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Thursday, May 14, 2009
Iowa State spring wrap

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Iowa State Cyclones
2008 overall record: 2-10

2008 conference record: 0-8

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Austen Arnaud, RB Alexander Robinson, WR Darius Darks, DE Christopher Lyle, CB Leonard Johnson, S James Smith.

Key losses

T Doug Dedrick, WR R.J. Sumrall, DE Kurtis Taylor, CB Chris Singleton, S Brandon Hunley

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Alexander Robinson* (703 yards)
Passing: Austen Arnaud* (2,792 yards)
Receiving: R.J. Sumrall (750 yards)
Tackles: James Smith* (85)
Sacks: Christopher Lyle*, Kurtis Taylor (5)
Interceptions: Fred Garrin*, Michael Bibbs, Leonard Johnson* (2)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 3 North Dakota State
Sept. 12 Iowa
Sept. 19 at Kent State
Sept. 26 Army
Oct. 3 Kansas State (at Kansas City)
Oct. 10 at Kansas
Oct. 17 Baylor
Oct. 24 at Nebraska
Oct. 31 at Texas A&M
Nov. 7 Oklahoma State
Nov. 14 Colorado
Nov. 21 at Missouri
1. Austen Arnaud: It's not a bad building block for new coach Paul Rhoads to have the record-setting quarterback in Iowa State for the next two seasons. Arnaud had some growing pains in new coordinator Tom Herman's high-tempo spread offense and struggled at times in the spring game, but should be a productive weapon after working on the concepts this summer. And he'll have backup Jerome Tiller pushing him, especially after Tiller passed for 210 yards and added a 65-yard TD run in the spring game.

2. Alexander Robinson: No player will flourish in Herman's new offense more than Robinson, whose running and receiving abilities are perfectly suited for the change in thinking in Ames. It wouldn't be a stretch to think he could contribute 1,500 yards rushing and receiving if he can stay healthy in 2009. He even lined up as the quarterback in a "Wildcat" formation in the spring game, giving rival coordinators something else to worry about.

3. Enthusiasm: Rhoads grew up in nearby Ankeny, Iowa, and helped orchestrate an earlier turnaround when he served as defensive coordinator on Dan McCarney's first bowl team. So he understands what will need to be accomplished to help boost the Cyclones back into Big 12 respectability.

Fall questions

1. Defensive speed: Rhoads was very frank about his team's lack of athleticism during the spring. Better recruiting and development will boost production in the new coach's particular area of expertise, but it won't come overnight. Trust me. And it will be particularly difficult with all of the talented offenses the Cyclones will consistently face in the Big 12.

2. Pass rush: Rhoads is trying to transform his defensive front from a gap-control unit to a group that attacks opposing defenses. It sounds fun for the defenders, but there will still be a transformation for the group that ranked 95th in rush defense, 116th in pass defense, 112th in total defense and 110th in scoring defense.

3. Help in the secondary: The Cyclones were repeatedly blistered in the Big 12, allowing 19 touchdown passes in their final five games. Top defender Leonard Johnson suffered a knee injury in the spring game, but should be ready for practice in August. The unit contributed three interceptions in the spring game, but will that translate into better play once the regular season begins?