The Cyclones opened preseason practice 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 center.
Projected Starter: Tom Farniok, Sr., Sioux Falls (SD)
Projected Backup: Ben Loth, Sr., Chatsworth (CA)
Other Players: Jamison Lalk, Jr., Council Bluffs; Nick Severs, rFr., Macomb (IL); Cole Anderson, Fr., League City (TX)
The Leader: Tom Farniok
Well, duh. Center is of course important, though it's not nearly as key as offensive tackle, but Farniok remains the Cyclones' most indispensable player because he's good and because the drop-off from him to his backup is greater than any other position on the roster. Farniok's on the Rimington Award watch list but was left off the preseason All-Big 12 team, the media consensus being K-State's B.J. Finney and Texas' Dom Espinosa are the superior players. It might be a different story by December. Farniok's going to get headlines this season — his blunt nature makes him a favorite among reporters — and that'll help raise his profile. More importantly, if Iowa State's offense executes a 180 in the first year under Mark Mangino, Farniok will be a key figure to the rest of the conference's press.
The Wildcard: Jamison Lalk
Because "Tom Farniok's knees" isn't an appropriate answer, let's go with Lalk, the 6-foot-6 junior who saw action at guard last season and was Farniok's stand-in for a half at center against Iowa until he suffered an MCL injury of his own. With Ben Loth out for probably a few weeks with — yep — what looks like an MCL injury, Lalk will work as the second-team center. He might start there in 2014.
The Future: Nick Severs
A consensus three-star recruit in 2013, Severs took a redshirt his first year in Ames and is currently penciled in as the third-team center. After Farniok's eligibility expires, Severs will compete for Lalk for the starting spot in 2015. He'll be a three- or two-year starter, depending on the outcome of that battle.
The Cyclones signed Cole Anderson in 2014. Anderson is a cerebral player who participated in basketball and track at Clear Falls, taking the high school to its first ever postseason appearance last fall. At 6-foot-3, 260, the key for Anderson is to add weight in his redshirt year. Iowa State has a commitment from 2015 prospect Bryce Meeker, who'll play either guard or center.