Disclaimer : I am sure that I have something wrong with this preview. If something is incorrect, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email (doubletnation AT gmail DOT com) and I'll get things corrected either in the story or in the comments. The purpose of this preview is to help educate myself and Texas Tech fans about your team.
Paul Rhoads is going to get his six wins whether you like it or not. That's an overstatement, but I remember reading it from our friends at Wide Right & Natty Lite. In 2012, it looked to be improbable that Rhoads was going to get his Iowa St. team to six wins, but he beat Tulsa, in-state rival Iowa, Western Illinois, TCU, Baylor and Kansas. He got his six.
I think that this is one of those times to remind you, maybe I'll just start doing this annually, how bad of shape that Gene Chizik left Iowa St. for Auburn. In Chizik's two years as head coach, Chizik went 3-9 and 2-10. That's five total wins. Meanwhile, Rhoads has 24 wins in his four years at Iowa St. Iowa fans tend to make fun of Rhoads for his emotional outbursts, but Rhoads can coach and I hope like heck that Iowa St. fans appreciate what he's doing. At some point, I think that Rhoads is going to break through, probably not this year, but he's going to do it.
Offense - Pass
Iowa St., I think, replaces just one starter on the offensive line, Carter Bykowski, at left tackle. Everyone else returns and from what I can tell, right tackle Kyle LIchtenberg is going to flip over to the left side, so I think that ISU is pretty well covered. The offensive line was actually pretty good, perhaps that's a credit to their mobile quarterbacks last year, but only allowed 1.35 sacks a game, which was good for 46th in the nation.
The biggest problem for ISU was that Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett just weren't that good of passers. Then comes along redshirt freshman Sam Richardson, who played the last three games of the year and was okay. His completion percentage was great against Kansas, 85%, but it fell down quite a bit against West Virginia and Tulsa (42% and 47%). You'd expect that Richardson will be better and in watching some film on him, Richardson is a pretty darned mobile quarterback. What he didn't do against West Virginia passing the ball, he did do with his legs, running for 119 yards against the Mountaineers. Not only that, Richardson finished the year with 43, 119 and 46 yards rushing. That's not bad.
But we're still talking about passing here and overall, ISU was the 79th passing offense in the nation. I think there will be some bump and for whatever reason, I think that Richardson will be a better passer than Jantz and Barnett.
The top three receivers all graduate, which includes Josh Lenz, Chris Young and Aaron Horne have all graduated and they accounted for 40% of the receptions. So in large part, I think that ISU is starting over here and will look to Tad Ecby, Jarvis West, Albert Gary and Quenton Bundrage to fill those gaps. Another pretty decent option is Ernst Brun, Jr., who is the tight end and the top returning receiver. That should really help Richardson quite a bit.
Offense - Run
Without having a clue about where Iowa st. ranked, I was surprised that the Cyclones finsihed 73rd in the nation and only averaged 150 yards a game, which was good for 9th in the Big 12, just ahead of Texas Tech. I would imagine that ISU is going to put a much bigger emphasis on running the ball, it just makes sense, especially with so many returning linemen.
ISU returns pretty much every running back, including James White, Shontrelle Johnson and Jeff Woody. I would also add that in limited action, Richardson was the 3rd leading rusher for ISU. White and Johnson are your smaller backs that you would imagine in the spread offense while Woody is a much bigger back and can run you over. Aaron Wimberly arrives at ISU and is from a JUCO and ran for over 1,100 yards last year.
Overall, I think that this should be better, but I'm not counting on it until I see a commitment.
Defense - Pass
A pretty average group, finishing 99th in pass defense for the year, but that translates to 6th in the Big 12. Defenses are relative in the Big 12 (i.e. how well did you do amongst your peers). CB Jeremy Reeves and SS Durrell Givens graduate, so there is a decent number of returning secondary players.
FS Jacques Washington is the senior leader of this group and Deon Broomfield moves from back up at free safety to strong safety, so that's a senior moving into that spot. The spring prospectus lists Kenneth Lynn and Sam Richardson (not the QB) as the starters at cornerback and they are both sophomores. That could be a big dangerous. Jansen Watson was the starter, but he was out for the spring and I'd guess that he'll regain that spot when healthy and if that does happen, then ISU will have three seniors starting in the secondary.
Defense - Pass
The front seven loses a ton with the only returning starter being DE Willie Scott. Gone is almost the entire two deep at the tackles and the other end. Not to mention, ISU loses A.J. Klein and Jake Knott (who only played 9 games last year, but still finished 5th in tackles). Another surprising thing was the rush defense, especially with so many seniors either starting or in the two-deep, 75th in the nation and 6th in the Big 12. The rush defense was really bad towards the end of the year, yeilding 185, 177, 210, 115, 188, 222, 252, 239 and 317 yards over their last nine games.
So you'll see some relatively inexperienced players on the defenive line, and maybe this is one of those situations where the new guys will be better than the old guys. I'm not sure. Collin Bevins and Brandon Jensen are expected to play inside, with Cory Morrissey on the other end opposite of Scott.
The linebackers do return Jeremiah George, who was third in tackles at the middle linebacker spot. Again, it's an inexperienced group other than George with Jared Brackens, and Jevohn Miller starting at the strong and weak linebacker spots. Also of note, Luke Knott is a redshirt freshman and brother of Jake.
Hey! Iowa St. has a punter on a watch list, Kirby Van Der Kamp, and he ISU be 26th in the nation in net punting. K Edwin Arceo returns as the kicker as well, and he made 12 of 18 field goals and 37 of 41 PAT's. That's just okay to me. Jarvis West and Albert Gary return as the kickoff returners, but they were last in the Big 12 last year. Maybe they make some improvement there. Aaron Horne was the main punt returner last year, only returning 9 punts all year, but he graduated. I'd guess that it will be West or Gary.
I don't know what to think about this team, but with so many question marks, especially on the defensive front seven, I more concerned than anything else. Seems like a lot to overcome. Add a relatively new quarterback that loses almost all of the top receivers and that seems like a pretty big hole for the offense to overcome. I still can't help but think that Rhoads is going to get his six wins. I wouldn't try to predict where they come, but he's really pulled ISU out of the Chizik funk and I get the impression that he's fairly relentless.
Rating the Cyclones
|Offense - Pass|
|Offense - Run|
|Defense - Pass|
|Defense - Rush|