Big 12: Iowa State Cyclones

The Iowa State football program already is feeling the impact of new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.

[+] EnlargePaul Rhoads
David Purdy/Getty ImagesHead coach Paul Rhoads thinks new OC Mark Mangino will have Iowa State pointed in the right direction.
After being hired in January, the former Kansas head coach just completed his first spring at the helm of the Cyclones’ offense and has amped up the atmosphere in Ames, Iowa.

“Change in itself sometimes creates energy,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. “I think it’s created energy with our guys, a real excitement about the offense.”

Change was need for a team that finished among the nation’s worst offenses in several categories, including points per game (24.8, 89th nationally), yards per play (4.82, 107th nationally) and third-down conversion percentage (34.5 percent, 100th nationally) in 2013.

Not only has Mangino infused energy into the offense, he’s engaging the players as well.

“Mark [doesn’t] hide the fact that ball-distribution is important to him and the offense,” Rhoads said. “We’ve had a lot of people get touches. The more people we have involved, the more excitement and energy you get out of practices and preparation.”

Mangino’s distribution plan was on display in the Cyclones' spring game as six receivers caught at least four passes. Rhoads understands his offense still has a long way to go.

And that journey will start with naming a quarterback.

“I would anticipate having him [a starter] named by the middle of August,” Rhoads said of the competition between Grant Rohach, Sam Richardson and Joel Lanning. “I think we still have work to do.”

Rhoads pointed to Mangino’s arrival and having a new quarterbacks coach in Todd Sturdy, who is sliding over after coaching the Cyclones receivers during the past two seasons, as reasons his team hasn’t seen a quarterback take the job and run.

“There was a lot of growth that took place through 15 practices and a lot more that has to take place,” Rhoads said.
Programs across the Big 12 weren’t shy about making aggressive assistant coaching hires during the offseason to improve their teams.

And nobody was more aggressive than Gary Patterson. The TCU head coach brought in Houston offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, then plucked Texas Tech’s Sonny Cumbie away from his alma mater. Together Meacham and Cumbie, who were both part of successful offenses last season, have been charged with installing a no-huddle, up-tempo attack at TCU, which has ranked eighth in scoring offense its first two seasons in the Big 12.

SportsNation

Who made the best Big 12 assistant coaching hire(s) of the offseason?

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    27%
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    2%
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    14%
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    32%
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    25%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,595)

The Horned Frogs, however, aren’t the only ones that will be relying heavily on new assistants to make a significant and immediate impact.

Paul Rhoads tabbed Mark Mangino to run the Iowa State offense after the Cyclones finished 90th nationally in scoring last season. Mangino had been away from coaching in the FBS for four years. But he also took Kansas to the Orange Bowl, coordinated a national championship offense at Oklahoma, and was an assistant during the Manhattan Miracle years at Kansas State.

Kansas, the only Big 12 team the Cyclones outscored last season, also made a coordinator change offensively. After serving on Mangino's staff at Kansas, John Reagan spent the past four seasons at Rice -- the past three as offensive coordinator. Under his guidance, the Owls averaged more than 420 yards and 30 points last season and boasted one of the top rushing offenses in the nation as the Owls captured the Conference USA championship.

Like Patterson did with Cumbie, first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong dipped in conference to boost his offensive staff, swiping offensive line coach Joe Wickline away from Oklahoma State. Under Wickline, the Cowboys annually featured one of the most effective offensive lines in college football, ranking in the top 15 nationally in scoring the last four seasons despite starting four different quarterbacks.

Dana Holgorsen coordinated the 2010 Oklahoma State offense before taking the head job at West Virginia. But under Holgorsen, the Mountaineers have struggled defensively, and he’s hoping the addition of Tom Bradley to his defensive staff will help remedy that. Bradley was a Joe Paterno assistant for more than three decades at Penn State and coached in 26 bowl games and on two national championship teams. As defensive coordinator from 2004-09, Bradley led the Nittany Lions to six straight top-15 finishes nationally in total and scoring defense.

The fans bases of West Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Iowa State and TCU have good reason to be excited about the assistant hires their programs made.

Now, we put it to you via our weekly Big 12 poll -- which hire was best?

Big 12 spring stars, Part 1

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
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Spring football is coming to a close in the Big 12, with several players making a move in their respective programs and securing or bettering their role on the team. During the next two days, we’ll review the Big 12’s stars of the spring by taking a closer look at their pre-spring roles, spring performance and potential roles this fall.

Defensive end Shawn Oakman, Baylor

Pre-spring role: Oakman looked like he could be a breakout star on Baylor’s defense after recording 12.5 tackles for loss in a backup role.

What he did this spring: Oakman cemented his spot in the starting lineup and boosted the belief that he could be one of the Big 12’s top defensive linemen this fall.

What his role could be this fall: A freakish athlete at 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Oakman has NFL ability and could show it as the key piece in Baylor’s stellar defensive line.

Quotable: “We can't block him. And I don't think anybody else will, either. It's what I've been saying all along: Our defensive line is as good as anyone's in America. He's just one of them out of six or seven that is going to be a dynamic player for us in the fall.” - Baylor coach Art Briles.

Receiver Brett Medders, Iowa State

Pre-spring role: The redshirt junior hadn’t really made an impact during his first three seasons, so not much was expected from him.

What he did this spring: Medders emerged as a legitimate option at receiver for a Cyclones offense searching for additional playmakers this spring. He had six receptions for 48 yards in the spring game. Coach Paul Rhoads praised Medders' performance during ISU’s spring practices.

What his role could be this fall: Even though ISU has several potential options at receiver, including true freshman Allen Lazard, Medders could have carved himself a role in Mark Mangino’s offense. He’s not a game-changing target, but could help force defenses to account for receiving threats other than Quenton Bundrage.

Receiver Nick Harwell, Kansas

Pre-spring role: The Jayhawks knew they had someone who could help them in Harwell, who was forced to sit out the 2013 season after transferring from Miami (Ohio).

What he did this spring: Harwell emerged as arguably the Jayhawks’ go-to playmaker. He’s a shifty receiver who can excel in the open field. KU repeatedly tried to put the ball in his hands during its spring game, so expect that to continue this fall. The Jayhawks wanted to identify playmakers during the spring and Harwell stepped up to fill that void.

What his role could be this fall: Harwell will be Montell Cozart’s main target and should join running back Tony Pierson as KU’s top playmakers in John Reagan’s new offense.

Quotable: “You try not to get too excited because he is so competitive and he runs good routes and he catches the ball. He doesn't like getting beat in drills. He wants to go against the best guy every single time. He is the type of competitor I am used to playing with. If he comes even close to the expectation I have for him, then I think we will be pretty happy.” - KU coach Charlie Weis

Cornerback Morgan Burns, Kansas State

Pre-spring role: Burns was poised to battle for a spot in the secondary after two seasons in a backup role.

What he did this spring: While the Wildcats' spring is not over yet, Burns has worked himself into a key role while separating himself among the Wildcats’ cornerbacks, who are competing for two starting positions.

What his role could be this fall: He appears poised to be KSU’s No. 1 option at cornerback unless he takes a step backward during the four months before the season kicks off.

Safety Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma

Pre-spring role: He was very solid as a freshman, playing a role on special teams while getting spot duty on defense. Thomas was expected to battle fellow sophomore Hatari Byrd to replace Gabe Lynn at safety.

What he did this spring: Thomas showed he’s going to be on the field one way or the other with a strong spring, which he capped with several plays in the spring game. He showed the ability to line up at multiple positions in the Sooners defense, allowing OU to use him in several roles.

What his role could be this fall: Byrd had a solid spring as well, so Thomas didn’t run away with the job at safety. But it would be a surprise if Thomas is not a key contributor on OU’s defense in 2014.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
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Played pick-up basketball last night... and lost all six games.
  • Texas coach Charlie Strong is a little too honest for his fanbase, in the opinion of the Dallas Morning News' Kevin Sherrington. The paper's Chuck Carlton got a one-on-one video interview with Strong.
  • The naming of Montell Cozart as Kansas' starting QB was all about timing, writes the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait.
  • Baylor is relishing its role as the defending Big 12 champs.
  • TCU defensive end Devonte Fields has returned better than ever, writes Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Lindy Berry, a former TCU All-American QB, passed away at 86.
  • Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads wants a starting quarterback named by mid-August, reports the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse.
  • The Kansas State running back competition continues, according to the Manhattan Mercury's Joshua Kinder. The Wildcats are looking for more out of linebacker Charmeachealle Moore, writes the Topeka Capital-Journal's Ken Corbitt.
  • Oklahoma lost another commitment, its second in the last week. The Sooners are hoping to land this blue-chip kicker. An Alabama transfer offensive lineman chose Ohio State over Oklahoma. Bob Stoops weighs in on whether transfer QB Baker Mayfield will be on scholarship.
  • West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is a fan of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, but wonders if it's going to be reformed, reports Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette. Allan Taylor of the West Virginia MetroNews Network addresses whether the Mountaineers receiving corps can regain its swagger.
  • Coach Kliff Kingsbury said incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes is likely to be Texas Tech's No. 2 QB behind starter Davis Webb.
  • Big 12 coaches don't see players as employees, The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey reports.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy sees the College Football Playoff eventually going to eight teams, according to the Austin American-Statesman's Kevin Lyttle. Gundy also thinks college football is becoming more time consuming for players, reports the Tulsa World's Kelly Hines.
  • The Dallas Morning News wraps up spring ball for Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech.

Big 12 recruiting update: 2015

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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With spring football all wrapped up, college coaches are back on the road recruiting from now until May 31. Here’s an update on where the Big 12 classes stand entering the spring evaluation period. Also, remember to check out the RecruitingNation team and follow the On the Trail blog:

BAYLOR

4-star: WR John Humphrey Jr.; WR Devontre Stricklin; ATH Louis Brown; WR Chad President; RB Ja’Mycal Hasty; ATH Blake Lynch

3-star: OT Sam Tecklenburg

Other: OT Maurice Porter

The skinny: Baylor’s class is ranked No. 15 nationally, and no program in this conference has more ESPN 300 commitments than BU’s six. Hasty and Humphrey are perfect fits for what the Bears do on offense, and Humphrey might be the fastest prospect in the state of Texas. After loading up on offensive talent, expect some defensive pledges in the next few months.

IOWA STATE

4-star: None

3-star: None

Other: OLB Bobby McMillen

The skinny: More than two months after landing McMillen, the Cyclones have yet to add a second pledge.

KANSAS

4-star: None

3-star: None

Other: None

The skinny: Kansas hosted plenty of recruits this spring, but still no verbal commitments so far.

KANSAS STATE

4-star: None

3-star: QB Alex Delton

Other: None

The skinny: Delton remains the only pledge in this class, but he’s a good one. ESPN scouts praise his athleticism and instincts but want to see him make some mechanical fixes before he gets on KSU’s campus.

OKLAHOMA

4-star: DT Marquise Overton; TE Bobby Evans; S Jamile Johnson Jr.

3-star: DT Du’Vonta Lampkin

Other: None

The skinny: Oklahoma’s post-Sugar Bowl recruiting moment took a hit when ESPN 300 lineman Joshua Wariboko decommitted last week, but the Sooners are still in the running for him as well as some of the best prospects in Oklahoma and Texas. Wariboko wants to play in college with his younger brother, 2016 CB Max Wariboko, so it might take offering both to get the offensive guard back on board.

OKLAHOMA STATE

4-star: RB Ronald Jones II; QB John Kolar; OG Johnny Wilson

3-star: DT Taaj Bakari

Other: None

The skinny: The newly released ESPN 300 was very friendly to the Cowboys. Jones chose OSU this month over Baylor, Oklahoma, Oregon, Ohio State, USC and Notre Dame, and he’s now ranked No. 3 among all running back prospects. Kolar was a huge riser in the rankings and is now the nation’s No. 3 pocket passer. Bakari, the most recent pledge, was a nice interior addition.

TCU

4-star: None

3-star: WR Tony James; WR Jarrison Stewart; OLB Alec Dunham; DE Breylin Mitchell

Other: DT Joseph Broadnax; WR J.F. Thomas; ILB Semaj Thomas; ATH Tre’Vontae Hights; OT Cody Ford

The skinny: TCU is off to a really nice start with nine commitments, highlighted by pledges from four future receivers. That’s just what the Frogs’ new offense needs. James might be one of the most underrated athletes in Texas, but the same could be said of several of these recruits. Considering this staff’s reputation for talent evaluation, don’t be shocked if a few of these TCU commits end up as four-stars when it’s all said and done.

TEXAS

4-star: S DeShon Elliott; OT Toby Weathersby; OG Patrick Vahe; RB Tristian Houston; RB Jordan Stevenson; OT Ronnie Major

3-star: DT Bryce English; RB Kirk Johnson; DE Charles Omenihu

Other: CB Keivon Ramsey

The skinny: The Longhorns are now in great shape at running back after landing Houston and Johnson in the same week, and Johnson’s coveted younger brother, 2016 WR Collin Johnson, also committed last week. Ramsey made his pledge at the spring game and is another hard hitter for the secondary. Texas would have 12 commitments now, but early pledges CB Jalen Campbell and S Johnny Shaw were taken off the list and will get a chance to re-earn their offers in summer camp.

TEXAS TECH

4-star: QB Jarrett Stidham; DT Breiden Fehoko

3-star: None

Other: ILB D’Vonta Hinton; RB Corey Dauphine; OT Trace Ellison; OG Lio Lafaele

The skinny: Landing Stidham was huge, but Fehoko is another top-50 recruit who followed in his brother’s footsteps and will work hard to recruit for this class. He can play anywhere on a defensive line. Even at 5-foot-10, Hinton is one of the state’s most talented linebackers. The Red Raiders have a chance to put together one of their best classes in a long time.

WEST VIRGINIA

4-star: WR Jovon Durante; S Kendrell McFadden

3-star: ATH Jordan Adams; ATH Jacquez Adams; WR Kahlil Lewis; RB William Cameron; OG Matt Jones; Stone Wolfley

Other: S Kevin Williams; S Sheldrick Redwine

The skinny: Thanks to its efforts in Florida, WVU is off to an excellent start with this 10-man class. The tricky part will be holding on to some of these recruits, especially Durante. The No. 120 overall recruit visited Alabama this weekend and reportedly came very close to committing. That flip could be coming soon unless the Mountaineers coaching staff can convince him to stay put.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 21, 2014
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A great moment.
We've been doing something different with the mailbag, including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...

Trotter: At this point, I think it's only a matter of time before Grant Rohach is named the starter. He was clearly the best QB in the spring game, and coming off the way he played at the end of last season, momentum is in his corner. I know the Cyclones are high on the potential of redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, and Rohach will have to perform once the season begins to keep the job, but at this point, it's difficult envisioning anyone other than Rohach starting the opener against North Dakota State.

Trotter: Texas' Cedric Reed, Kansas State's Ryan Mueller, Oklahoma's Charles Tapper, TCU's Devonte Fields and Baylor's Shawn Oakman. On the next tier, I'd have Oklahoma's Geneo Grissom, Texas Tech's Branden Jackson, Iowa State's Cory Morrissey and Oklahoma State's Jimmy Bean.

Trotter: My two darkhorse picks at this point would be Texas Tech and TCU. Schedule is a big part of this, and Tech gets Oklahoma and Texas at home, and Baylor in Arlington, Texas. If the Red Raiders could escape a September Thursday night clash at Oklahoma State, then they could be a factor. QB Davis Webb has made tremendous improvement since December, and he's going to have plenty of firepower surrounding him. Assuming Fields is back to his old self, the Horned Frogs will again be a formidable defense. The big question, as always, is, can they score enough points? But if Matt Joeckel can step in at QB and direct what is essentially the same offense he had at Texas A&M to respectability, TCU could be a handful.

Trotter: Charlie Strong can't get destroyed by Oklahoma. Can't enter any fourth quarter without a legitimate chance to win. Can't lose more than three games. If he avoids those three potholes, he has chance to take Texas a step forward. To me, that's the litmus test.

Trotter: Anytime a team loses its leading tackler, it hurts. Fortunately for the Sooners, they're deep at linebacker, and can absorb a key loss there better than they'd be able to at some other positions. Jordan Evans played well as a true freshman, and shined in place of Shannon in the spring game. A linebacking corps of Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Dominique Alexander, sack-master Eric Striker and Evans would still be stout. Of course, it would be even better with Shannon.

Trotter: That's a tough question. It was startling how much the K-State defense suffered when Ty Zimmerman wasn't on the field last year, but I have faith Dante Barnett is ready to assume a leadership role in that secondary and stabilize the defense. I have less faith right now in K-State's running backs. So far this spring, no one has really emerged from a crop of backs with almost no meaningful experience. The K-State attack has always been predicated on a strong running game, so this is no small issue. Maybe freshman Dalvin Warmack can jumpstart the position when he arrives this summer. But running back looks like the biggest question on a solid-looking team with not many questions elsewhere.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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I'm guessing this is how Usain Bolt plays soccer.
Two seasons ago, the Big 12 sent an unprecedented nine of its 10 members to bowl games, prompting Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops -- among others -- to tout the depth of the league.

But last season, only six Big 12 teams qualified for bowls, as Iowa State, TCU and West Virginia had losing records while Kansas ran its bowl-less streak to five seasons.

In this week’s poll question, we ask: Which Big 12 team that didn’t qualify for a bowl last year has the best chance of getting back to one in 2014?

SportsNation

Which Big 12 team that failed to qualify for a bowl last year has the best chance of making one in 2014?

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    17%
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    2%
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    38%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,209)

Until last season, the Mountaineers had made a bowl every year all the way back to 2001. But inconsistent play at quarterback and defensive injuries doomed them in 2013. West Virginia returns starter Clint Trickett and has added some interesting quarterbacks to the competition. The Mountaineers also appear loaded in the backfield and at wide receiver, and they added veteran assistant Tom Bradley to the defensive staff. But West Virginia plays a brutal schedule, which includes Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, and has road trips to Maryland, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas.

TCU had also been accustomed to going to bowl games annually, as the Horned Frogs hadn’t missed one since 2004. Injuries to defensive end Devonte Fields and quarterback Casey Pachall ravaged TCU early on in the season. The Horned Frogs also struggled offensively all year, prompting coach Gary Patterson to overhaul his attack and bring in Houston’s Doug Meacham and Texas Tech’s Sonny Cumbie to coordinate a no-huddle, spread attack. TCU lost All-American cornerback Jason Verrett off last fall’s team, but Fields appears healthy after undergoing foot surgery. The defense figures to be stout again.

Paul Rhoads had led Iowa State to two straight bowls before taking a step back last season. The Cyclones got off to a rough start with a stunning loss to Northern Iowa in the opener. They later dropped a one-point game on a Thursday night to Texas and never regained the momentum. The Cyclones never quit, however, and finished the season on a high note by routing Kansas and rallying to topple West Virginia on the road in triple overtime. Iowa State still needs several players to emerge defensively, but the offense could feature the best collection of skill players the Cyclones have enjoyed in a long time, headlined by running back Aaron Wimberly, wideout Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs.

Kansas hasn’t been to a bowl since current Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino was its head coach. The Jayhawks did defeat West Virginia last season to snap their 27-game Big 12 losing streak, but that remained their lone Big 12 win. Kansas has added transfer Nick Harwell, who was second in the nation in receiving in 2011 at Miami (Ohio) and should give the Jayhawks a much-needed go-to receiver. Kansas also brings back 16 starters, including nine on a defensive unit that played several teams tough last season. Of course, after winning just nine games combined the past four seasons, the Jayhawks would seemingly have the longest road back to a bowl.

But we leave it to you to decide: Which of these four teams -- West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State or Kansas -- has the best chance of getting back to a bowl in 2014?

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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This kid might have just saved a life.

Big 12's lunch links

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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Tap, tap. I can't wait for this 30 for 30.

Take Two: Which QB advanced?

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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This week's "Take Two" topic: Which Big 12 quarterback still in a battle for a job took the biggest step toward earning a starting role during the spring games Saturday?

Take 1: Max Olson -- West Virginia’s Paul Millard

If the season started today … well, that’s a question Dana Holgorsen doesn’t have to answer, so no way is he going to any time soon.

[+] EnlargePaul Millard
James Lang/USA TODAY SportsPaul Millard was impressive on Saturday for West Virginia, but can he nail down the QB job?
There’s no gun to the West Virginia coach’s head when it comes to his quarterback decision, not when only three of his five potential candidates played in the Gold-Blue Game. No need to commit to anything now, though the Mountaineer quarterbacks did have one important audition Saturday.

And the passer who made the best impression this weekend was Millard. Which is understandable, considering this was the senior’s fourth chance at a spring game at WVU.

Millard completed 14 of 19 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, with both of those scores coming in the red zone. With Clint Trickett out for the spring and touted freshman William Crest not yet on campus, this was a prime opportunity for Millard to what he can do with the offense.

His competition on this day was junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former Division II transfer Logan Moore, who played receiver last fall. Holgorsen wanted to see his quarterbacks do a better job of getting the ball to playmakers like Mario Alford, but it’s hard to demand that consistency when your quarterback play is ever-changing.

Millard started three games, appeared in four more and finished with 1,122 passing yards and six touchdowns last season. But all three WVU starting QBs threw as many interceptions as they did touchdowns in 2013. He knows as well as anybody it’ll be imperative for the Mountaineers to find their best guy and stick with him.

“We all know it’s a long road ahead,” Millard said after the spring game. “Just got to keep competing.”

Take 2: Jake Trotter – Iowa State’s Grant Rohach

Millard certainly had a sharp spring game. But because Trickett wasn’t on the field Saturday due to the shoulder injury, it was impossible for Millard to distinguish himself from his biggest competition.

Rohach had no such issue in the Cyclones’ spring game. With Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning also getting ample opportunity, Rohach outshined them both Saturday while taking a strong step toward locking up the starting job.

Building off how he finished last season, Rohach completed 22 of 38 passes for 171 yards. He also dashed for an 8-yard touchdown off a slick read option, and was behind center on three of the offense’s six scoring drives.

The offense wasn't nearly as crisp when Rohach was off the field. Lanning, a redshirt freshman with a lot of potential, completed only 7 of his 14 attempts with 44 yards. Richardson, who began the 2013 season as the starter before suffering an array of injuries, threw for just 55 yards while completing 8 of 13 passes.

While head coach Paul Rhoads cautioned that the derby wasn’t necessarily over and that a lot could happen until August, he admitted that Rohach was the top spring game performer among the quarterbacks.

“We will come out of spring with two leading candidates,” Rhoads later reiterated.

The Cyclones have good reason to take their time in naming a quarterback. The players are still adapting to new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offensive system. And one spring game is no reason to overreact. Rohach wasn't perfect, either, throwing two late interceptions.

But Rohach has been surging since the end of last season. As a freshman, he was on point in a 34-0 win over Kansas. Then he rallied the Cyclones from a 24-point, second-half deficit to lift them to a triple-overtime victory at West Virginia.

Rohach still has work to do to nail down the job in August. But after his spring game showing, he will head into the summer as the clear front-runner to do so.

Spring game review: Iowa State

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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Iowa State held its annual Cyclone Gridiron Club spring football game on Saturday. A recap of what happened:

[+] EnlargeGrant Rohach
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesAfter a solid spring game, Grant Rohach will head into the summer with an edge in Iowa State's QB competition.
Best offensive performance: Quarterback Grant Rohach got the first turn with the first-team offense and he didn’t disappoint. The sophomore completed 22 of 38 passes for 171 yards and led the Cyclones on three of their six scoring drives. He capped one of those with an 8-yard touchdown run. The quarterback competition with Joel Lanning and Sam B. Richardson isn’t over yet. But Rohach will head into the summer with the edge.

Best defensive performance: In a surprising performance given how many key players were missing, the first-team defense forced seven three-and-outs to begin the game and finished with 12 sacks, even though a defender only had to touch the quarterback to be credited with one. Still, it was a dominating charge led by ends Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, who each totaled four sacks apiece and were constantly wreaking havoc in the offense’s backfield.

Best debut: With junior college transfer Devron Moore out because of homesickness and T.J. Mutcherson suffering an MCL injury, the Cyclones have taken some hits at safety, where they already faced the task of replacing starters Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield. But redshirt freshman Kamari Syrie had his moments on Saturday, including an interception off Rohach. Pending Moore’s return and Mutcherson’s recovery, Syrie could end up playing a big role in the Iowa State secondary in the fall.

Notable play: Receiver P.J. Harris flashed his playmaking potential on Saturday. He took a quick hitch from Richardson on the right side, made a couple of defenders miss at the line of scrimmage, then galloped left across the field for an impressive first down. “[Harris] had the longest run of the day,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “Eighty yards to gain 18, or whatever it was.”

Developing storyline: Eleven receivers caught at least one pass in the spring game. But Quenton Bundrage was not one of them. The Cyclones targeted Bundrage, who tied a single-season school record with nine touchdown catches last season, several times, but most of the attempts were badly overthrown. And the one that hit him in the hands, he dropped. The wind had something to do with the misfires. But there were times last season when Bundrage basically disappeared from the offense. Successfully getting him the ball down the field will be paramount for the Iowa State offense to meet its full potential in the fall.

Biggest question answered: Whoever the quarterback turns out to be, he’ll have the best array of weapons surrounding him that Iowa State has enjoyed in a long time. The 1-2 running back punch of Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy looked sharp on Saturday as they rushed for 71 yards with an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Versatile tight end E.J. Bibbs and slot receiver Jarvis West each caught eight passes. Even backup receivers Brett Medders and Harris had nice outings. The Cyclones still have to settle on a quarterback. But otherwise, they appear stocked with playmakers.

Quotable: “There comes a point that you really get concerned about timing and making sure the lead guy is getting the majority of those reps with those No. 1s. Whether I’ll announce that in April, when we get through practice Wednesday, or we’ll wait to see what happens in August. … you’ve got to remember, there’s a lot of things that could happen in May, June and July leading up to August that could change things.” -- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads on the QB competition

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
12:00
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It's not like bringing a cat to the spring game but Kliff Kingsbury is still winning ...
Saturday, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia all held their spring games. Below is a sample of the sights from each stadium:

IOWA STATE

KANSAS

OKLAHOMA

TEXAS TECH

WEST VIRGINIA

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