What We Know
Returning Starters: Offense - 5, Defense - 4
Tons of Offensive Power
While the Iowa St. Cyclones are being forced to replace a vital piece of their offense as well as a key leader in Steele Jantz, they showed that there is potential be a very potent offense. In the Spring Game, the Gold and Cardinal teams combined for 68 points and 897 total yards along with 49 first downs. After Jantz running out of eligibility and Jared Barnett making the decision to transfer, all eyes were on Sam Richardson who was 9-of-12 with two touchdown passes. Not only was Iowa St. able to score through the air, they also showcased a more than capable rushing attack anchored by a surprise spring performer in DeVondrick Nealy.
Iowa St. Has a Stable of Running Backs
Starting a new quarterback is always tough on a team. However, the way to take much of the pressure of the youngster is to provide him with a solid backfield. Paul Rhoads is looking to do just that. The top two rushers from a season ago, James White and Shontrelle Johnson, are returning. Although Johnson is coming off an injury, guys like Jeff Woody, the aforementioned Nealy, and Aaron Wimbley all provide depth at the position.
Offensive Line is the Strength of this Team
Four starters are returning for this Iowa St. team to give them balance and experience up front. With the expectation that the rushing attack will dominate the offensive scheme in the early going, this is a line that will get the need push. They have gelled together throughout the spring and will only look to get better as time wears on.
Who Steps Up to Lead This Defense?
The heart and soul of this defense last season was found in none other that Jake Knott and A.J. Klien, two of best linebackers in the Big 12 if not the nation. Not only were these guys vocal leaders, they also played at a consistently high level and could be depended upon. Now without them, there are some big shoes to fill. It doesn't necessarily have to come from the linebacker position but, the Cyclones need someone to step up and be the vocal leader of this defense. Jeremiah George has the potential to be the go to guy.
How Short are the Reigns for Sam Richardson?
Towards the end of the 2012 season, Sam Richardson took over with his performance against the Kansas Jayhawks, the worst defensive team in the Big 12. Following that performance, he came out and flopped as the Cyclones lost to Tulsa, a team that had beaten earlier in the season, in their bowl game. Fact remains that Richardson is far more accurate that either Jantz was or Barnett is, but he has a decent backup behind him in Grant Rohach. Only time will tell but you'd have to think that if Richardson begins the 2013 season like he ended the 2012 season, he will be pulled in favor of Rohach in a hurry.
Who Will Emerge as the Kicker?
Over the past several seasons, the Cyclones have played themselves in to some very close games yet couldn't seal the deal. Finding a consistent kicker could lead to a few more wins for this squad. Edwin Arceo, a senior, will be competing against freshman, Cole Netten for the starting job. The rub here is that both have missed kicks in the spring game, so do you go with a guy you can bring along in Netten or with the guy you will have to replace after this season in Arceo?
In reality, if Sam Richardson can do what is expected of him, he has the chance to be one of the better players in the league. Not only can this kid run, as evidenced by his 119 yards on the ground against West Virginia, but he can also throw with accuracy. In the final three games of the season, Richardson had eight scores to only a single interception. The potential is there and he will be the next face of the Cyclones.