Spring Practice Primer: Iowa State Cyclones

By Lorenzo Reyes | Staff Writer

College football never ends. And during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Iowa State Cyclones and what they'll be working on this spring.

Spring practice began: March 26

Spring game: April 20

2012 record: 6-7 (3-6, Big 12)

Returning starters: nine (five offense, four defense)

The Least You Should Know About Iowa State This Spring

-- In a conference that features prolific offenses, Iowa State has some work to do. In 2012, Iowa State ranked ninth of 10 teams in the Big 12 in rushing offense (150.1 yards per game), total offense (364.2) and scoring offense (24.5 points per game).

The Cyclones return their two leading rushers, seniors James White and Shontrelle Johnson. Expect White to be the feature back throughout the spring, as Johnson will not be available because of a knee injury, according to coach Paul Rhoads. White and Johnson compiled 505 and 504 rushing yards, respectively, and each added two touchdowns last season. The word is that Johnson will be back for the fall, but White should have a leg up on the competition by then. In any case, the Cyclones will use both running backs in 2013, barring any injuries.

--In fact, the Cyclones return their top three rushers from 2012 with the return of quarterback Sam Richardson. After the struggles of quarterback Steele Jantz last season, Rhoads gave Richardson a shot late in the year. The redshirt sophomore showed some promise but also struggled in Iowa State's bowl game against Tulsa while battling the flu. Jantz's eligibility has expired, and Jared Barnett, another potential contender for the starting spot in 2013, transferred to Illinois State.

The spring will belong to Richardson, whose only competition comes from redshirt freshman Grant Rohach. With first-team reps and another spring under his belt, Richardson is the overwhelming favorite to lead the Iowa State offense in 2013.

In his one season of play last year (four games), Richardson had 541 passing yards on a 58.2 completion percentage with eight touchdowns and one interception. He also added 233 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

-- The Cyclones lose two of their top tacklers and most vocal defensive leaders. Iowa State's defense was an average unit in an offensive Big 12 last season. The Cyclones ranked 38th in the country in scoring defense, ceding 23.9 points per game. However, Rhoads' defense did allow quite a bit of yards, giving up an average of 442.2 per game, 94th-best in the country. If Iowa State is to make a significant improvement next fall, it will need to be more efficient and prevent opposing offenses from gaining chunks of yards.

Making matters worse, Iowa State loses its top tackler and team leader, linebacker A.J. Klein, who had 117 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, one sack and one interception in 2012. Another big loss is that of fellow linebacker Jake Knott, who was fourth-best on the Cyclones in tackles with 79, while adding six tackles for a loss, two interceptions and six pass breakups in 2012.

While the loss of two linebackers in defensive coordinator Wally Burnham's 4-3 scheme is significant, Iowa State will count on senior Jeremiah George to man the middle linebacker spot. The team's third-leading tackler in 2012 with 87, George will need to be the vocal presence for the Cyclones' defense, which relies heavily on its inside linebacker to make pre-snap reads. Juniors Jared Brackens and Jevohn Miller are expected to be the favorites to earn starting spots at the outside linebacker slots.

Follow Lorenzo Reyes @LReyesCBS

 
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