Raymore-Peculiar (MO) in 2014. Schaffner will redshirt this season and might find his long-term home as the Y (think Quan West) unless he really improves his blocking — his high school team used him mostly as a flanker — and adds a chunk of weight to his 6-foot-4, 225-pound body. His hands are legit, though. Iowa State also added preferred walk-on Jake Ortale out of Las Vegas, who'll be a scout team member in 2014.