By Wendell Barnhouse
AMES, Iowa - That Iowa State has been competitive and reached bowl games in three of five seasons under coach Paul Rhoads is remarkable considering how offense-challenged the Cyclones have been.
In Big 12 point production, Iowa State has finished next to last four times and last the other. Ironically, the Cyclones had their worst season (3-9) when it produced its best scoring average per game during the Rhoads Era.
New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, the former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and head coach at Kansas, has been hired to make the offense simpler and more productive. The man in charge of that offense will be junior Sam B. Richardson who won a quarterback competition with sophomore Grant Rohach, who finished last season as the starter.
"The change that I think you're going to see will be in the varying pace that we utilize and also the simplicity of what it is we're trying to accomplish," Rhoads said of Mangino's playbook. "We want to be simple where our kids can execute at a high-rate of speed. Mark knew exactly what I wanted when he came in. He knew what my expectations were."
Comparing Iowa State's scoring average against the Big 12 displays the disadvantage the Cyclones have been facing.
2009: Averaged 20.5 points per game. Four Big 12 teams averaged 30 or more, led by Texas at 39.3
2010: Averaged 21.7 per game. Seven Big 12 teams averaged 30 or more with Oklahoma State leading the way at 44.2
2011: 22.7 per game, seven Conference teams averaged 30 or more. Oklahoma State led the way at 48.7.
2012: 24.5. Again, seven Big 12 teams were at 30 or more per game topped by Oklahoma State at 45.7.
2013: 24.8 with five Conference teams at 30-plus per game, led by Baylor at 52.4.
"All those offenses in the Big 12, they're going to score points," Iowa State tight end Ben Boesen said. "Even with our defense, with as well as they've played in the past, they're going to get scored on. And we've got to continue to score and keep up with those other teams so we can get wins."
Richardson, who was named the starter Monday, was impressive near the end of the 2012 season as the Cyclones earned a bowl bid. Last season, he struggled with injuries and mastering a complicated offense that slowed his decision making. Richardson gained arm strength during the offseason plus his running ability adds another dimension to the offense.
"Sam's a talented guy," Mangino said. "Sam is a guy that I think learned some valuable lessons in the spring. He's shown a much more greater sense of urgency about his play. When we first got here, he took his time throwing the ball. Now he takes his drops and gets rid of it. That's a big leap for Sam."
Iowa State has a veteran and deep offensive line, one of the best tight ends in the Big 12 in senior E.J. Bibb, a big-play wide receiver in Quenton Brudrage plus a number of other talented skill players.
"On paper, we've got guys that have had playing experience in this league and done some things with success," Rhoads said. "I'll be anxious to have that with the new things that we're doing with the leadership of our coaches and see what can take place."
Coach: Paul Rhoads, five seasons at Iowa State.
2013: 3-9 overall, 2-7 in Big 12.
Bowl: Did not participate.
Returning starters: 11 on offense, 6 on defense.
Key players: Junior QB Sam Richardson, soph. QB Grant Rohach, senior TE E.J. Bibbs, senior C Tom Farniok, junior WR Quenton Brundrage, soph. LB Luke Knott, senior DE Cory Morrissey, junior RB DeVondrick Nealy, senior RB Aaron Winberly.
Three Points To Ponder
1. Wally Burnham is a veteran defensive coordinator and he might need all of his experience to help mold this season's unit. The Cyclones struggled to pressure the quarterback and allowed too many points (36 points per game) and need to replace five key starters. The secondary is particularly inexperienced – which in the pass-happy Big 12 can be a major concern.
2. Iowa State's special teams will need to replace punter Kirby Van Der Kamp, who averaged 42.4 yards per kick during his career. Freshman Colin Downing and redshirt freshman Holden Kramer are the top competitors for the job. Taking advantage of field position has been a key factor during Paul Rhoads' Era.
3. Will freshman Allen Lazard make an offensive impact? A 6-5, 215-pound high school All-American from nearby Urbandale (Rhoads' hometown), Lazard is considered as the top high school recruit for the Cyclones in some time. Iowa State has several talented receivers so Lazard will have to earn his playing time.
Senior tight end E.J. Bibbs on new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino:
"He's very outgoing. People don't see that. In film room, he's very goofy and relaxed. He knows how to motivate players and get them ready to play for him. When he first came in, I thought he was just going to be the offensive coordinator. But when I found out he was going to be the tight end coach, it made me even more excited."
Numbers To Note
Iowa State had 500 yards of total offense in back-to-back games to close the season with victories. The last time that happened was 2001. … The Cyclones finished last among Big 12 teams in sacks (15) and sacks allowed (38) last season. … Iowa State averaged a record 55,361 in attendance and had the three largest crowds in school history. … The offensive line used a total of 10 different starters last season, nine different combinations in 12 games. Of the 60 starts last season, Iowa State returns eight players who combined to make 56 of those starts. … Only five starters return from a defensive unit that ranked 105th nationally in total defense in 2013. The six starters accounted for more than 44 percent of the team's total tackles in 2013.
|Aug. 30||North Dakota State|
|Sept. 6||Kansas State*|
|Sept. 13||at Iowa|
|Oct. 4||at Oklahoma State*|
|Oct. 18||at Texas*|
|Nov. 8||at Kansas*|
|Nov. 22||Texas Tech*|
|Nov. 29||West Virginia*|
|Dec. 6||at TCU*|
* - Big 12 Conference game.