Big 12: Courtney Messingham

We'll take a look at some of the Big 12's breakout stars this spring, but we'll move forward with a series today looking at guys who will be stepping into bigger roles this season and what they have to provide for their new teams. Some are emerging from role players into starters. Some are going from starter to star. Some from stars to bona fide superstars.

Let's move on with Iowa State.

Iowa State's spring step forward: QB Sam Richardson

You'll hear some chatter about Grant Rohach once Iowa State officially kicks off spring practice on March 26. I don't quite buy it yet. After Steele Jantz graduated and Jared Barnett transferred, it's clear that Richardson's late-season takeover of the starting quarterback spot was just the beginning for him.

It's not set in stone, though, and even if I don't buy Rohach as a guy who would win the starting job this spring, poor play by Richardson in the fall may force Paul Rhoads to yet again dig into his bench to search for answers. The quarterback spot has spelled trouble for Rhoads, which really does make Iowa State's streak of three bowl games in four seasons under Rhoads even more amazing. ISU just can't seem to find any consistency at the spot, but you'll have to show some grace early on when it comes to numbers. Richardson won't be getting much help in the immediate future, so you'll have to trust Rhoads and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham's assessments more than just his raw numbers.

Iowa State's top three receivers -- Josh Lenz, Chris Young and Aaron Horne -- are all gone, and Richardson will have to rely on undersized jukebox Jarvis West and tight end Ernst Brun Jr. when practice begins. Will more targets emerge? They'll have to if Richardson is going to put up respectable numbers compared to his Big 12 counterparts. Look for Quenton Bundrage and senior Albert Gary to make a few plays. Richardson's got a lot to prove this spring, and one solid performance against Kansas, one of the Big 12's worst defenses, isn't enough to assure him much. He struggled mightily in the bowl game loss to Tulsa and couldn't string together completions against even West Virginia, though he did toss three scores and no interceptions. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in two of his three starts, and he'll have to take steps forward this spring to get that percentage closer to 60 on a consistent basis in the fall. Iowa State needs it.

See more Big 12 spring steps forward.

Lunch links: College football technology

December, 27, 2012
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The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They're mean, conniving, rude and extremely well read, which makes them very dangerous.
There was no midgame switch like last season, when Jared Barnett came on for Steele Jantz in the middle of a loss to Texas A&M.

After Jantz accounted for four turnovers in a 24-13 loss to Texas Tech in Week 4, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads opened the competition during practice for the starting quarterback job and Barnett won it.

[+] EnlargeJared Barnett
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJared Barnett took advantage of his first opportunity to start, throwing three TD passes against No. 15 TCU.
It didn't take long for the switch to pay off. Barnett hit a streaking Josh Lenz in the first quarter for touchdowns of 51 and 74 yards in a 37-23 win over No. 15 TCU. The victory moved the Cyclones to 4-1, just two wins short of a third bowl berth in four years under Rhoads.

"What goes through my head is ‘Finally.’ Plays that were called in the Texas Tech game but never even got thrown, because of protection possibly, because of team cover, because of not pulling the trigger, so 'finally' is what goes through my mind," Rhoads said. "Glad we got them executed successfully."

The opening script of plays turned explosive quickly, with Barnett hitting Albert Gary for a 19-yard gain on his second pass and Lenz for the 51-yard score down the right sideline on his third attempt.

"You go into every game with some shots, big-hit plays, explosive plays if you will, and we finally were able to connect on them," Rhoads said. "The opening touchdown was a play that as a part of a sequence, we thought we might get a one-on-one opportunity and Jared was able to deliver the ball and Josh was able to win."

Rhoads made the decision last week to switch starters and sat down Barnett and Jantz on Friday, making it clear that the move was only for one week. Barnett's performance all but assured himself a second week as starter, but Rhoads wanted to make sure that part of the message sunk in for Jantz, who led Iowa State to a 3-0 start in consecutive seasons, including a pair of wins over rival Iowa.

Barnett played one of the best games of his career in Fort Worth, Texas, a short drive from his hometown of Garland, a northeast suburb of Dallas.

"Going back to Texas was a factor in the decision, the fact that he’s always led our team when he’s played quarterback," Rhoads said. "Hasn’t always made the plays, necessarily, but he’s led our team and we were at a point where that’s what we needed. We needed somebody to make good decisions and steer the ship and not necessarily go out and win the game. He did what we asked for on Saturday."

Even on the one play when Iowa State had to pull Barnett -- his helmet came off, and by new NCAA rule, he had to sit for a play -- offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham had enough confidence in his senior to have him test TCU's defense deep.

"I think Steele appreciates that," Rhoads said.

Saturday, a much tougher challenge awaits, and with it, a much smaller margin of error. TCU turned the ball over five times on Saturday and was playing without all three of its 700-yard rushers from a year ago. The Frogs also didn't have quarterback Casey Pachall, who was suspended indefinitely after a DWI arrest, and left the team to seek treatment at an in-patient facility this week.

No. 6 Kansas State will come to Ames at full strength, led by a Heisman candidate in Collin Klein.

"You’ll struggle to find a finer-coached football team and a better prepared football team in the country than a Bill Snyder-coached Kansas State ball club," Rhoads said. "There’s no way we can count on five turnovers to help us win this game."

Instead, he'll have to count on Barnett.

Iowa State spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
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2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 3-6
Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (5), P/K (1)

Top returners: RB James White, LB A.J. Klein, LB Jake Knott, QB Jared Barnett, QB Steele Jantz, WR Josh Lenz, WR Aaron Horne

Key losses: OL Kelechi Osemele, WR Darius Reynolds, CB Leonard Johnson, DE Jake Lattimer, DL Stephen Ruempolhamer

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James White* (743 yards)
Passing: Steele Jantz* (1,519 yards)
Receiving: Darius Reynolds (695 yards)
Tackles: A.J. Klein* (117)
Sacks: Patrick Neal (3.5)
Interceptions: Ter'Ran Benton (3)

Three spring answers

1. Jerome Tiller's not pouting: Tiller sat out 2011 after being academically ineligible, and as such, became a nonfactor in the quarterback race, even though he was the likely successor to Austen Arnaud. Tiller came back with a vengeance this spring ... at receiver. He caught five passes for 44 yards, but don't be surprised to see him put up those kinds of numbers during the season. Nice to see him bounce back.

2. The linebacker spot is in good hands: Jake Knott missed the spring after offseason shoulder surgery, but the linebackers put on a show during the spring. Jevohn Miller played well in Knott's absence, but Jeremiah George was one of the most improved players on the team during the spring. Knott and Klein will be senior stars, but Iowa State's linebacker tradition will carry on when they leave.

3. The offense isn't changing: Offensive coordinator Tom Herman left to take the same job at Ohio State, but replacement Courtney Messingham isn't messing with much in the offense. There will be subtle changes, sure, but mostly to suit whoever wins the QB job. The version of the spread ISU uses has a lot of zone read concepts, and that will continue with either. What the passing game looks like will be a little different.

Three fall questions

1. Who will be the quarterback? Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz both had their moments in 2011. Both went 3-0 in their first three starts. Jantz had three fourth-quarter comebacks and Barnett grabbed one of the biggest wins in school history against OSU to get ISU bowl eligible. Jantz was turnover-prone, however, and Barnett struggled with consistency. The competition is still wide open heading into fall camp.

2. What's the status of Shontrelle Johnson? Johnson's the biggest home run hitter on the offense, but he's been out since early last season with a neck injury. His status is still in doubt. James White filled in nicely last year, but Johnson can take the offense to another level. Iowa State hopes he can get back, but nothing's promised.

3. Who's the new No. 1 receiver? Jantz loved Darius Reynolds early in the season, but Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz were more productive with Barnett late in the season. Reynolds is gone, but who's the new go-to guy in the passing game? It could be either.

Breaking down spring camp: Iowa State

March, 20, 2012
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Iowa State kicks off spring practice Tuesday. Let's take a closer look.

Schedule: The first of 15 spring practices allowed by the NCAA begins and they'll conclude with the spring game on April 14. Practices are closed to fans and media.

What's new: Offensive coordinator Tom Herman helped Paul Rhoads build his program and take the Cyclones to two bowl games in three years, but he left to take the offensive coordinator job on Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State. In his place is receivers coach Courtney Messingham, who has lots of experience at lower levels of football, but will be calling plays at the FBS level for the first time.

Key position battle: Kelechi Osemele has been an All-Big 12 stalwart at left tackle for the last three season, but the inevitable happened this offseason: He graduated and moved on to the NFL. Now, Iowa State needs a replacement. Converted tight end Carter Bykowski -- now up to 6-foot-8 and 303 pounds -- could be the man protecting the blind side, but 6-foot-6, 294-pound Kyle Lichtenberg could try to win the job this spring, too. The line also lost right guard Hayworth Hicks, a two-year starter. Jacob Gannon, a 6-foot-7, 286-pound sophomore gets the first crack at replacing him.

On the mend: The front seven. Linebacker Jake Knott will miss the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. He'll be missed, but replaced by Jevohn Miller. Junior Willie Scott steps in for defensive end Roosevelt Maggitt, who will miss the spring with a knee injury. Cornerback Jeremy Reeves will also miss be limited this spring after undergoing wrist surgery. Look for sophomore Matt Thomas to jump in when Reeves doesn't participate.

Question marks: Cornerbacks. Reeves should be OK, but he's the only returning starter at corner for the Cyclones, and as noted, he'll be in and out during the spring. Junior Jansen Watson draws the tough task of trying to replace NFL-bound Leonard Johnson, one of the most underrated corners in the league last season. You need lots of good corners in this league, and Iowa State still has a lot to prove at the position.

All eyes on: The quarterbacks. Jared Barnett looked like the future in midseason after leading the Cyclones to wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State, but he faltered down the stretch and was benched for Steele Jantz, who opened the season with three fourth-quarter comeback wins over Northern Iowa, UConn and Iowa. The guess here is it's Barnett's job to lose, but there's no guarantee he won't do exactly that: lose it. The sophomore was streaky last season.

For now, however, the pair are officially listed as co-starters to begin the spring. Looks like we've got a legitimate quarterback battle on our hands for the second consecutive season in Ames.

Offseason to-do list: Iowa State

February, 16, 2012
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We're taking a look at what each program in the Big 12 needs to deal with during the offseason, whether it be in the spring, summer or fall preseason camp. Maybe all three! Who knows?

Next up: The Iowa State Cyclones.

1. Make the decision: Is there a quarterback controversy? Heading into the bowl game, Jared Barnett looked like Iowa State's man of the future. The freshman took over in the middle of the season and orchestrated three consecutive wins, including the biggest win in school history, an upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. But in the bowl game loss to Rutgers, Barnett was off-target and benched for Steele Jantz early on. He didn't return. Coach Paul Rhoads was noncommital after the game, but this spring could be interesting.

2. Plug the holes in the secondary. Leonard Johnson was one of the most underrated players in the league and had a big role in that OSU upset, and Ter'Ran Benton was another versatile talent in the Cyclones secondary. Johnson will leave behind the biggest hole in trying to defend a crazy talented group of Big 12 receivers, and fellow corner Anthony Young is gone, too.

3. Adjust the offense to a new man in charge. Tom Herman didn't have a high profile, but Urban Meyer knew about him and asked him to make the no-brainer move to offensive coordinator at Ohio State. In his place is receivers coach Courtney Messingham. You don't quite know what to expect from Messingham, who has experience at lower levels as a head coach and a coordinator. It helps that the 22-year coaching veteran is hardly new at this, but he'll have big shoes to fill. This spring, we'll get a look at how the players respond. The system, best run by a dual-threat quarterback, won't be all that different, but Messingham will be tested this year.

More offseason to-do lists.

Cyclones find their new man on offense

January, 5, 2012
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Iowa State didn't have to look far to find its new offensive coordinator.

Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads tabbed receivers coach Courtney Messingham as the team's new playcaller.

"Courtney has coached at every level of college football and has head coach and coordinator experience," Rhoads said in a release. "He has earned this opportunity through hard work and positive results as a coach and as a recruiter. We have the right man."

He replaces Tom Herman, who left to be Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Ohio State.

For more, see our news story.

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