Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, left, and Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, right, talk before before an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Alonzo Adams
November 10, 2015

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State's struggles have overshadowed the emergence of sophomore wide receiver Allen Lazard, one of the biggest recruits the Cyclones have ever landed.

Lazard ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 5.4 receptions per game after catching eight passes for 101 yards in last weekend's 52-16 loss at Oklahoma. Lazard and the Cyclones (3-6, 2-4 Big 12) will look to pull off a huge upset Saturday when fifth-ranked Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0) visits Ames.

''Allen is an unbelievable athlete,'' Iowa State lineman Jamison Lalk said. ''What makes him a special player is that he just goes and lays out dudes.''

That's just one of the reasons Lazard was such a hyped recruit two years ago out of Urbandale High in Iowa, roughly 30 miles south of Ames, and the likes of Notre Dame, Stanford, Nebraska and Iowa went after him hard. The son of former Cyclones player Kevin Lazard decided to stay near home, and his brother, Anthony, is a linebacker on the team as well.

Lazard cracked the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2014. He was second on the team with 45 receptions for 593 yards, and added three touchdowns.

Lazard's impressive debut left the Cyclones eager to see what he could do after a full year in their offseason program. Lazard put on 15 pounds and has since blossomed into the type of elite player that's rarely been seen at Iowa State.

''I hit the offseason program really hard and got a lot faster and stronger. It's just made making plays a lot easier for me,'' said the 6-foot-5 Lazard.

The Cyclones have made Lazard a centerpiece of their attack since an opening-day win over Northern Iowa. He has caught at least three passes in every game, and last week's effort against Oklahoma was his second 100-yard game in three weeks.

Lazard leads the Cyclones with 43 catches for 573 yards through just nine games - despite being the focus of opposing defenses. He has also excelled on punt returns, averaging a gaudy 16.9 yards on nine tries.

Iowa State will likely need Lazard playing at his best over the final three games of the year. The Cyclones will need to shock the Cowboys and then win road games at Kansas State and West Virginia for bowl eligibility.

Lazard's progression - combined with the promise shown by sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning and freshman back Mike Warren - is one of the reasons why the Cyclones will have hope heading into the offseason.

''When he came in, he was like `the five-star guy,''' Lalk said. ''Sometimes you hear about guys that are overrated coming out of high school. We didn't really know who he was. But last year and now this year, he's been really good player to have. He's obviously making plays on the field. But I can see him give the extra effort and that's what makes me respect him.''


AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org


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