Iowa State 2013 season preview


Iowa State hasn't had a player taken in the first round since the Houston Oilers selected running back George Amundson in the 1973 NFL Draft, which really tells you all you need to know about the historical fortunes of Cyclones football. Head coach Paul Rhoads has injected some much-needed energy into the program, which delivered a stunning upset of Oklahoma State in 2011 to keep the Cowboys out of the BCS championship game.

Rhoads, a cult favorite for his aggressive style, has produced three bowl teams and four draft picks in four seasons, including Baltimore Ravens starting guard Kelechi Osemele. That's roughly the ratio to expect moving forward from a team that will never have anywhere near the talent level of its peers, but can get by with the occasional well-timed gamble.

Top senior prospects

P Kirby Van Der Kamp: Van Der Kamp has been one of the nation's most consistent punters for the last three seasons, averaging 42.8 yards per punt. He has executed five fakes in his career, totaling 55 rushing yards on four carries and completing his only pass for 25 yards. With another strong year, Van Der Kamp will receive consideration as a day three NFL draft pick or undrafted priority free agent.

G Kyle Lichtenberg: Lichtenberg is a three-time first-team All-Big 12 academic honoree and will benefit from the new character-first environment in the NFL. He started all 13 games at right guard last season, showing more technique than raw talent.

Top underclassmen

OL Jake Campos: A four-star recruit, Campos changed his commitment from Missouri to Iowa State in December and also had plenty of other big-time offers. Instead, he becomes a foundation recruit for Rhoads and the future anchor of the offensive line. Campos will need a year or two to add enough weight to compete at the collegiate level, but on reputation alone will be worth monitoring.

Three must-see games of 2013

Sept. 14 vs. Iowa: An underrated rivalry with an atrocious trophy, this in-state war tends to produce unexpected results, including last season's 9-6 Cyclones win and a wild 44-41 affair in 2011. Van Der Kamp's ability to turn the field should again be an asset against a Hawkeye team looking for a major turnaround.

Sept. 26 at Tulsa: The third meeting between the Cyclones and Golden Hurricanes in just over a year should again come down to the offensive and defensive lines. Iowa State surrendered 317 rushing yards while gaining just 98 in the Liberty Bowl loss.

Nov. 23 vs. Kansas: This looks to be the swing game for Iowa State's bowl hopes, one it must take to hit that six-win threshold. The Cyclones defense held underrated running back James Sims -- who rushed for 1,013 yards last season in spite of one of the worst passing offenses in the nation -- to 81 yards on 20 carries en route to a 51-23 victory.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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