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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Iowa State opens spring with new offense

By Jake Trotter

Iowa State’s fans are anxiously waiting to see what the new Cyclones offense will look like under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.

Iowa State’s head coach is apparently waiting anxiously, too.

“I don’t know. Mark’s locked me out of the offensive meeting room, so I don’t know what we’re going to get,” Rhoads said during a news conference before Iowa State’s first spring practice Monday. “I’m anxious to see myself.”

Rhoads actually has some idea.

Mark Mangino
New Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino's plans are a secret to everyone right now, even Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads.
He told reporters that the Cyclones will no longer be huddling, and that Mangino will be leaning on his quarterback to make calls at the line of scrimmage.

But after that, the mystery could continue for a while for those outside the program.

“We’re keeping in check what’s going to be different,” Rhoads said. “What we’ll be doing schematically, we’ll keep under wraps a little bit.”

Whatever offensive scheme Mangino installs, he’ll have the benefit of working with plenty of experienced players this spring.

The Cyclones return two of their three leading rushers (Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy), two of their three leading receivers (Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs) and the bulk of their offensive line.

“There’s a lot of returning folks,” Rhoads said. “We’re excited about that.”

The Cyclones also return both quarterbacks from last season. But other than the scheme, quarterback is the biggest unknown of the offense, and picking the starter will be one of Mangino’s primary tasks before the season.

Grant Rohach, who finished last season as the starter, opened the spring as the first one to take snaps with the first-team offense. Rohach was excellent in a come-from-behind, overtime victory at West Virginia to end the season. But Rhoads said this spring he wants Rohach to work on “on his decision-making” and “make every throw on a consistent basis.”

To stay atop the depth chart, Rohach will have to earn it.

Sam B. Richardson, who began last season as the starter until his play suffered under an array of injuries, will have ample opportunity to impress the new offensive regime as well.

“Sam was the starting quarterback for a reason when we began the season,” Rhoads said. “He was hurt a lot more than I ever got across during the fall, especially the second game against Iowa. Getting him back, getting him healthy -- there’s no question he’s still our best runner from a speed and athleticism standpoint. That’s still going to be a big part of our offense.”

Freshmen Joel Lanning and Trevor Hodge, who both redshirted in 2013, will also get their chances this spring to extend the derby past the two returning quarterbacks.

“All four are in the same boat,” Rhoads said. “Nobody has an early lead. Grant, Sam, Joel, and Trevor will all get an opportunity to impress.”

Whoever picks up Mangino’s offense the quickest could have an edge coming out of spring -- no matter what the offense turns out to be.