Iowa State went 3-9 in Matt Campbell's first season as the Cyclones' head coach, but according to Bill Connelly's numbers at SB Nation Iowa State should've won 4.2 games in 2016. New head coaches usually struggle a bit in their first year at a new program and make bigger strides in their second season after they've implemented their system and brought in a few of their own recruits. Iowa State's offense is especially exciting heading into 2017 as their unit ranked 48th in the nation, according to S&P+, and returns most of their key contributors from that solid group.

QB

Iowa State used a two quarterback system for most of the year in 2016, but Jacob Park began to emerge as the main guy over the past five games where the Cyclones scored 33 points per game gaining 6.9 yards per play. Joel Lanning will still get some snaps in the running game, but Park is the superior passer and the offense runs better with him behind center.

RB

Mike Warren was outstanding as a freshman in 2015 rushing for over 1,300 yards at 5.9 yards per carry, but he suffered the infamous sophomore slump last season rushing for only 559 yards at 4.2 yards per carry.

He was suffering from a high ankle sprain for much of the year and coach Campbell called him out for not practicing hard, but he should be motivated for a bounce back season in 2017. David Montgomery showed promise as a freshman last year rushing for 563 yards at 5.2 yards per carry, and he could provide a dangerous 1-2 punch in the running game with Warren.

WR/TE

Allen Lazard was a rare blue-chip recruit for Iowa State in 2014 as he grew up a Cyclone fan and became a 4-star wide receiver at Urbandale High School less than an hour away from the Iowa State campus.

Lazard had his first 1,000-yard season in 2016 with 7 TD's, and he developed a strong connection with Jacob Park in the second half of the season. The Cyclones return four other starting receivers and a starting tight end from last year's strong passing offense.

OL

Iowa State has recruited well along the offensive line, but they only return one starter from last season. Luckily, they will get left tackle Jake Campos back this season after he missed all of 2016 with an injury.

Campos is a two-year starter, and could play his way into the NFL Draft with a strong season this year. If some of the Cyclones' inexperienced linemen live up to their recruiting rankings, this unit should be solid.

Cyclones fans finally have some reasons for optimism in 2017 as Iowa State players have told me that they've totally bought in to Matt Campbell's culture and system.

Iowa State was fun to watch last season, but they simply couldn't finish down the stretch. With some added experience, this team should turn some of those close losses into wins next season, and Cyclones fans may be able to book a trip to their first bowl game since 2012.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!
Click to read more