Could the Iowa State Cyclones Be the Football Turnaround Story in 2015?

The Iowa State Cyclones have been a doormat in Big 12 football the past couple of seasons, and their head coach Paul Rhoades knows they are capable of playing much better.

The Cyclones were dead last in the Big 12 in 2014, failing to win a single conference game. They’ve only won five games overall in the past two seasons. Despite this, their is high optimism and positive feelings among the ISU players and coaches that things are looking up for 2015.

Iowa State returns a good nucleus of starters on offense and defense for the 2015 season (7 on offense, 6 on defense), including senior quarterback Sam Richardson. Rhoads told Big 12Sports.com correspondent Wendell Barnhouse that he believes Richardson will be one of the top three quarterbacks in the Big 12 this fall.

Dec 6, 2014; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Sam B. Richardson (12) throws during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa State head coach is counting on the fact that Richardson has another year of experience under his belt as the Cyclones’ signal caller and that this will be the second year for his senior quarterback and the ISU offense under offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.

Also back on offense for the Cyclones in 2015 is senior wide receiver Quenton Bundrage, who went down on the first offensive series last season and missed the entire year. Bundrage caught 48 passes in the 2013 season for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged over 14 yards per reception.

Allen Lazard is another wide receiver the Cyclones are counting on in the fall. Lazard had an excellent freshman season in 2014, hauling in 43 passes, second most on the team, for 593 yards, including three touchdowns.

The Cyclones lose their top two running backs from a year ago, but that might not be all bad, given Iowa State’s inept ability to advance the ball on the ground in 2014. Sophomore Tyler Brown and redshirt freshman Mike Warren will have the opportunity to step in and fill the void at that position in 2015.

If the Cyclones are to get better in the coming season and beyond, though, they are going to have to shore up the holes in the Big 12’s worst defense. Iowa State must replace five starters on the defensive side of the ball, but Rhoads has likes what he saw during the spring practice period.

“I’ve seen enough to believe that we have the opportunity to be a competitive defense,” the ISU coach told Big12Sports.com’s Barnhouse.

It’s one thing, though, to think and talk optimistically. It’s another to back it up with comparable performance on the field. The Cyclones have to go to Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Kansas State in the coming season. That is a brutal stretch for even the best of teams.