Big 12 Campus Correspondent
College has been a constant learning experience for Austen Arnaud.
The Iowa State quarterback, who starred across town at Ames High School, is in his fourth year as a Cyclone but has played for three coaching staffs.
Arnaud was recruited by former ISU head coach Dan McCarney, signing as part of Iowa State's class of 2006. He redshirted his first year with the Cyclones, which was also McCarney's last. In came Gene Chizik as ISU head coach and Arnaud spent the first season of Chizik's tenure backing up Bret Meyer, Iowa State's all-time passing leader.
When Meyer graduated after the 2007 season, Arnaud assumed the starting quarterback job as a redshirt sophomore. Arnaud went on to have one of the best seasons in ISU history, throwing for 2,792 yards and completing a school-record 247 passes. His 440 passing yards in the season finale against Kansas State was a school record and his 493 yards of total offense tied a record set by ISU great and current Seattle Seahawk signal caller Seneca Wallace.
The off season brought another change. Chizik left for Auburn and Paul Rhoads was hired as Iowa State's head coach. Rhoads hired Tom Herman as his offensive coordinator. He brought a wide-open, up tempo, spread attack with him from Rice.
Arnaud is adapting to learning his third offensive scheme. He says picking up a new system has become easier the longer he has been around the game.
"Offenses stay the same," Arnaud said. "The concepts on offense stay the same, the thing that really changes is looks from the defense. From this staff, and the last staff, and the staff before them, we have similar concepts. Right now I feel we can do more stuff then at any other time since I got to Iowa State. Coach Herman is a great coach and I'm just trying to be as much of a sponge as I can."
The focus of Herman's offense is to get the football to his receivers as quickly as possible, letting them create with the ball in their hands. The Cyclones are loaded with talent at the skill positions. Junior college transfer Darius Reynolds is the leading receiver after two games while senior Marquis Hamilton has two touchdown catches. Sophomores Darius Darks and Sedrick Johnson are both stars in the making, and neither have a catch yet this season.
"We try to get our skill players the ball in space and have them make plays," Arnaud said. "We have a lot of weapons that can make plays in space, and that's key.
"We're efficient. Simple but efficient. We don't have a lot of formations. We don't have an offense of the week. We just run what we run and try to make it work."
Herman's offense is not a pass-only affair. The run game has been clicking on all cylinders. Arnaud and junior running back Alexander Robinson have led the way. Robinson reached the 100-yard mark against Iowa Saturday, while Arnaud has gained 134 yards in two games. Iowa State is averaging 197 yards on the ground.
The Cyclones run designed plays for Arnaud and he also takes what the defense gives, tucking and running when the opportunity arises.
Arnaud and his Cyclone teammates will get a chance to earn Rhoads his first road victory as a head coach when they travel to face Kent State. Gametime Saturday is set for 6 p.m. Central.