One in a series of early-summer looks at the opponents the Iowa football team will face this season:

2013 RECORD: 3-9, 2-7 in the Big 12 (tied for seventh place)

COACH: Paul Rhoads (27-36 entering sixth season)

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense (11), Defense (6), Specialists (2)

TOP RETURNERS: C Tom Farniok, 6-4, 300, sr.; QB Grant Rohach, 6-1, 224, soph., 110-of-191 passing, 1,208 yards, 8 TD, 7 interceptions; QB Sam B. Richardson, 6-2, 223, jr., 121-of-220 passing, 1,397 yards, 11 TD, seven interceptions; TB Aaron Wimberly, 5-9, 174, sr., 141 carries, 567 yards, 2 TDs; WR Quenton Bundrage, 6-2, 191, jr., 48 receptions, 676 yards, 9 TDs; TE E.J. Bibbs, 6-3, 261, sr., 39 receptions, 462 yards, 2 TDs, ; DE Cory Morrissey, 6-4, 260, sr., 52 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 fumble recoveries; CB Nigel Tribune, 5-10, 183, soph., 30 tackles, 6 pass break ups

THE SPRING THING: There is no shortage of returning experience on the ISU offense, where Mark Mangino steps in as the Cyclones’ coordinator and looks to bring some stability to an area where consistency was an issue last season.

Working with a line anchored by Tom Farniok and tackle Jacob Gannon, Mangino has a solid group of backs to work with in Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy leading the way. E.J. Bibbs is being touted by Rhoads as a potential all-American candidate this season at tight end. Quenton Bundrage and Jarvis West, who had a strong spring, are among the top targets for whoever emerges at quarterback.

Defensively, depth is an issue, particularly with the dismissal of linemen Rodney Coe and David Irving from the team this spring. Cory Morrissey provides strength from an end position. Jared Brackens, Jevohn Miller and Luke Knott, who sat out the spring following hip surgery, are being counted on at linebacker spots where ISU is searching for a replacement for all-Big 12 pick Jeremiah George.

Iowa State also has holes to fill in the secondary, where three multi-year starters completed their eligibility. Cornerbacks Nigel Tribune and Sam E. Richardson, both six-game starters last season, have the most experience.

THE BIG THING: The Cyclones’ biggest questions heading into the summer are centered around development on the defensive front, where the post-spring decision of fifth-year senior Branden Jensen to return to the team will add a 12-game starter from a year ago to a group which had been depleted by personnel losses.

Iowa State still has a quarterback decision to make, but both Grant Rohach and Sam B. Richardson return with starting experience for Mangino to work with.

THE SCHEDULE

Aug. 30 – North Dakota State

Sept. 6 – Kansas State

Sept. 13 – at Iowa

Sept. 27 – Baylor

Sign up for the Hawkmania Newsletter

Get our comprehensive Hawkeyes coverage delivered to your inbox

Oct. 4 – at Oklahoma State

Oct. 11 – Toledo

Oct. 18 – at Texas

Nov. 1 – Oklahoma

Nov. 8 – at Kansas

Nov. 22 – Texas Tech

Nov. 29 – West Virginia

Dec. 6 – at TCU