2009: 7-6 overall, 3-5 in Big 12.
Starters returning: Offense (8), defense (4)
Qualifying for and winning a bowl game (the Insight) was a dream season for Paul Rhoads' head-coaching debut. Iowa State hopes to build on the success gleaned from 2009. However, any improvement shown might not show up in the standings.
The Cyclones will play Texas and Oklahoma (on consecutive road games) out of the South Division. The non-conference slate includes Iowa and Utah. When he met with his team in preparation for 2010, Rhoads told his team to embrace the challenge.
Last season, Iowa State's defense was improved but seven starters must be replaced. The offense struggled last season but a second season of running offensive coordinator Tom Herman's system - along with improved talent and depth at wide receiver - should make the Cyclones' attack more productive.
All three linebackers have moved on. Replacing Jesse Smith, a hard-working, blue-collar leader who led the Big 12 in tackles, will be the biggest challenge. Also gone are center Reggie Stephens, safety James Smith and defensive lineman Christopher Lyle. The offense must replace Marquis Hamilton's last year's top receiver, along with solid tight end Derrick Catlett.
Wide receivers Albert Gary, Jarvis West and Chris Young are expected to see action. They add talent and depth to a position that lacked both last season. Junior-college transfer Ricky Howard, who enrolled early and was able to participate in spring practice, might replace the graduated Derrick Catlett at tight end. Jacob Lattimer, A.J. Klein and Jake Knott are three candidates to fill the holes at linebacker. Corner back Anthony Young, a junior-college transfer, was impressive in the spring and could be a starter.
You'll hear about
Darius Reynolds. In the first four games last season, Reynolds was one of quarterback Austen Arnaud's favorite receivers. But Reynolds suffered a broken leg in practice in late September. Reynolds has recovered and had an impressive spring game. A former high school quarterback, Reynolds joins Sedrick Johnson and Darius Darks as veteran play makers in the receiving corps.
* There's no question that senior Austen Arnaud is the No. 1 quarterback. But sophomore Jerome Tiller had a solid spring. If Arnaud struggles or is injured, the Cyclones have a solid backup. "Jerome is a talented young man," Rhoads said "He has great velocity with his throws, and he has great ability to make people miss and create big plays."
* Senior running back Alexander Robinson gained 1,195 yards rushing last season but for the Iowa State offense to be consistent and effective, he needs a productive backup. Redshirt freshmen James White and Jeff Woody emerged as the top candidates. Sophomore Beau Blankenship, who Rhoads thinks can get the job down, had to sit out the spring game with an MCL injury.
* Senior quarterback Austen Arnaud missed two games with injuries last season. When he was on the field, he nearly got as much done as a runner than as a passer. Arnaud's accuracy declined from his sophomore to his junior season and he had 14 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. In spring practice, though, Arnaud was considered one of Iowa State's most-improved players. A tweak in his throwing motion helped his accuracy and he appeared more comfortable running the Cyclones' no-huddle, spread offense.
Coach speak from Paul Rhoads
"A year ago, we didn't think we have a lot of guys who could help us win. We are more skilled and certainly more understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, and with all that combined, we are a better core of receivers. By having six quality football receivers, at least, to run out there on the field and be able to use them on the field as weapons is probably the position that we've moved ahead the most."
- On his team's improvement at wide receiver
"To be honest, I don't know if there's any part of the defense I'm comfortable with. But if there was one position I feel good about it would be corner.
- On areas of his defense where he's comfortable
"We're a more physical football team. Last spring, we showed glimpses of how to hit, of how to tackle. This spring, I was never frustrated at all with that. We'll get after you. We're well ahead of where we were a spring ago."
- On where the Cyclones have improved compared to a year ago
"It's continuous improvement. I thought about it as I went through January and recruited, and as the end of February got close and it was time to start working again. We've got so far to go, so much work left to do, that we didn't need a drastic change in what our mantra was going to be. If we improved in year one, we need continuous improvement in year two if we're going to keep achieving in this program."
- On what would define a successful season
|Sept. 2||Northern Illinois|
|Sept. 11||at Iowa|
|Sept. 18||Kansas State* (Kansas City)|
|Sept. 25||Northern Iowa|
|Oct. 2||Texas Tech*|
|Oct. 16||at Oklahoma*|
|Oct. 23||at Texas*|
||Nov. 13||at Colorado*|