This week and next, we’re examining the strongest and weakest positions on each Big 12 roster as teams enter summer workouts.
The series continues with the Iowa State Cyclones:
Strongest position: Wide receiver
The Cyclones are deep and diverse at their three wideout spots -- and considerably better than Big 12 offensive heavyweights Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Baylor in the pass-catching department. Let that sink in for a moment.
Allen Lazard is the headliner, a first-team All-Big 12 receiver last season alongside Heisman finalist and Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook, James Washington and K.D. Cannon. The 6-foot-5 Lazard recorded 1,018 receiving yards last year on 69 catches to go with seven touchdowns. He broke the Iowa State record for 100-yard receiving games in a season with six and enters his senior campaign this fall as the school record-holder for consecutive games with a reception (35), while ranking second in career touchdown catches (16) and receptions (170).
Deshaunte Jones rated as the most productive freshman receiver in the Big 12 in 2016, catching 37 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns. He shares a position with senior speedster Trever Ryen, the Cyclones’ punt-return specialist who caught 37 passes last season and scored touchdowns by rush, reception and return in 2015.
Marchie Murdock, an Illinois transfer who played in nine games last season, and 6-foot-4 Matt Eaton, No. 33 in the ESPN JC 50 last year who picked ISU over West Virginia and Auburn, man the “Z” spot.
Additionally, the whole group figures to benefit from the development of quarterback Jacob Park, who has advanced considerably in preparation for his first season as Iowa State’s undisputed offensive leader.
Weakest position: Offensive line
The talk of a potent offense directing the Cyclones back to a bowl game comes with a caveat. Iowa State cannot thrive unless it’s serviceable up front. In other words, if Park doesn’t have time to throw, those first-rate receivers can’t help get Iowa State to six wins.
Last year, the Cyclones ranked eighth in the Big 12 in rushing yards per attempt at 4.26 and allowed sacks on 8 percent of their pass attempts -- 96th nationally and ninth in the league.
And that came with four seniors in the lineup. Center Julian Good-Jones, on the Rimington Award watch list, returns.
The Cyclones are excited about the return of right tackle Jake Campos from an injury that knocked him out of service in 2016. They’re hopeful that David Dawson, a graduate transfer from Michigan, shows some of the form that earned him a spot among the nation’s top 100 prospects in the Class of 2013.