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[2020] Big XII Network Presents 2020 Vision: Iowa State Cyclones

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Burning Question: Three of the best players in Cyclone history are gone. Is the Iowa State program strong enough to withstand their departures?
Last year's record: 7-6 (3-4)
Key departures

QB Clifford Wilcox

RB Arturo Pacheco

WR Tom Oldham

OT Harry Mock

C Aden Hastings

K Eric Graves

Key returnees

WR Elliott Efi

OG Max Gavin

DE Mekhi Tolbert

DT Kai Voss

CB David Tolliver

Impact newcomers

QB August Blank (redshirted junior)

OT D'Neal Norris (redshirted freshman)

C Russell Daigle (redshirted junior)

OLB Paul Bryant (redshirted freshman)

SS Laurent Daniel (redshirted freshman)

Four-Year Recruiting Rank: 25th overall, 6th Big XII


Chicago Tribune Preseason Rank: 35th overall, 8th Big XII

Schedule and Projection

at Nebraska

at New Mexico

at Minnesota



at Oklahoma State

at Kansas State


at Texas

Texas Tech

at West Virginia


Projected record: 4-8 (2-7)
Best-case scenario: 8-4 (6-3)
Worst-case scenario: 1-11 (0-9)
Bellwether game: Week 2 at Nebraska. The Huskers are about to go through their own struggles with the departures of Sean Hamilton and Marcus Williams, so the two programs will be fighting on relatively even strength. Both teams need to figure out who their playmakers are on offense: Nebraska's Sebastian Babb and Iowa State's Elliott Efi are the prime suspects. Both teams have some serious talent on defense to make up for their relative lack of offense. On paper, Iowa State looks a little bit better than Nebraska, but playing this game in Lincoln adds an extra wrinkle to their opener. A win here leaves the Cyclones feeling good about their bowl chances. A loss means they'll only have a couple of weeks to get their ducks in a row.
Three Strengths

  • Iowa State's offensive line should be one of the most impressive groups in the conference, anchored by elite interior linemen Max Gavin and Russell Daigle along with blue-chip D'Neal Norris.
  • This projects to be the best defensive line Iowa State's had yet. Defensive ends Mekhi Tolbert and Jalen Pittman along with defensive tackle Kai Voss could all be playing on Sundays.
  • Redshirt freshmen Paul "Bear" Bryant and Laurent Daniel are an immediate talent upgrade and can elevate Iowa State's defense to be among the conference's best.

Three Weaknesses

  • Replacing their top three offensive playmakers will be difficult, and matching the talent level of Wilcox, Pacheco, and Oldham is nearly impossible.
  • Receiving corps isn't very deep: after Elliott Efi and tight end Kamari Malloy, no other Cyclone has shown an ability to consistently get open.
  • A young linebacker corps will put more pressure on the defensive line to keep containment and bust backfields open.



The first squall line has passed. With the graduation of Clifford Wilcox and Arturo Pacheco and the early departure of Tom Oldham, Iowa State will now have to build around a new identity. In 2020, that identity's going to come from their defense. With a strong defensive line, a young but talented set of linebackers, and a secondary led by David Tolliver and Kamari Wilkins, the Cyclone defense that's given up 16.6 points per game over the last two years should continue to be a force to be reckoned with. But against a tougher schedule than they're used to facing, Iowa State's defense will need to turn up the heat to another level--and perhaps more importantly, the offense will have to build a new identity overnight. The offensive line will be strong, so it'll depend on what the Cyclones see from the backfield. As of now, junior quarterback August Blank and senior runningback Avery Jeffries are slated to start. If things go south, senior quarterback Peter Edge or junior runningback Josiah Edmonds could see some time. Blank's mobility would allow for the most schematic continuity from the Wilcox/Pacheco system, but Iowa State's #1 priority on offense will be finding the combination that can be most effective. Bottom line, though: there's some upside here for Iowa State, but we're going to need to see it to believe it.

Presented by the Big XII Network



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