It’s already a triumph for Allen Lazard to even be playing immediately on Iowa State. Normally, true freshmen don’t see the field, but as soon as the highly-touted wide receiver committed to the Cyclones, fans expected him to have an early impact. He’s impressed the coaching staff despite all the expectations, but how will that translate on the field?
Coming into 2014, Iowa State may have their deepest and most talented group of wide receivers in recent memory. There’s been familiar, recognizable, and exciting names in recent years, such as Darius Reynolds, Aaron Horne, and Josh Lenz. However, none of them gained enough consistency week in and week out, and a lot of them suffered drops as easy targets.
Taking out Lazard, Quenton Bundrage is the clear spotlight player in this position. As a sophomore last year, Bundrage led the team in receptions (48), yards (676), and touchdowns (9). He had more touchdowns than E.J. Bibbs, Justin Coleman, and Jarvis West combined (6). The running backs accounted for more than 20 percent of the touchdowns in the air.
All that the Cyclones lose from last year are Coleman, Ernst Brun. Jr, and Albert Gary. Five of their top seven receivers (not including Wimberly) are back.
Based on all of that, it’s safe to say that Lazard will have to really impress to gain the attention of Sam Richardson under center. It’s also why the freshman may not come out of 2014 with jaw-dropping impressive numbers.
If Iowa State wants to succeed in the air, it would be ideal if they could work as many targets into the picture as possible. Bundrage will likely see the bulk of the catches because, well, he’s a beast. Bibbs is also a reliable target and will undoubtedly have some impressive numbers as a tight end. But don’t forget about Tad Ecby, Dondre Daley, and senior Jarvis West.
They’re recruits from Texas and Florida that already have experience in Big 12 play. They know what to expect at the same time Lazard is still learning. There could be those growing pains where Paul Rhoads will sit him down for a quarter or so just to recollect his thoughts.
If things all come to fruition and the Cyclones have a successful season passing the ball, expect two levels of receiving results: Bundrage and Bibbs in their own category getting the most action, and then a log jam of four receivers and Aaron Wimberly.
This isn’t a knock on Lazard, but don’t expect guns blazing with a 70 catch, 1,000 yard, 15 touchdown season. He’ll make some amazing plays, but there will be some transition period as he gets settled into Big 12 play.
People should almost expect Lazard to struggle in the beginning — it’s a daunting task to deal with 3-time FCS champion North Dakota State, Kansas State, Iowa, Baylor, and Oklahoma State right out of the gate. The good news is that the experience he’ll gain at the beginning could pay off with outstanding performances down the stretch with easier opponents.
I’m almost pre-writing tweets for people to relax if Lazard comes out of a game with limited completions and zero touchdowns and not playing much. The odds are he won’t meet those high standards we’ve placed on him, but it’s not because he’s not talented enough to get there. There’s just a lot of other weapons the Cyclones can utilize.
It’s better to go into 2014 thinking that Lazard could be the cherry on top of an incredible Iowa State receiving corps sundae.