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Skywriters Tour: Iowa State Trusts In Mangino
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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com 
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

AMES, Iowa – Teams that win and find their way to the top of the Big 12 standings typically have offenses that produce points in spectacular fashion. Scoring less than 30 per game puts you in steerage, not first class.

Iowa State’s success under Paul Rhoads – three bowl trips in his first four seasons – was predicated on a gritty defense that forced turnovers while limiting scoring and a thrifty offense that scored just enough to win. But after going 3-9 last season, Rhoads decided it was time for a change.

The Cyclones made a call to Mark Mangino, the former Kansas coach who was forced out of that position in 2009. The Jayhawks won the 2008 Orange Bowl under Mangino and he was Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator when the Sooners won the national championship in 2000.

“I reached out to him and certainly had great respect for what he's done in our profession,” Rhoads said. “He has a proven track record as a play-caller, as a tough-guy type of coach in what he could bring to our offensive mentality that way, but at the very top of the list was the simplicity with which his offenses have had success, and that was something that our program needed.” 

The 2013 Cyclones ranked 89th nationally in points and 107th in yards. The last time Iowa State ranked any higher than ninth in the Big 12 in scoring offense was 2005. But 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.

“There’s no question that we have talent,” Mangino said. “When I got here, though, I was interested in if they were willing to learn new things, were they ready to play as a cohesive unit and will they buy in to what we want to do. They have. They’ve been great.”

Mangino is known for an offense where the pass receptions are spread among several receivers and the running game is productive. His play calling is also considered a strength.

During the Big 12 Skywriters visit Friday, Rhoads, Mangino and several players noted that Iowa State’s offensive players have displayed a confident swagger.

“We’re starting to show the kind of confidence we need to operate this offense,” Mangino said. “It’s our job as coaches to bring the confidence, execution and talent together. Football is a physical game but it’s also a thinking man’s game. We’re trying to get the players to study the game, to ask questions. We want them to feel a part of building this offense.

"My job is to find out what they can do - what they can do best - and play to their strengths. I've always felt very comfortable with developing an offense around a talent pool."

Family Ties
Mangino’s return to the Big 12 with Iowa State includes having his son on the staff. Tommy Mangino is the Cyclones’ wide receivers coach.

“It’s a special situation,” Mark Mangino said. “I gave Paul a list of three or four names for the open positions we had. It was up to him and he had the final say. He came into my office and said he was gonna hire Tommy.

“It made me happy but it really made his mother happy. She gets to see her son and her grandson every day. We have a debt of gratitude to Paul Rhoads for making that happen for our family.”

Quick Slants
* Iowa State opens the season Aug. 30 against North Dakota State, the team that upset Kansas State in the season opener last year. The Bison have won three consecutive FCS national championships and will start this season ranked No. 1 in the FCS coaches poll.

* Junior receiver Quenton Bundrage led the team in catches (48) receiving yards (676) and touchdown catches (nine). His goal in 2014 is to be more vocal and to help achieve that he joined Iowa State's leadership council. "It will help me be more confident in my play knowing that I have to do something right because other players are looking up to me," Bundrage said.

* Freshman receiver Allen Lazard, considered the highest-ranked recruit of the Paul Rhoads Era, has already moved up from third to second team. He has impressed his teammates with his humility and maturity. "I have to learn the playbook first, then comes the fundamentals of the game," Lazard said "I'm just like everyone else on the team. "I'm a freshman. I have to earn my respect from the older kids, and the coaches. I have to earn a starting spot and playing time, just like everyone else."

* Iowa State returns just five starters return from a unit that ranked 105th nationally in total defense in 2013. The six departed starters accounted for more than 44 percent of the team's total tackles. The Cyclones also finished last in the Big 12 with 15 sacks.

Skywriters Tour, Year Seven
So what is the Skywriters Tour? It was born in a previous era of college football … and media/communications. In the late 1960s and 1970s, sportswriters and broadcasters would gather in a central location and embark on an annual conference-wide tour, traveling from campus-to-campus to cover preseason practices and conduct interviews with coaches and players. The tour provided fans with unprecedented daily coverage from each school by moving the group between campuses by charter bus or air service and thus was dubbed the Skywriters Tour. Since 2008, the Big 12 has revived the tradition and staged its own preseason campus tour to preview the football season.

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