AMES, Iowa — For Iowa State to have any shot at a turnaround his fall, it must fix an offense that ranked among the worst in the country last season.
The Cyclones certainly have plenty of guys to throw the ball to.
The return of Quenton Bundrage following a knee injury that cost him all nearly all of 2014 should give Iowa State one of the best receiving corps in school history.
Bundrage, who caught nine TD passes in 2013, will join D'Vario Montgomery and sophomore Allen Lazard atop a depth chart that's as deep as it's ever been at wide receiver.
Iowa State opens by hosting FCS school Northern Iowa on Sept. 5.
"It's a good feeling walking onto the practice field knowing you have some guys that can make plays," Iowa State wide receivers coach Tommy Mangino said. "To have the talent level that they have to start camp is a great feeling."
Bundrage entered last season as arguably the program's most promising player.
That we went down in the first quarter of the first game was one of the main reasons that the Cyclones won just twice in 2014.
Bundrage broke out as a sophomore two years ago, leading the Cyclones with 48 receptions for 676 yards while catching multiple TDs in three different games.
Bundrage is healthy again, and Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said he's made a statement during fall camp by routinely being the first player to show up at the team facility.
"He's provided leadership. He's playing hard. There's no limp to him. Nothing about the knee that is slowing him down," Rhoads said. "He's very focused ... his mindset is right."
The absence of Bundrage was the catalyst for Montgomery's breakout season.
Now 30 pounds lighter, Montgomery could emerge as one of the Big 12's best wideouts.
Montgomery started last season slowly. But as the Cyclones fell further and further away from contention, Montgomery quietly became a key weapon.
He caught 41 passes for 564 yards in the last seven games of the year and racked up a pair of 100-yard efforts against Texas and Kansas.
The 6-foot-6 Montgomery, who played last season at nearly 250 pounds, has spent the offseason shedding excess weight.
Montgomery said he's been going on two to three runs a day, often taking along his tiger-striped American Bulldog, King.
"I feel a lot more explosive. I feel a lot shiftier, I guess you'd say. I can really tell the difference," Montgomery said. King "loves to run around and my thing was that I knew I needed to lose the weight — and it helped (King) out a lot. He got a lot bigger and I got a lot smaller."
Lazard was one of the biggest recruits Iowa State ever landed, and he showed it as a true freshman with 45 catches.
Rhoads said the 6-foot-5 Lazard is also the most sure-handed punt returner the Cyclones have, so expect him to play a major role on special teams in 2015.
Iowa State is especially fortunate to have so many weapons for senior quarterback Sam Richardson because its run game is as shaky as can be.
The Cyclones don't have a single back with more than 25 collegiate carries, so they might need all those receivers to carry the offense.
"If we step our games up and we're all on the same level and the same page that we can be big in this conference," Bundrage said.
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