Roughly a week from now Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery will likely hear their names called at some point in the draft. Back in Ames, Iowa, Iowa State’s working on filling the voids left by the offensive standouts.
A season ago, the Cyclones worked through multiple quarterback changes and featured a pretty average offense. At times, the offense struggled for long stretches, but other times, then-freshman quarterback Brock Purdy helped the offense explode with Butler and Montgomery assisting him along the way.
The Cyclones ranked No. 57 in passing offense with an average of 240.9 yards per game with 20 passing scores to nine interceptions. On the ground, Iowa State ranked No. 111 with 130.1 yards per contest on a 3.63 yard per carry average and 20 scores on the year.
So if the Cyclones take a step back on offense statistically, they’ll be ranked near the back of the pack among the 129 qualifying teams. Despite losing Montgomery and Butler, Iowa State added coach Tom Manning back to its staff and the offense obviously has room to improve. The Cyclones' roster has a handful of young options that could push the offense to the next step.
Any position on the offensive line isn’t the most glamorous, but it’s extremely important. With Montgomery gone, sure his committee of replacements are important, but the running game starts with the five up front.
The positive for the Cyclones on the offensive line is they retain all the starters from last season, and they have some experience in the unit. Bryce Meeker, Julian Good-Jones, Josh Knipfel and Collin Olson — all seniors — return to the room, and redshirt sophomore center Colin Newell is back in the mix.
Despite the experience in the trenches, Iowa State could shuffle Downing — who played in two games during his redshirt season — into the mix, and injuries are always a factor throughout the 12 or 13 game season.
Iowa State’s success leans largely on the offensive line’s success, and the return of Tom Manning should assist the line’s progress.
If Downing can crack the starting five, the 6-foot-4, 304-pounder could open up holes in the run game and help Montgomery’s replacements.
Milton got his feet wet in the Iowa State offense last season, snaring 34 passes for 417 yards and a score. Milton also saw action on special teams with a 12.7 yard average on punt returns, and he busted one for 47 yards last year.
Milton presents an interesting option for the Cyclones, considering the loss of Butler and the players that remain. Most of Iowa State’s experienced options at wide receiver possess smaller frames with Milton, Deshaunte Jones and Landen Akers measuring in at 6-foot or shorter.
Early in the year, this could influence the usage of the wide receivers with a shiftier, speedy approach. It’s probably a safe bet that a bigger receiver like Jalen Martin, Joesph Scates or Sean Shaw Jr. emerges as the season progresses.
With a big, outside threat, the offense could open up for Milton to blow through secondaries and thrive in conference play.
It’s tough to nitpick too much on Purdy’s freshman campaign, but the sophomore will shoulder a bigger load this year with some of the losses on offense and a spring added to his resume.
Purdy participated in 10 games, throwing for 2,250 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and also opened up the offense with his scrambling abilities.
Iowa State’s found success the past two seasons with a revolving door at quarterback. In 2019, it appears the Cyclones are set to stay consistent with Purdy under center.
If Purdy can help Iowa State weather the early season storm with the transitions at the skill positions, the Cyclones could push for a prestigious bowl game. On the flip side, if Purdy falls into a sophomore slump and struggles without Montgomery and Butler, the Cyclones may find themselves in trouble early in the season like last year’s 1-3 start.