AMES, Iowa - Those who track and appreciate unusual names in college football undoubtedly rejoiced when Iowa State named Steele Jantz as its starting quarterback.
Jantz - who has relatives with the first names of Foxx, Wolf, Stig, Truk and Brogan - started seven games for the Cyclones last season before injuries and inconsistency led the coaching staff to try Jared Barnett. Jantz and Barnett (who quarterbacked the history-making upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State) each won three games as Iowa State reached the Pinstripe Bowl.
Jantz was 138-of-259 passing last season, for 1,519 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also threw 11 interceptions.
"I think composure is a big part in him playing well on a consistent basis," Rhoads said. "He's going to be a guy who runs around back there. That's one of the things that makes him a dynamic player, a dangerous player, if you will.
"But he's got to have the composure to understand what it is we're trying to accomplish."
Last season the offense sputtered because both quarterbacks had accuracy problems. The Cyclones completed just 51 percent and their offense is designed to be productive at 60 percent accuracy.
"Down in the 50's (pass completion percentage) is not going to win the games we need to win in the Big 12 Conference to rise to the upper half of this league," Rhoads said.
With three solid running backs and a deep roster of receivers, Iowa State should improve on its 22.7 points per game scoring if more passes are completed.
"Steele is a better athlete and a better runner than he was last year," Rhoads said. "Our quarterback has to make good decisions, be accurate throwing the ball and be productive with their feet. Overall, Steele emerged in all those areas. The whole team has seen it play out on the field."
Rhoads believes this is the most talented Iowa State team he has coached. The offense returns nine starters and the defense returns six. The defense will again be anchored by senior linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein; both are three-year starters.
In each of Rhoads' three seasons at Iowa State the Cyclones have grabbed headlines with an upset victory. Moving past that sort of notoriety and up in the Big 12 standings is now the goal.
"We're changing the culture," Klein said, "because of everything that's been happening the last couple years. More people are talking about Iowa State, because of the big wins. We've been taking some small steps and we've been paying our dues to be a championship-level football team."
"Knowing people are still going to pick us to be at the bottom of the Big 12 doesn't faze me, but the supposed upsets help this program even more, with the media coverage, the recruiting.
"It helps everything."
Iowa State Cyclones
Coach: Paul Rhoads, fourth, seventh season.
2011: 6-7 overall, 3-6 in Big 12.
Bowl: Lost to Rutgers, 27-13, in Pinstripe Bowl.
Returning starters: 9 on offense, 6 on defense.
Key players: Senior QB Steele Jantz, sophomore QB Jared Barnett, junior RB Jeff Woody, junior RB James White, junior RB Shontrelle Johnson, senior WR Josh Lenz, Senior WR Jerome Tiller, senior WR Chris Young, senior WR Aaron Horne, senior LB Jake Knott, senior LB A.J. Klein, senior DE Roosevelt Maggitt, junior S Jacques Washington.
Information, please: Iowa State's 44-41 overtime defeat of Iowa in the CyHawk Trophy game was coach Paul Rhoads' first triumph in the in-state rivalry. The Cyclones had lost the previous two games under Rhoads by the combined score of 70-10. ... Edwin Arceo will handle the kickoff duties against Tulsa in Saturday's season opener. Rhoads has yet to decide on the team's kicker on field goals and extra points. The decision between Cole Netten and Arceo could be made on Saturday. ... The Cyclones recorded 17 sacks last fall - the most in three seasons under coach Paul Rhoads - placing them eighth in the 10-team Big 12 Conference. Their average of 1.31 sacks per game put them 106th nationally out of 120 teams. ... Iowa State has averaged 165.8 rushing yards a game over the last three years.
Numbers to note: Iowa State limited opponents to a 36.5 percent conversion rate on opponents' third-down attempts in 2011, the third lowest in the Big 12 and the best for Iowa State defense since 2005. In 2008, the year before Rhoads took over the program, opponents converted 51 percent of their third-down chances.Schedule
|Sept. 8||at Iowa|
|Sept. 15||Western Illinois|
|Sept. 29||Texas Tech*|
|Oct. 6||at TCU*|
|Oct. 13||Kansas State*|
|Oct. 20||at Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 10||at Texas*|
|Nov. 17||at Kansas*|
|Nov. 23||West Virginia*|