Big 12: Chris Singletary
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard turned to a familiar face when he hired former coach Paul Rhoads to replace Gene Chizik.
The Cyclones hope that Rhoads' previous knowledge of the Iowa State program, gleaned from a five-year career as an assistant there under Dan McCarney, will provide them a chance to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2005. It certainly won't hurt that Rhoads, who grew up in nearby Ankeny, Iowa, will be recruiting an area he knows well.
Whether that will translate into success remains to be seen. But it gives him a start in a massive rebuilding job from last season's 2-10 finish that included the first winless Big 12 conference record for a North Division team since 2003.
The Cyclones return nine offensive starters and seven defensive starters. But Rhoads knows that a talent upgrade is mandatory, particularly in the trenches. Freshman tackle Scott Haughton, freshman guard Kelechi Osemele and two other freshmen in the two-deep roster will be a starting point. But much more talent is needed.
Sophomore quarterback Austen Arnaud, sophomore running back Alexander Robinson and freshman wide receiver Darius Darks provide three key pieces to the start the building of a productive offense. But whether those players will mesh with former Rice coordinator Tom Herman's three-receiver offense philosophy remains to be seen. Herman likely will be more interested in recruiting players that will fit his grand scheme for an offense.
Rhoads promised at his introductory press conference that his defense "will hit you coming off the bus." But a talent infusion will be necessary considering the Cyclones ranked 110th or worse nationally in scoring defense, pass defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense last season.
Freshman All-American kick returner Leonard Johnson shows promise at cornerback. But the Cyclones need replacements for playmaking cornerback Chris Singletary and strong safety Brandon Hunley.
Rhoads will have his work cut out, but it's not impossible to succeed in carving a recruiting niche with his familiarity. Iowa native McCarney directed the Cyclones to an unprecedented five bowl games in six seasons and the cusp of a couple of North titles when he was there.
Pollard hopes that Rhoads can match the success of Iowa State's winningest coach -- and more.