Breaking down spring camp: Iowa State

Iowa State is the ninth Big 12 team to begin spring practice, with only Kansas State left to get started. Let's take a closer look at the Cyclones.

Schedule: Today is the first of Iowa State's 15 NCAA-allowed spring practices. They'll be capped by a spring game on April 20.

What's new: Nothing on the coaching staff, but Iowa State will definitely feel the loss of two of the league's best players and best leaders, linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. They led vocally and by example and helped Iowa State consistently field a solid defense in a brutal Big 12. Jeremiah George and Jevohn Miller will try to fill their voids with some experience.

On the mend: Running back Shontrelle Johnson fought back from a serious neck injury in 2011 to rush for 504 yards, two scores and start half the year, leading the Cyclones in rushing in the regular season. It seems all too unfair for him to find himself rehabbing a knee injury this spring that he suffered during a bowl practice in December. Here's hoping he's back healthy this fall, but this spring, the running back responsibilities fall on power back Jeff Woody and the shifty James White, who finished with 505 rushing yards last season.

New faces: Four of Iowa State's 25 signees in the 2013 recruiting class enrolled early and will be suiting up for spring practice. They're headlined by juco transfers RB Aaron Wimberly and TE Emmanuel Bibbs. Wimberly was a juco teammate of All-American Jake Waters, who signed with Kansas State. High school talents Shawn Curtis, an offensive lineman, and Alton Meeks, a linebacker, will also be on the field this spring, getting a jump on their careers.

All eyes on: Quarterback Sam Richardson. Iowa State's made the postseason in three of the last four years without any true consistency at quarterback, but Richardson looks the part of a pure passer and showed some promise, though he struggled in his final two starts to close his redshirt freshman season in 2012. Jared Barnett transferred, so barring major Richardson struggles or a spring charge from Grant Rohach, this is Richardson's job. He needs to take some major steps this spring and show he can be the guy for Iowa State. The program can't take the next step and consistently win seven or eight games a year without great quarterback play.

Breaking out: Wide receiver Jarvis West. Somebody's got to step up on Iowa State's offense, and West, a dangerous return man already, is the most likely candidate. He's shown a few sparks, but needs to show a whole lot more. He caught 31 balls for 290 yards and three scores but Iowa State's three top receivers are all gone. West had just two catches in the last four games of 2012, but he's got to do more next year. That starts this spring.

Don't forget about: Safety Jacques Washington. Washington was second on the team last season with 91 tackles, and he made a bunch of plays in the secondary with four pass breakups, three interceptions and a forced fumble. He also added two tackles for loss, and it was his second consecutive season with at least 90 tackles. He's a playmaker for a Cyclones secondary that needs one to stomach the losses of Durrell Givens and Jeremy Reeves.