The offensive line had a disastrous start for Iowa State last season. Inconsistent lineups and injuries plagued a unit that really only looked good against a handful of teams. The thought process heading into this season — it can’t be that bad again, can it?
Iowa State’s offense had their way against Kansas, West Virginia, and Tulsa. That’s because the offensive line held up in all three of those games. It’s also thanks to those teams being ranked 90th, 91st, and 97th nationally in rush defense last year.
In fairness, multiple bye weeks made Tom Farniok look the best he’s had all season in the victory over the Golden Hurricanes. And the line increasingly got better as the season went on, and it showed with Grant Rohach becoming more comfortable under center.
Players to watch: Damn near all of them. Obviously, Farniok will be the anchor of the entire offensive line. Jacob Gannon will be the other senior starting with him at right tackle.
The greatest news about the offensive line is the experience. There’s two juniors, Oni Omoile and Brock Dagel, starting on the left side of the ball. And the backups, Ben Loth, Jamison Lalk, and Jacob Dunning — we’ve all heard these names before. It’s the second-most returning starters in the Big 12.
Newcomer to watch: Redshirt freshman Jake Campos. I remember looking at the 6-foot-7, 279-pound lineman on film, and he was an absolute beast. There’s a reason teams like Iowa, Kansas State, and Oklahoma were looking at him, and he was at one point a four-star prospect according to Rivals. He was the top prospect coming out of Iowa and the 16th-best offensive tackle in the nation.
His athleticism and smarts really seals the deal. This multi-sport athlete received awards playing baseball, basketball, and in track events. He’s also majoring in biological systems engineering. Godspeed, brother.
Projection: Unlike the defensive line and barring injury, this group could be the highlight of the team this season. That may come off bad, but that’s actually promising. If Iowa State’s offensive line establishes themselves and plays like they did in the three victories in 2013, it will be a hell of a lot more fun to watch everybody else on the offense.
Farniok is incredibly important, but it doesn’t have to start and end with him. There’s a lot of depth here, more so than with any other unit on the team. If the Cyclones are able to hit the magic number of six wins in 2014, it’s because of two reasons — they took advantage of a weak November, and the offensive line was the best it’s been under the Paul Rhoads era.