Big 12: Mark Mangino

Spring game preview: Iowa State

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
1:30
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This weekend, Iowa State will hold its annual spring game, which will be open to the public. Here’s a closer look:

When: 2 p.m., Saturday

[+] EnlargeIowa State Cyclones
David Purdy/Getty ImagesCould Sam B. Richardson be the answer at QB for Iowa State?
Where: Jack Trice Stadium

What to watch for:

  • New offense: Before the spring, coach Paul Rhoads gave few clues as to what Mark Mangino’s new offense would look like. Iowa State is going to be transitioning to a no-huddle attack, but after that, much is left to be revealed. In the interest of competitive advantage, the Cyclones are sure to hold back most of the playbook on Saturday, but at least Iowa State fans will get a glimpse into what the Mangino offense will look like in the fall.
  • Quarterback battle: More than a decade later, the Cyclones are still essentially trying to replace Seneca Wallace. After multiple seasons of musical quarterbacks, a problem that has handcuffed the Cyclones in the past, could this be the year Iowa State finally uncovers the long-term answer at the position? It could be. Sam B. Richardson, who opened last year as the starter before getting injured, has shown promise when healthy. Grant Rohach, who finished last year as the starter, closed out the season with two strong performances in Iowa State wins. The two have been getting the majority of the snaps this spring. But don’t rule out redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, either. The former high school wrestler has impressed the Iowa State coaching staff with his toughness, work ethic and big arm. He could be the darkhorse in this competition, which figures to linger into August.
  • WR D’Vario Montgomery: With All-Big 12 candidates E.J. Bibbs and Quenton Bundrage leading the way, the Cyclones could wind up featuring the program’s best collection of pass-catchers in years. Montgomery, who sat out last year after transferring in from South Florida, could add to that corps. On Saturday, Montgomery will get to show the fans what he can do with his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame.
  • Veteran offensive line: The offensive line should be one of the best in the Big 12, with the entire unit coming back from last year. Tom Farniok is an All-Big 12-caliber center and one of the team’s unquestioned leaders. Left tackle Brock Dagel has been out this spring with a cut on his leg that got infected, but he has the potential to play in the NFL some day. Guard Daniel Burton is physical and one of the smartest players on the offense, and right tackle Jacob Gannon has a ton of experience. The Cyclones could push several opposing defensive lines around next season, and with Iowa State still rebuilding its front seven, the offensive line ought to dominate in the spring game, too.
  • Depleted defense: While the offense will be operating at close to full strength, the defense will be operating with a dearth of able, experienced bodies. On top of graduating five starters, injuries, defections and expulsions have hampered coordinator Wally Burnham’s unit this spring. Tackle Rodney Coe was kicked off the team last month and safety Devron Moore has since left, at least temporarily, after getting homesick. Both players were potential starters. Linebacker Luke Knott is still recovering from a hip injury, and defensive linemen Pierre Aka (concussion) and David Irving (shoulder) have been knocked out with ailments. Reinforcements will arrive in the summer, but it will be interesting to see how the defense copes on Saturday. It also will be an opportunity for younger players to make their mark.

Q&A: Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
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Under coach Paul Rhoads, Iowa State has returned to respectability the last five years, as the Cyclones have made three bowl appearances. Now, armed with an offensive coordinator with a proven track record to go along with the deepest and most talented offensive roster Iowa State has had in years, Rhoads is hoping his program can break through to another level in 2014.

As spring practice began for the Cyclones this week, Rhoads took time to speak with ESPN.com about new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, the significance of signing blue-chip wide receiver Allen Lazard and how the death of defensive line coach Curtis Bray in January has made an impact on himself and the program:

[+] EnlargeMark Mangino
Courtesy of Youngstown StateMark Mangino's attention to detail has Paul Rhoads excited about the future of Iowa State's offense.
How did you settle on bringing in Mark Mangino as your offensive coordinator, and did you guys have a relationship previously before that?

Rhoads: Our previous relationship was this: one conversation at the 50-yard line when we traveled to play the Jayhawks in 2009. So we had had one conversation physically in person. I had one year of competing against him, knowing what he had accomplished both as a head coach and an assistant. I felt like he was an ideal fit for us, and that put him at the top of list. We were able to start conversations and we were successful in our recruitment of him.

In those conversations, what was it that validated that he was the guy you wanted to bring in?

Rhoads: He had been at programs that had not been traditionally rich programs, and he had had success both as a position coach and a coordinator. In my opinion, he had a track record of doing more with less and overachieving. As a play-caller, he won a national championship at Oklahoma. And at Kansas, his teams were known for -- and I saw it first-hand -- their physical toughness and ability to play hard. I knew that going in. What I wanted to find out from those first conversations was his motivation to get that done at Iowa State. He had a detailed plan to why we could be successful. He was anxious for the challenge, and we’re excited we were able to get him in here in our system.

What has impressed you about him so far?

Rhoads: His organization and attention to detail. I have purposefully stayed out of his way. I’ve done that with coordinators throughout my time here. He’s got a new offense to put in. We have five new position coaches, four new on offense. He didn’t need me getting in his way. But I’ve had a close eye on what he’s been getting done, his itineraries, his installation plans, and it’s been a very smooth transition. He’s gotten a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. That was on display our first practice -- there were few busts as far as being lined up correctly or false starts. I got to see his attention to detail laid out on the field.

You obviously have several guys, notably Grant Rohach and Sam B. Richardson, vying for the starting quarterback job. What is going to be the determining factor in picking a starter?

Rhoads: The execution of the offense displayed by the mental capacity and control of what we’re trying to accomplish. Mark has said with us being a no-huddle team, the coaches are going to do the heavy lifting. But the quarterback still has to make decisions at the line of scrimmage. We’re looking for the guy that separates that way first. And tied along with those mental decisions is leadership. The other 10 guys [had] better respond to him with great enthusiasm and precision with movement. The second thing would be throwing accuracy. We want a guy that can make all of the throws with great accuracy. The difficult, longer throws he won’t make as often, but we want him making some of those, and then all of the throws underneath. Lastly, we’ll be looking at production with their feet. We’re going to have designed runs, designed option reads. And when the pocket breaks down, can he pick something up on his own? We want a guy that can do that with productivity as well.

How would you compare the offensive talent you have right now to other teams you’ve had at Iowa State?

Rhoads: I think it’s our most talented group of offensive players that we’ve had here. The question we just talked about needs to get answered. We need somebody to lead the team at the quarterback position. But we got invaluable experience on the offensive line last year due to way too many injuries. We started nine different offensive lines due to injury. But we’ve got a lot of guys back who’ve gotten playing time and bring experience, led by our seniors, (center) Tom Farniok and (tackle) Jacob Gannon. That should be a positive for us. We’ve also got a potential All-American in (tight end) E.J. Bibbs. A potential all-league player in (receiver) Quenton Bundrage. And we have two very talented running backs in Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy.

How big was landing four-star receiver Allen Lazard, not only because of what he brings to the table skill-wise, but psychologically the message it sent about where the program is and the direction it’s headed?

Rhoads: It was a great victory. My comments got lost on signing day. But my point on signing day was that we won. They had nothing to do with how other people (notably Notre Dame and Iowa) recruited him. It was that Iowa State had won the competition for one of the nation’s best players. Especially coming off a hiccup year, it showed where the program is at, how it’s perceived in the state, if not nationally. It was a great victory in recruiting, and that leads to on-field success.

You mentioned last year being a “hiccup” season. What do you think it said about your team and your program that, down 17 in the last quarter of the last game, your team fights back to win at West Virginia in triple overtime with nothing more really than pride on the line?

Rhoads: Quite a bit is what it said. We had lost seven straight (before beating Kansas the previous week). We had no opportunity for postseason play. We were playing for seniors, for pride, and most importantly for the future. The kids never quit. Never quit in preparation. Never quit in their work. Never quit in the game. To go on the road and overcome that, to me, speaks to the entirety of the program. It’s something that has generated great energy going into 2014.

[+] EnlargePaul Rhoads
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallPaul Rhoads has brought a fire to Iowa State that has made the Cyclones a dangerous team to overlook.
Other than last year, you guys have basically been a .500 team. You had the hiccup season in 2013 with all the youth and injures. But because of that you have way more depth and experience going into next season. What’s the key to breaking through to that next level as a program?

Rhoads: First, quarterback play. You can’t hide the importance of it. Then, some guys stepping up and playing at a level of accountability of productivity we haven’t seen in those five years of basically, .500-level play. It might be the development of that fourth- or fifth-year guy. It might be that younger, talented player. Whoever it is, we need a higher level from more guys like that than we’ve had in the past.

You mentioned quarterback play. You guys have gone through several different guys the last few years and really haven’t been able to find that guy. If you find that guy from this competition, that would seem to really give you leg up compared to what you’ve had to deal with the last few years, correct?

Rhoads: I don’t know if Grant (Rohach) will be our guy or not. I know this: We got arguably great quarterback play out of Grant our last two games. And because of that, we had team success. Whether he keeps that up or somebody plays better, getting that level of play out of the position is critical to being successful. It has been inconsistent for us over five years' time.

This last question is more of a difficult one. Losing Coach Bray so suddenly two months ago, how did that affect you, the program and the kids?

Rhoads: It impacts us every day still. You’re never prepared for that. My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s for over 10 years. When her time came, you were ready. Quite honestly, she immediately was in a better place. This happened over a period of two hours, when he was struggling and then he was gone. You don’t get answers to that one, whether you’re 18, 19 or 47. And time doesn’t slow down for you. You’ve got to keep moving. The kids have persevered, and the coaches have dealt with it in their own ways and pushed on and led. I think of his family daily. His wife was just in here with mine, walking as they do on a weekly basis. If I told you I wasn’t angry that he’s gone, I’d be lying to you.
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.

[+] EnlargeMark Mangino
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerNew 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.
Iowa State began spring practice Monday. Below is a preview of what to look for from the Cyclones during spring ball:

Offensive returner ready to take next step: There were only two tight ends who ranked in the top 25 of the Big 12 in receiving in 2013. Texas Tech unanimous All-American Jace Amaro and Iowa State’s E.J. Bibbs. The former junior college transfer also finished second all-time in receptions by a Cyclones tight end in a season, and was the only player on the team in 2013 with multiple receptions in every game. With a more stable quarterback situation and the FBS transition year behind him, Bibbs could be in for a big final season. He also has a new position coach in Mark Mangino, who will be doubling as the Cyclones’ offensive coordinator. With Mangino, the athletically gifted Bibbs should have even more opportunities to make plays in the passing game.

[+] EnlargeEJ Bibbs
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesIowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs could be primed for a big senior season.
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: After getting thrown into the starting lineup as a freshman, Nigel Tribune took his lumps, notably in his first career start against Texas. But thanks to his smarts and natural awareness, Tribune rapidly improved the rest of the season. As the only full-time returning starter in the secondary -- and the only true freshman to touch the field for Iowa State the last two years -- the Cyclones will be counting on Tribune to take on a leadership role defensively. If his freshman season is any indication, he should be up to the challenge.

Redshirt freshman to watch: Last season, neither Sam B. Richardson nor Grant Rohach grabbed a stranglehold on the starting quarterback job. That, coupled with the arrival of the new offensive regime, could give Joel Lanning a chance to turn Iowa State’s quarterback derby into a three-way race. Lanning, who picked the Cyclones over Nebraska, has a strong arm and enough athleticism to be a factor. All the quarterbacks will be learning a new offense, too, which could level the field to Lanning’s benefit. With a big spring, he could be a dark horse answer to Iowa State’s search for its QB of the future.

Most significant position battle: Since Austen Arnaud’s graduation four years ago, the Cyclones have been unsuccessful in tabbing a permanent replacement. Instead, Iowa State has cycled through Steele Jantz, Jared Barnett, Richardson and Rohach. The Cyclones liked the potential Richardson showed as a freshman, but he was banged up all last season as a sophomore, leading to Rohach taking over the second half of the season. Rohach had some moments late in 2013 in wins over Kansas and, especially, West Virginia. But the battle is far from being decided. Rohach still has much to prove, Richardson will be healthier, and Lanning will be given the chance to show what he can do. The Cyclones have the other pieces to field an effective offense. But that won’t happen unless somebody -- finally -- emerges as the answer at quarterback.

Key midterm enrollee: Defensively, the Cyclones face the difficult task of replacing key starters Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield at safety. Washington was a three-year starter and second-team All-Big 12 selection. Broomfield was a two-year starter. To help compensate, the Cyclones signed two junior college safeties, including Devron Moore, who is already on campus. Moore had offers from TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia, and was rated the No. 6 juco safety in the country. With few other options at safety, the Cyclones really need Moore to nail down a starting job before the end of the spring.

Question that could be answered: Mangino has a proven track record in the Big 12. He called plays for Oklahoma’s national championship team in 2000. His Kansas team won the Orange Bowl in 2007 behind a prolific offense. The Cyclones -- and Mangino -- should have a good idea coming out of the spring what the offense will look like in Ames in 2014.

Question that won’t be answered until fall: While the rest of the offense returns largely intact, the quarterback question could linger for awhile. Mangino might want more than just the spring before determining a starter. Rohach and Richardson have yet to distinguish themselves from one another, and it’s hard to believe either will accomplish that in one spring with a new offense.
Spring ball kicked off in the Big 12 over the weekend, as Baylor, TCU and West Virginia all had their first practices. This week, most of the other Big 12 schools will join them.

With spring practice off and rolling, plenty of questions surround the league’s programs. And while many of those won’t be fully answered until the season begins in the fall, here are some of the biggest ones Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma will face this spring:

How will Baylor replenish its secondary?

[+] EnlargeQuarterback Bryce Petty #14 of the Baylor Bears
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Bryce Petty is back so Baylor's offense should be in good shape. Its defense, however, has some question marks heading into the spring.
The Bears won their first Big 12 championship last season, thanks in part to a secondary that ranked second in the league in pass defense. Safety Terrell Burt, however, is the only returning starter from that defensive backfield, meaning rebuilding the secondary will be priority No. 1 for the Bears this spring. But as if that job wasn’t going to be challenging enough, both Burt and juco cornerback Chris Sanders, who is supposed to vie for a starting role, will miss the spring following shoulder surgeries. With QB Bryce Petty back, the Bears figure to be formidable again offensively in 2014. But to defend its Big 12 title, Baylor will need several inexperienced players to begin emerging in the secondary this spring.

Can Mangino turn Iowa State’s offense around?

As a big part of their disappointing 3-9 record last season, the Cyclones ranked ahead of only Kansas in Big 12 scoring offense. As a result, Paul Rhoads fired offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham and brought in Mark Mangino to revive the Iowa State attack. Mangino was offensive coordinator during Oklahoma’s national championship season, and he took Kansas to the Orange Bowl. His track record as an offensive mind is not in dispute. But can he turn around an offense that hasn’t ranked higher than ninth in the Big 12 in scoring since 2005? Mangino will have some pieces to work with. Wideout Quenton Bundrage, running back Aaron Wimberly and quarterback Grant Rohach all had moments in 2013. Whether Mangino can put them in position to produce a lot more of those moments will go a long way in determining if Iowa State can bounce back.

Can Harwell fill Kansas’ go-to WR need?

Kansas’ lack of production at receiver the past few seasons has been astounding. Justin McCay caught a touchdown pass in the 2013 opener to become the first Kansas receiver to catch a touchdown in almost two full seasons. But Kansas receivers would catch only two more touchdowns the rest of the season (for context, Baylor receivers totaled 35 such grabs). Senior transfer Nick Harwell, however, could be the answer to that woeful drought. Two years ago at Miami (Ohio), Harwell led the Mid-American Conference with 7.6 receptions and 96.7 receiving yards per game while earning All-MAC honors. Going into his final college season, Harwell already has 229 receptions for 3,166 yards in his career. Oh yeah, he has 23 touchdowns over those three years, too. The Jayhawks have desperately been in search of a go-to receiver. They’ll find out this spring whether they can stop that search.

What will K-State do with Sams?

Daniel Sams proved to be one of the league’s best playmakers last season, leading all Big 12 quarterbacks with 807 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns. Sams’ role, however, diminished late in the season, as Jake Waters emerged as the majority-of-the-time quarterback. Sams is too dynamic with the ball in his hands to watch games from the sidelines. But Waters isn’t going anywhere at quarterback, either. Before the bowl, Sams hinted that he’d like to try another position to get onto the field more. K-State whiffed on signing a quarterback last month, so Sams will still have to keep ties with his old position for depth purposes. But the spring will also give the Wildcats the opportunity to experiment using Sams elsewhere -- like receiver -- if they so choose.

How will Oklahoma build on the Sugar Bowl?

By beating Alabama, the Sooners notched arguably the program’s most significant win since defeating Florida State all the way back in the 2000 national championship game. After struggling at times during the 2013 season, the Sooners suddenly have the look of a preseason top-five team going into 2014. Yet, in many ways, this is still a very young team. QB Trevor Knight has only five career starts, two of which he left early due to injury. Projected starting running back Keith Ford has loads of potential, but only 23 carries in his college career. And of the returning receivers, only Sterling Shepard delivered more than 13 catches last season. In the Sugar Bowl, OU flashed its capability. And the Sooners have tons of momentum, underscored by their furious recruiting finish. But to be a legitimate national title contender this fall, the Sooners can’t rest on their laurels of besting the Tide. And OU’s young players have to continue building off that experience.

Spring preview capsules: Big 12

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
10:00
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Spring football is rapidly approaching.

Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:

Baylor

Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 5

What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.

Iowa State

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.

Kansas

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.

Kansas State

Spring start: April 2

Spring game: April 26

What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.

Oklahoma

Spring start: March 8

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.

Oklahoma State

Spring start: March 10

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.

TCU

Spring start: March 1

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.

Texas

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.

Texas Tech

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.

West Virginia

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.
Mark won’t be the only Mangino manning the Iowa State offense next season.

His son, Tommy Mangino, was hired as the Cyclones’ receivers coach last week.

Tommy Mangino served as an offensive graduate assistant at Kansas for two seasons (2008-09) under his father, and most recently was a graduate assistant at Arkansas.

Mangino took time from settling into his new home in Ames to speak with ESPN.com about his new gig, coaching with his father and the upside of the Iowa State offense in 2014:

How excited are you about being a full-time assistant at a BCS school?

Tommy Mangino: I’m really excited. I couldn’t be in a better situation from the head coach (Paul Rhoads) to obviously the offensive coordinator (Mark Mangino) to working with guys I’ve worked with before. There’s a certain comfort level here for a young guy to come into a BCS job. It’s really exciting.

On top of this being your first full-time assistant job, you get to coach with your dad. That has to make it even more special, right?

Mangino: It’s great to be with him and to have the opportunity to work with my dad -- all that’s great. But that’s not the only thing. It’s fun to be with him and to work under him. But there are a lot of other aspects to this job. The one who is most excited is my mom because she gets to see her grandson.

What have you learned from your dad about being a coach?

Mangino: That you gotta take every day with the same attitude. You can’t get too high, or too low. You have to be even-keel and keep faith in the plan you’ve got. If you stick to your plan, good things can happen. If you deviate from the plan, it’s not going to work out.

Your dad has had some time away from coaching at this level. Have you seen any changes in him during that time?

Mangino: I wouldn’t say he’s changed or a different person. But I will say he’s taken the time to reflect on what he’s done in the past. He’s gotten to spend a lot of time with people around the country. He’s had time to gather his thoughts. Coaches never have time to gather thoughts and reflect. That’s a huge advantage he’s had. Other people are always coaching nonstop. This has given him a chance to reevaluate the system, the way he goes about things. The chance to reevaluate everything has really helped.

It’s been four years since he’s coached at this level. How excited is he about that?

Mangino: There’s no doubt he’s excited to be back at this level. But he’s also excited to be at Iowa State. The fan base, the mentality of the team, what coach Rhoads has instilled in his kids, it’s one of those special places. Playing against Iowa State, watching them compete, you can just tell there’s an edge to the team and the program. They have a structure and a plan here and they follow it, and that’s right up his alley.

[+] EnlargeMark Mangino
Courtesy of Youngstown StateMark Mangino will coach with his son at Iowa State.
When your dad was head coach, Kansas reached a level of success that almost seems unreal now. Can that level of success be reached at Iowa State?

Mangino: I don’t have a magic eight ball to tell you that. You never know. But what I can tell you is the plan is there and the mentality is there. Sometimes the chips fall your way. I can’t tell you being here a week or six months from now that we can win 12 games. But I can tell you a plan and everything is in place to have success. Whether that’s seven wins, eight wins, nine wins, whatever it is, you’ve gotta stick to your plan.

How important was it for Iowa State to sign Allen Lazard, and how good can he be?

Mangino: I got to meet Allen last weekend and spend time with him. What I can tell you about him is how unbelievably mature he is, how mature he was about the whole (recruiting process). He knew where he wanted to go. (Iowa State) did a great job recruiting him. At Arkansas, we evaluated him and wanted to go after him, but we just knew Iowa State had a great handle on him. He was a local kid, and they did a great job of getting him here. He has huge upside, because of his maturity. He has the intangibles you look for in a player. Not just as a wide receiver, but as a face of your program years from now. Will he leave as a great player? I can’t predict that. But he has what takes to be a really great player here.

If you just looked at last year’s stats, you wouldn’t be optimistic about Iowa State’s offense next season. But there are several pieces coming back to really like. So does this offense have the potential to, say, finish in the top half of the league statistically in 2014?

Mangino: I can’t predict that we’ll finish in the upper half, but I can say we have the pieces. I watched video from last year, and we have some really good players on this team. I might be putting some pressure on us, or putting my foot in my mouth, but we have a lot of players to be successful. From my position (wide receivers), we didn’t lose one kid from last year. I think it could be a really good group.

It seems the players there really respond to coach Rhoads. Being down 17 with no postseason on the line and rallying at West Virginia to win the final game seemed to underscore that. What have you seen from coach Rhoads so far?

Mangino: Like you said, being down to West Virginia, that just shows the toughness he instills in the kids, the edge they play with, the fight, never giving up. That’s what I’m about, and I learned that from my dad, being around him, to keep that level head, no matter what’s going on. I remember in 2008 we played up here and were down 20-something-to-zero at halftime, and we came back and won the game (35-33). That’s how we operated at Kansas, and I think coach Rhoads has that same exact makeup. It doesn’t matter what the score is, you play four quarters and give it your all. That’s what I love about coach Rhoads.
In today's mailbag, Cyclone nation is pumped, Blake Bell wonders what he should do and we discuss who the best offenses will be in 2014.

To the 'bag:

[+] EnlargeJakeem Grant
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsAfter finishing 2013 with 65 catches for 796 yards and 7 TDs, it looks like Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant is already a top five WR.
Kaled Zakzok in Lubbock, Texas, writes: Will Jakeem Grant be a top five Big 12 wide receiver next year?

Jake Trotter: Statistically, he was actually a top five receiver this season. There are some big-time receivers returning in the league, notably Tyler Lockett and Antwan Goodley. But Grant is loaded with big-play talent and could become the top slot receiver in the league along with Sterling Shepard in 2014.

James in Overland, Kan., writes: With Charlie Strong's staff now in place what are the chances Texas wins 10-12 games in 2014?

Trotter: It all comes down to quarterback for Strong. The other pieces are pretty much in place for Texas to reach double-digit wins. If Strong gets better quarterback play than Mack Brown did the last four seasons, it’s conceivable. But if the quarterback play remains inconsistent and turnover prone, then it will be a long shot, given the strength of the Big 12 and the Longhorns’ tough nonconference schedule, which includes UCLA and BYU.

Hugh in Hot Springs Village, Ark., writes: Are there any tight ends available that could even be three-fourths of what Jace Amaro was, and could Texas Tech land that player?

Trotter: Sure. I also hear the Red Raiders are in on a slot receiver from Oklahoma City named Les Lelker and a stud wideout out of Dallas named Michael Treecrab.

Jesse in Lubbock, Texas, writes: I have to admit, I wasn't in favor of Davis Webb starting until his impressive showing in the Holiday Bowl. With the poise he showed against Arizona State, I'd be ok calling him the Webbslinger as Tech moves forward with him as the starter. Thoughts on the nickname?

Trotter: It must really be the offseason, since we’re back to spitballing nicknames for every player in the league. Paging Andy in Austin …

Blake Bell in Norman, Okla., writes: Help! What should I do? I've been told that you are all-knowing. Should I stay at OU or transfer? If I do stay, should I try and become a tight end?

Trotter: Since you asked, I think I would stay. Trevor Knight is the clear-cut No. 1 QB, but given his style of play, he’s prone to injury. Bell has thrived in the clutch as a quarterback off the bench, and could still serve a valuable role as the No. 2 QB. There’s also the possibility of playing time at tight end, given that OU is void of reliable options at that spot. If Bell stayed, I would expect him to dabble there in the spring while also getting reps at quarterback. On the flip side, there’s no guarantee Bell would get playing time if he did transfer. Look no further than former OU QB Drew Allen, who transferred to Syracuse for his final year, and sat the bench this season. Bell could give it a shot elsewhere. But because of his Bedlam performance and game-changing plays previously in the “Belldozer” package, Bell is beloved by Sooner fans. There are worse things to be in college.

Alex in Ames, Iowa, writes: Iowa State hasn't finished better than ninth in yards per play in the Big 12 since 2005. Despite awful offenses, Iowa State has found a way to win under Paul Rhoads. This year, Iowa State has more options than I can remember on offense and an offensive coordinator in Mark Man-genius, who is a proven wizard. How high is the ceiling for a Rhoads team with an offense?

Trotter: Iowa State is shaping up to be one of my sleeper teams in the Big 12 next season. You’re correct, the Cyclones have options offensively. Running back Aaron Wimberly, wideout Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs can all make plays. Quarterbacks Grant Rohach and Sam Richardson have experience and will make each other better competing for the job. I agree, the Cyclones always play solid defense, even though they have to replace a couple of long-time stalwarts. Is this a team that will contend for the Big 12 title? No. But I could see Iowa State getting back to a bowl next year while also being a tough out in Ames all year.

Chris in Lubbock, Texas, writes: Baylor's offense (scoring) will probably be No. 1 in the Big 12 again next season. Who do you see as the second-best scoring offense next season and why?

Trotter: Because of their style of play I’m not sure it will be the second-highest scoring, but I would give the edge to Kansas State as the Big 12’s second-best offense going into 2014. The Wildcats have a superstar in Lockett, and a capable, consistent quarterback in Jake Waters. Oklahoma and Texas Tech could factor into the conversation because of their young quarterbacks, who both turned the corner in their respective bowl games. Oklahoma State will be a team to watch, too. The Cowboys lose a lot, but they always seem to reload offensively, and have featured one of the Big 12's top three offenses every year but once since 2006.
The quarterback position looks shockingly familiar at Iowa State.

At this time last year, Sam Richardson was a redshirt freshman quarterback coming off a strong finish to the season and looked poised to lead the Cyclones during the upcoming season and beyond.

Now, one year later, the exact same could be said of ISU quarterback Grant Rohach.

[+] EnlargeGrant Rohach
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesGrant Rohach finished the season with two 300-yard passing performances.
Rohach replaced Richardson as the Cyclones starter for the final four games of 2013, leading ISU to a 2-2 finish after a 1-7 start with Richardson under center. Rohach was outstanding in the Cyclones back-to-back wins to end the season, going 40-of-59 for 631 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in wins over Kansas and West Virginia. His 85.4 adjusted QBR was ninth among FBS quarterbacks who started two games during the final two weeks of November and ahead of Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Clemson’s Tahj Boyd among others.

After getting his feet wet in games against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, Rohach started against TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas and West Virginia. Here’s a closer look, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, at how the redshirt freshman performed during his first season under center in Ames, Iowa and the potential impact on ISU’s offense under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.

  • Rohach was 79-of-134 for 870 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions when teams didn’t blitz during his freshman season. Most importantly, he was 52-of-84 for 676 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in his four starts, a sign he was improving as a season progressed. Impact on 2014: Part of the reason Richardson lost his job was a lack of development as a sophomore, although injuries played a role in his inconsistent play. For Rohach, he improved as the season went on, becoming more comfortable in the final weeks. As long as he doesn’t regress, Mangino will have a quality quarterback to run his offense.
  • Against the blitz, Rohach was 31-of-57 for 320 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. In games he started, he was 27-of-47 for 289 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Impact on 2014: This will be one of the biggest areas of improvement for Rohach in the offseason. As Big 12 defensive coordinators get a better feel for his strengths, they will attack him in the pocket. That means he’ll need to become comfortable against the blitz because being able to operate comfortably and efficiently in the chaos of the pocket is often the difference between success and failure for quarterbacks.
  • Not surprisingly, Rohach was much better on play-action passes than regular passing plays. He was 45-of-75 for 625 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions on play-action plays. On plays without play-action, he was 65-of-116 for 595 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Impact on 2014: The Cyclones need to run the ball better. But we knew that already. Regardless, this means Rohach can take advantage and keep teams honest with his passing skills if the Cyclones do get their running game going. And his ability to make teams pay with his arm could help Mangino’s run attack test defenses.
  • Each of Rohach’s seven interceptions came when opponents rushed four or five defenders. In other words, defenses didn’t have to sell out and leave their secondary at risk to force Rohach into a mistake. Impact on 2014: With natural development, this shouldn’t be a major issue as he gets more comfortable with what he’s seeing from defenses as a sophomore. But it does mean that teams won’t be taken out of their element to try to come up with ways to slow Rohach. Until he proves teams must get pressure to stop him, defenses won’t risk putting their secondary in peril against the Cyclones.
Thanks for your questions during my chat; you can find the full transcript here.

rtXC1 (Denison, Texas): Steve Patterson is a business man, plain and simple. I feel that by hiring Charlie Strong he pretty much said, "You wanted change, here you go." Do you think the "country club" just closed by the hiring?

Brandon Chatmon: It's possible, but if Charlie Strong starts winning championships, that will take care of that, right?


Jay (SE Kansas): Brandon, I'm already thinking about the 2014 season and hoping the Sooners have a national championship run in them. Besides Trevor Knight playing outstanding football, who else needs to step up for the Sooners to make that happen?

Brandon Chatmon: Their young defense needs to continue to get better, a threat at running back needs to emerge and they need to replace Gabe Ikard, both as a leader and all-conference anchor of the OL.


Chad (I-State): Your thoughts on Paul Rhoads' two new hires, and ISU's outlook for next year?

Brandon Chatmon: I really like the hire of Mark Mangino. I thought it was a great move by Rhoads. I'd like to see Ayeni in action before making a judgment on him, but he seems like a solid hire as well.As far as the Cyclones outlook, I think Mangino has some pieces to work with at ISU. They just need more depth and more playmakers, but I think they definitely could return to a bowl in 2014. I like Grant Rohach and Quenton Bundrage quite a bit.


DWC (Dallas): Regarding Mike Yurcich, talk me off the ledge. It seems he's overmatched at times and seems to rein in the weapons when he needs to turn them loose. Or...is it Gundy doing that?

Brandon Chatmon: I'd say give him a little time. Think about where he was a year ago. And the Cowboys were one of the Big 12's best offenses despite an inconsistent running game and OL play. He deserves his share of blame, but it seems like he's taking a bigger share than he should be. That said, he must improve, no question.


Jason (Texas): Which hire was better in your opinion? Sarkisian-USC or Strong-Texas?

Brandon Chatmon Strong... Did Sark win a BCS bowl and I missed it?


Kevin (Reno, Nev.): How disrespectful were the comments by Red McCombs? Texas hasn't won big in a while now, so to suggest that a head coach from a major program is only worth of being a Longhorns position coach is ridiculous.

Brandon Chatmon: It reeked of someone who is not used to not getting their way.
Below is sampling of today's Big 12 football chat (the full transcript is here). If you've got more to say, send it in to the Big 12 mailbag, and there'a good chance you'll see it here on the Big 12 blog on Friday:


Tyler (Sacramento): Please tell me Coach (Charlie) Strong strong will start Tyrone Swoopes over David Ash. Do any commitments follow Strong to Texas, and do any leave Texas?


Jake Trotter: Tyler, it's too soon to tell what immediate impact Strong will have on recruiting. As for the QB situation, it should be interesting. Ash's future is in question with the concussion issues. Swoopes is really athletic with a big arm, but he needs polish. Don't discount Jerrod Heard, either, who just won another state title for Denton Guyer.

Ted (TX): I'd like to ask the brass at Texas if they envisioned replacing Mack Brown with Charlie Strong. I can't fathom that the guy was even in their top five. Your thoughts...

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsA ton of credit should be given to Bob Stoops' Sooners for their performance against Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Jake Trotter: He was in their top five, but top two? Probably not. Still, it was a very solid hire. And really, it isn't like there's only one coach out there who can win at Texas.

Derrin (Plano, TX): Jake, Bob Stoops walked the walk, and talked the talk, in New Orleans last week. I think people should give him credit, instead of trivializing it as Bama not wanting to be there. Your thoughts?

Jake Trotter: I didn't think Bama even played all that poorly. OU just took it to them.

Jay (Cloud 9, Oklahoma): ISU might need a bump in your power poll, Mark Mangino is an amazing hire for [the Cyclones] at offensive coordinator.

Jake Trotter: Am I the only one who likes the offensive talent coming back there? Grant Rohach, Aaron Wimberly, Quenton Bundrage, E.J. Bibbs, Derek Farniok... With Mangino pulling the strings, that's an offense that can do some damage.

Brian (Waco): Jake, why are you such an OU homer? Baylor should be the favorite to repeat next year as Big 12 champs.

Jake Trotter: We must have watched different bowl games.

Frank (Kansas): Can Charlie Weiss get us out of the cellar and at least [be] above West Virginia next year?

Jake Trotter: It would help if his own fans learned how to spell his name right.

David (Austin): I personally am very excited about Coach Strong. I think he will bring in some much-needed swagger and toughness that has been lacking of late. Horns have seemed to have the mentality that the burnt orange sticker on their helmets guarantees them wins.

Jake Trotter: One thing Strong is going to bring is toughness and intensity. And I think he's going to slay on the recruiting trail.

Colby (Stillwater): What are the chances that Trevor Knight just played outside of himself against Bama and will return to his earlier form next year? I think he will keep getting better, but you have to wonder because he never played like that all year. Kind of like Case McCoy against OU.

Jake Trotter: The difference being that McCoy was a senior and Knight was a freshman. McCoy is who he is. Knight should only get better. On top of that, we'd been hearing this is who Knight had been behind OU's closed practices. It just finally manifested on the field. It's no guarantee that Knight will get better. But it's a pretty good bet.

Chase (Dallas): Did the month off before the Fiesta Bowl end up hurting Baylor? Bryce Petty looked off on all of his deep throws in the first half, which are the home run plays that he used to hit all the time during the regular season.

Jake Trotter: I don't buy it. Everyone has the same amount of time off. The fact of the matter is, Baylor wasn't the same team the last quarter of the season. It's hard to maintain a high level of success for 13-14 games. Ask the 2012 K-State Wildcats, who also ran out of steam late in the year.

Manny (Lubbock): I like the overall nonconference schedule next year. Big 12 stepped it up a couple notches.

Jake Trotter: I like it, too, except the Big 12 might also get its head kicked in. WV-Bama, OSU-Florida State, Texas-UCLA, K-State-Auburn... If the Big 12 went 2-2 in those games, it would be a banner nonconference performance.

rtXC1 (Denison, TX): I think Jameis Winston showed Clint Chelf how to have a game-winning drive last night. Gotta dink and dunk and take what is open instead of forcing the ball downfield.

Jake Trotter: Don't blame Chelf. He led OSU on a potential game-winning drive in Bedlam, and on the drive before the fumble against Missouri. OSU's defense, which was great all season, collapsed both times when it really mattered.

Bonnie (Claire, West Virginia): How big of a hit did the SEC take when Alabama lost to Oklahoma and Auburn lost to Florida State?

Jake Trotter: The SEC didn't build its reputation on two games. It won't lose it in two games, either. The gap, however, was definitely narrowed to some degree this bowl season.

Big 12 lunchtime links

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
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Worlds collided for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
Mark Mangino is back in the Big 12.

And he’ll have some offensive firepower to operate with immediately, too.

Monday, Iowa State announced it was bringing Mangino back to the Big 12 to be its offensive coordinator.

“He has an imaginative offensive mind, an ability to play to his players’ strengths, a track record of winning and a tremendous familiarity with the Big 12,” head coach Paul Rhoads said. “In terms of calling plays and executing a game plan, he is top shelf.”

[+] EnlargeMark Mangino
Courtesy of Youngstown StateMark Mangino has proven he knows how to run an offense in the Big 12.
Mangino replaces Courtney Messingham, who was fired after Iowa State finished in the bottom three of the Big 12 in points per game (24.8), yards per game (363), yards per play (4.82), rushing yards (143.83) and passing yards (219.17).

While he spent last season as an assistant head coach and tight ends coach at his alma mater, Youngstown State, Mangino is known for previous stints in the Big 12.

Mangino coordinated Oklahoma’s national championship offense in 2000. Then as head coach, he led Kansas to a 12-1 record in 2007, which included a victory in Orange Bowl, before resigning two years later amid allegations of player mistreatment.

After four years away from coaching in the FBS, Mangino paid the price for those allegations. Now, one of the most successful coaches in Big 12 history has another shot in the league.

And even though the Cyclones struggled offensively under Messingham last season, Mangino just might have enough pieces to quickly rebuild the Iowa State offense.

Especially if rising sophomore Grant Rohach continues to develop at quarterback.

The Cyclones entered the season with Sam B. Richardson as their starter, but finished it with Rohach after Richardson was shut down due to injuries. After struggling initially, Rohach blossomed late in the year, suggesting the job might be his to lose. He quarterbacked the Cyclones to victories over Kansas and West Virginia, and combined to throw for 631 yards and seven touchdowns in those games, giving him a QBR of better than 85.0 in both.

Mangino will have returning talent elsewhere, too.

When healthy, tailback Aaron Wimberly was a force, rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown against Texas. Quenton Bundrage showed flashes as a sophomore that he could become a viable No. 1 receiver while finishing third in the league in touchdown receptions.

In addition, with Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro gone, E.J. Bibbs might be the top returning tight end in the league. And center Tom Farniok will be a four-year starter next season.

What Rhoads has lacked is the offensive mind able to flip those pieces into a consistent and effective offense.

In Mangino, Rhoads now has that mind -- and an offensive coach who has proven he can win big in the Big 12.

Successful coaches forced out: Big 12

August, 16, 2013
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In the eyes of some critics, Mack Brown is sitting on a seat far warmer than he realizes.

ESPN Insider's Phil Steele says Brown is the No. 1 coach on the hot seat entering 2013, and there is a faction of the Texas fan base that agrees and believes Brown’s best days are behind him. But if history tells us anything about canning coaches, the grass isn’t always greener.

Brown’s contract runs through 2020, and he isn’t looking to retire any time soon. He’s 27 victories away from becoming the winningest coach in school history. Will he reach that milestone?

A look at the recent history of successful Big 12 coaches being shown the door reminds us that a new hire brings no guarantees of success. And there might not be a better example of that than the man considered the league’s best coach today.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesWill Mack Brown get a chance to become the all-time winningest coach at Texas?
Coach on the bubble: Mack Brown, Texas

Big 12 precedents: Bill Snyder, Kansas State; Dan McCarney, Iowa State; Chuck Reedy, Baylor

Bill Snyder, 170-85-1 at Kansas State

Prior to his arrival: The list of coaches who came before Snyder is a long one, but the last to win more games than he lost at Kansas State left in 1934 after one season. Snyder’s predecessor, Stan Parrish, coached the Wildcats for 33 games and won two. The team was mockingly called “Futility U” before Snyder’s debut, and had lost more games than any program in college football history.

Why he resigned: The white-haired wizard was everything to Kansas State and achieved the most improbable rebuilding job college football has ever seen. But there reached a point in time, even after four Big 12 North titles, where KSU was ready to move on, in 2005. Leadership thought that after consecutive losing seasons, Snyder’s heart just wasn’t in it to go another season, even if he was hesitant to surrender the throne.

The aftermath: In came Ron Prince, the 36-year-old Virginia offensive coordinator who had no ties to the KSU program. His best season was his first, and after consecutive 5-7 seasons, he was fired in November 2008 -- after agreeing four months earlier to a contract extension through 2012. Snyder heroically returned, and you know the rest.

Some believe Brown, 61, is getting old. Snyder was 66 when he was ousted. He was named 2012 Big 12 Coach of the Year at age 73 and got a new five-year deal this past offseason.

Dan McCarney, 56-85 at Iowa State

Prior to his arrival: No, the track record of McCarney at Iowa State is not even close to what Brown has achieved at Texas. But no coach won more games at ISU than McCarney, who enjoyed five winning seasons in six years (2000-2005) and nearly won the Big 12 North outright twice. His predecessor, Jim Walden, retired after going 0-10-1 in 1994 and finished his ISU tenure with a record of 28-57-3. No Cyclones coach had won a conference title since 1912.

Why he resigned: McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl games, but the 2006 season went downhill and he stepped down. At the time he announced his decision, ISU was 0-6 in Big 12 play.

The aftermath: Iowa State got as sexy a hire as it could have hoped in Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Then, after going 5-19 in two seasons, he bailed on the Cyclones for the Auburn job. Paul Rhoads has done a respectable job in Ames, with three bowl games in four seasons. McCarney is entering his third year as head coach at North Texas. His record there isn’t great (9-15), but the Mean Green at least appreciate that they’ve got a good coach.

Chuck Reedy, 23-22 at Baylor

Prior to his arrival: Yes, this is a bit of an obscure choice. Baylor had a solid, competitive program during the 21-year tenure of the great Grant Teaff and enjoyed winning records in eight seasons of his final decade in charge. When he retired, BU offensive coordinator Reedy was promoted to the head gig.

Why he was fired: Replacing Teaff wasn’t easy. The Baylor administration wasn’t happy with some aspects of Reedy’s coaching style, including recruiting high-risk players who were unlikely to qualify. But what sealed his fate was going 1-7 in conference play in the Big 12’s inaugural year and losing four straight to end the 1996 season with a 4-7 record.

The aftermath: Baylor didn’t know it was signing up for a decade of futility when it canned Reedy. His replacement, Dave Roberts, went 4-18. The three coaches that came after Reedy went a combined 30-94 and finished last in the Big 12 South eight straight years. Art Briles has led an impressive rebuild, but he inherited enough of a mess that it took five years to get his career mark at Baylor above .500 (32-30).

I know what you’re thinking. We’ve left out three coaching departures that are considered some of the biggest in recent Big 12 history: Barry Switzer, Mark Mangino and Mike Leach.

Considering Switzer resigned amid a flurry of scandal and NCAA probation, and Mangino and Leach departed after allegations of player abuse, they’re not all that applicable to Brown or any current Big 12 coaches. But in the cases of Kansas and Texas Tech, who enjoyed unparalleled rises under Mangino and Leach, respectively, and haven’t been the same since, it’s another reminder that you never know what you’ll get when you let a successful coach go.
Mark Mangino was the national coach of the year at Kansas in 2007, but hasn't seen the sidelines since resigning from his position in 2009. That came amid allegations of player mistreatment and following a season that saw his Jayhawks lose their final seven games after ascending into the top 15.

This spring, Mangino's finally made it back on the sidelines. This time, he's at his alma mater, Youngstown State, coaching tight ends and serving as recruiting coordinator.

Colleague Mitch Sherman caught up with Mangino, who's in the odd position of working under 41-year-old Eric Wolford, whom Mangino coached on the offensive line at Kansas State back in the 1990s.
"Of the opportunities that were presented to me, [Youngstown State] might not have been the best-paying or the biggest program," Mangino said, "but it was the best fit."

Mangino is also healthier these days, too. From Sherman:
His wife's cancer fight provided perspective. Mangino, long overweight, said he recognized the need to address his own health.

"I'm living a healthier lifestyle now and taking better care of myself," Mangino said. "I'm not putting football ahead of myself. I've learned that's not a great idea. I still have work to do, but I feel terrific, and I'm continuing to improve in that area."

Good stuff from Sherman on a guy any Big 12 fan knows pretty well. Get caught up with an interesting figure in Big 12 history.

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