Lazard a bright spot in tough year for Iowa State

AMES, Iowa (AP) Even as the losses mount at Iowa State, Allen Lazard's numbers keep climbing.

The junior wide receiver was the No. 1 recruit during the seven-year tenure of former coach Paul Rhoads, and he's living up to the billing for first-year coach Matt Campbell.

The Cyclones might be 1-8, but it's certainly not because Lazard has failed at his job.

''If you came to practice and watched the last three weeks of practice -- Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday -- Allen is as locked in as anybody on our football team,'' Campbell said Monday. ''That's what I want for Allen because in my humble opinion, I think Allen has a chance to be one of the best players in college football.''

Lazard is entirely comfortable hearing that from his coach because the standout from suburban Des Moines wants the same thing.

''I think very highly of myself,'' he said. ''I think I still have a lot of room to grow. I haven't reached my full potential this year, I don't think, but I think I can do a lot of special things out there.''

He already has.

Lazard leads the team in receiving (48 catches), yards (658) and touchdown catches (five) and is steadily climbing the school's career records list. He has caught a pass in all 32 games he has played and now ranks fifth in career receptions (145) and TD catches (14) and third in receiving yards (2,059).

If he stays another year -- and he says he will -- Lazard almost assuredly would pass Todd Blythe (176) as the career receptions leader and would have a shot at Blythe's 3,096 receiving yards. Blythe's 31 career TD receptions would be out of reach without a monster, injury-free senior season, but who knows?

He keeps getting better separation from defensive backs. At 6-feet-5 and 223 pounds, he has always been an enticing target.

''He's one of those guys that in any situation, you can throw him the ball,'' quarterback Joel Lanning said. ''If he's double-covered or whatever, if you just give him a chance to catch it, he's more than likely going to catch it. He's one of those guys that just wants the ball all the time.''

A toe injury slowed Lazard at midseason and his performance suffered. He couldn't plant and drive off on that foot and during one three-game stretch, he managed only nine catches for 88 yards. His longest play in that time covered a mere 17 yards.

''It was hard just because I would sit there during practice and watch my teammates,'' he said. ''That's probably the hardest part, knowing you can't go out there and practice because you physically can't. Then have to try to turn it on on Saturday and you're not really in shape at all and you really haven't gotten the reps and the timing down. It really hurts you in that aspect.''

Then the injury healed and his production took off. His numbers for the last four games: 27 catches, 330 yards, three touchdowns.

''All of a sudden he gets a chance to catch his breath and get healthy,'' Campbell said. ''I think you're starting to see the byproduct. In critical situations, he's making those plays.''

Lazard has thrived despite working with a revolving door of quarterbacks. He has caught passes from four different quarterbacks in less than three full seasons and even hauled in a touchdown pass from a wide receiver on a trick play.

''They were all right-handed, so that helps,'' he said. ''It's not a different spin. I had a left-handed quarterback in high school. For the most part, it's not really different, just the trajectory of the ball is a little bit different, especially on deep balls. The deep ball's different just because some throw it flatter and harder and some just kind of throw it up there. It's something you've got to get used to, I guess.''

It would seem that he has adjusted quite well.

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