Big 12: Paul Rhoads

Iowa State on Monday named Sam Richardson its starting quarterback for the season opener.

“He’s a guy that’s in command and throwing accurate passes for us,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said.

[+] EnlargeSam B. Richardson
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsSam Richardson threw for 1,397 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Richardson beat out sophomore Grant Rohach, who started the final four games in 2013, and redshirt freshman Joel Lanning to earn the start against FCS power North Dakota State on Aug. 30. The junior signal-caller has started 10 of 14 games during his Cyclones career and enters his third season with a 57.3 Adjusted QBR, 1,938 career passing yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s arrival came at a terrific time for Richardson as the slate was wiped clean and all three quarterbacks began anew. Richardson’s accuracy won him the job and his ability to run could be a key piece of the puzzle in Mangino's offense. As the most experienced quarterback on the roster, Richardson probably gives the Cyclones their best chance to win.

During his 14 games in a Cyclones uniform, Richardson has completed more than 60 percent of his passes on four different occasions. The Cyclones went 2-2 in those games with wins over Kansas in 2012 and Tulsa in 2013. Rhoads told reporters that Richardson completed 70 percent of his passes during ISU’s last two scrimmages, a sign that Mangino’s arrival has had a positive impact.

Even with his apparent improvement, Richardson may not have a stranglehold on the starting spot. He enters the season averaging 138.4 passing yards per game and converting just 30.5 percent of his third-down passes into first downs. He will need to improve in both categories to keep his starting spot. To top it off, Richardson has won just one of his 10 starts while Rohach won two of his four starts a year ago.

Rhoads told reporters ISU will be patient with Richardson and he’s “not on a short leash” but, nonetheless, the Cyclones are unlikely to go down with the ship on the shoulders of any quarterback this fall with other quality options on the roster.
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Iowa State Cyclones:

Key returners: TE E.J. Bibbs, C Tom Farniok, WR Quenton Bundrage, CB Nigel Tribune

Key losses: LB Jeremiah George, S Jacques Washington, S Deon Broomfield

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 6 vs. Kansas State; Sept. 27 vs. Baylor; Nov. 1 vs. Oklahoma.

[+] EnlargeE.J. Bibbs
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsE.J. Bibbs and Iowa State are looking to build off of a strong finish to the 2013 season.
Projected win percentage: 39.3 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 3 1/2 wins.

Instant impact newcomers: WR Allen Lazard, WR D’Vario Montgomery. Lazard has impact freshman written all over him. Ranked No. 148 in the ESPN300, Lazard brings terrific receiving skills in a big package at 6-foot-5, 208 pounds. While the true freshman Lazard has garnered plenty of attention, South Florida transfer Montgomery could be poised to make a major impact as well.

High point from 2013: The Cyclones’ final win was their best, topping West Virginia in a 52-44 triple-overtime thriller in Morgantown, West Virginia, to end the season. Quite frankly, Paul Rhoads' team had nothing to play for against the Mountaineers yet rattled off 17 unanswered points to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Coupled with its 34-0 win over Kansas the previous game, ISU headed into the offseason with back-to-back victories.

Low point from 2013: ISU’s trip to Waco, Texas, was a nightmare, as Baylor thumped the Cyclones 71-7 in mid-October. ISU’s narrow 31-30 loss to Texas ranks a close second, but a 62-point loss to a conference foe counts as one of the biggest lows in Rhoads' tenure.

Best-case scenario for 2014: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino sparks a complete turnaround of the Cyclones’ offense, helping ISU return to a bowl game this fall. Defensively, the Cyclones see a few unknowns step up along the defensive line, helping ISU secure a home upset against either Kansas State, Baylor or Oklahoma, and stabilizing a young defense with plenty of question marks.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: ISU’s defensive front simply does not have answers and becomes a weak link in the Cyclones’ squad. Teams take advantage of this weakness and, despite an improved offensive attack, the Cyclones cannot outscore teams resulting in a second straight bowl-less campaign.

They said it: “All credit to our kids, they continue to persevere. They continue to train Sunday through Saturday and finished with two victories and currently ride a two-game winning streak going into the 2014 season, and that certainly is what we're expanding and moving forward with.” — Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads
After just a few months in Ames, new coordinator Mark Mangino is drawing rave reviews. At least from the two Iowa State offensive players who attended Big 12 media days this week.

“My first impression when I met him was, wow, this is a nice guy who genuinely cares -- contrary to some of the reasons he left KU,” said Tom Farniok, Iowa State’s four-year starter at center.

This offseason, head coach Paul Rhoads tabbed Mangino to turn around an Iowa State offense that was one of the worst in the country last season.

[+] EnlargeMark Mangino
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerNew Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino has made a positive impression on his players.
The Cyclones ranked 89th nationally in points and 107th in yards. In fact, the last time Iowa State ranked any higher than ninth in the Big 12 in scoring offense was 2005.

“I reached out to him and certainly had great respect for what he's done in our profession,” Rhoads said this week. “I coached against him in 2009, my first year as the head football coach at Iowa State. Then his proven track record as a play-caller, as a tough-guy type of coach in what he could bring to our offensive mentality that way, but at the very top of the list was the simplicity with which his offenses have had success, and that was something that our program needed.”

Mangino’s resume included a national championship as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, then an Orange Bowl victory as the head coach at Kansas.

But he had been out of coaching at the FBS level for four years after resigning at Kansas in 2009 following accusations of verbal abuse of players.

“I thought he’d be a good a coach that might be a little bit of a jerk, just based off media reports. That’s all you have. Because I had never talked to anyone who knew him or talked to him myself. That’s all you have to go off of,” Farniok said. “Then you meet the guy, and you realize he cares. He cares a lot."

That doesn't mean Mangino has gone soft.

“I mean, if you mess up, he’ll jump on you," Farniok said. "But to me, that’s how football should be coached. If you mess up, you deserve to get your butt chewed. So to me, it’s like, he’s not a jerk at all. He’s just a good guy who coaches hard. Which is what I would think is expected of everyone that coaches, to get the best out of your players.”

Tight end E.J. Bibbs agrees.

“He’s very outgoing,” he said. “People don’t see that. In film room, he’s very goofy and relaxed. He knows how to motivate players and get them ready to play for him. When he first came in, I thought he was just going to be the offensive coordinator. But when I found out he was going to be the tight end coach, it made me even more excited.

“He’s been phenomenal.”

The Cyclones have kept a lid on just exactly what the offense will look like in Mangino’s first season.

But Farniok believes that with Mangino pulling the strings for an offense that returns 10 starters, the Cyclones could -- at long last -- be in for that elusive breakout offensive season.

“Obviously, to take Kansas to an Orange Bowl victory, you have to be a smart guy,” Farniok said. “But you don’t understand how much he knows until you talk football with him. Then you’re like, ‘Oh man. This dude is on a whole new level of football knowledge.’

"We're pumped about what he's going to bring."
DALLAS -- Winning football games holds top billing in most cases, but when discussing the most important objective to college football coaches, a great recruiting class is always high on the totem pole.

The Big 12 media days on Monday and Tuesday gave coaches a chance to share their opinions on their teams, their competitors and the future of college football. It also allowed each coach to talk about the positives and negatives of recruiting.

On Monday, we started our series on the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each Big 12 team.

The premise of these fun posts is to take a look at what the season might look like if everything fell into place for each school, the best-case scenario for 2014. Conversely, we'll also show what might happen if everything goes wrong, the worst-case scenario.

We continue the series with Iowa State.

BEST CASE

Mark Mangino’s impact is felt immediately as the Cyclones put up half a hundred on North Dakota State in his first game as offensive coordinator, helping his new squad cruise to a season-opening win.

Even though the Bison have a track record of success against FBS teams, nobody pays much attention to the Cyclones' early offensive explosion.

[+] EnlargeMark Mangino
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerOne of the big wild cards for Iowa State will be the success or failure of Mark Mangino's offense.
ISU’s next four games change everything. A home victory over Kansas State starts the buzz, a road win over Iowa continues the momentum, a home upset over Baylor grabs national headlines and by the time the Cyclones secure another win at Oklahoma State, The entire nation is behind Paul Rhoads squad with national anticipation of ISU’s postgame locker room video becoming a stable of college football Saturdays in the fall.

At this point, Rhoads is tired of being proud.

A home win over Toledo cements a undefeated start halfway through the season, making Iowa State the toast of the nation.

Charlie Strong’s Longhorns didn’t get the message, though. Texas ends the Cyclones’ undefeated run in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 18 after a well-publicized pregame visit to Franklin Barbecue results in an overstuffed and sluggish performance from the Cyclones.

Rhoads implements a “no barbecue” policy throughout the program and the Cyclones rally to wins over Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia in the final five weeks of the season as the rally cry “Forget Franklin” becomes the symbol of Iowa State’s best season under Rhoads with an 9-3 record.

Cyclones fans, several of whom are sporting “Forget Franklin” shirts, show up en masse at The Alamodome for ISU’s triumph over Arizona State to cement arguably the best season in program history.

WORST CASE

Mangino’s offense looks out of sorts from Game 1 for the Cyclones.

Todd Reesing isn’t walking through that door, folks.

The Cyclones score three points in an season-opening loss to North Dakota State. Rhoads immediately calls Bill Snyder for advice on how to recover after a opening-game loss to the Bison. Snyder, thinking Rhoads is calling as some sort of ploy to get a pyschological advantage for the upcoming game between the two teams, forwards all of Rhoads' calls to a local radio station, which is left wondering about the increase in prank callers claiming to be the Cyclones’ head coach.

The result is four straight losses to K-State, Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State before Iowa State finally grabs a win against Toledo.

With Iowa State off to a 1-5 start and the Cyclones' offense averaging less than two touchdowns per game, Mangino decides to explode the offense. Iowa State runs the wishbone for the remainder of the season, shifting some of its best offensive talent into the backfield and simply handing the ball to guys like Aaron Wimberly and Quenton Bundrage. The change works in some games, helping the Cyclones to win two of its final six games, including an upset victory over Texas Tech in the snow.

Another 3-9 campaign, however, leaves the Cyclones heading into the spring of 2015 with more questions than answers. Again.

Previous posts:

June 16: Baylor
Finally, football is back. Well, fútbol, actually.

The World Cup will consume sports fan across the globe for the next month, taking us right up to the outskirts of the college football season.

Many in Big 12 country know little about the World Cup, or what team to pull for outside the United States. So to give you soccer novices a rooting choice, we’ve come up with the fútbol counterparts for every team in the Big 12 (thanks to soccer aficionados Royce and Russ for their help in putting this list together):

BAYLOR

Belgium: Baylor has been the up-and-coming squad in the Big 12, winning its first conference title last year. The Belgians are the up-and-comers of this World Cup, and a popular sleeper pick to win it all. Both have lethal offensive attacks, but still must prove their staying power this year.

IOWA STATE

South Korea: On its home soil in 2002, South Korea pulled off three of the bigger upsets in World Cup history, knocking off Portugal, Italy and Spain to reach the quarterfinals. The Cyclones under coach Paul Rhoads have also been a giant killer at home, most recently upsetting second-ranked Oklahoma State to bounce the Cowboys from the 2011 national title race. With 21-year-old forward Son Heung-min leading the charge, South Korea boasts a potentially formidable offensive attack. And with nine offensive starters back this year, Iowa State has the chance to feature its best offense in a long time.

KANSAS

Australia: Both had their finest moments around the same time -- the Aussies advancing out of its World Cup group in 2006; the Jayhawks winning the Orange Bowl in 2007 -- but the hearts of both fan bases lie in another sport (basketball for Kansas, rugby for Australia).

KANSAS STATE

Greece: Greece is not flashy. But emulating the Bill Snyder playbook to success, the Greeks grind out victories (and ties) with stout defense, fundamental play and by avoiding mistakes. Like K-State, the Greeks have been defined by their coach (Otto Graham/Fernando Santos) more than any star player. And Greece’s improbable 2004 Euro Cup title run might be the soccer equivalent of K-State’s Manhattan Miracle.

OKLAHOMA

Germany: The Germans have been the epitome of consistent success, advancing to the semifinals in eight of the last 11 World Cups. The Sooners have matched that level of consistency during the Bob Stoops era, with eight conference titles and a dozen double-digit win seasons over the last 14 years.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Portugal: In recent years, both have piled up the wins and have featured plenty of star power. But they have failed to breakthrough when the spotlight has been the brightest. Portugal’s “golden generation” flopped in the 2002 World Cup, losing to the U.S. in the opener before failing to advance out of the group stage. Oklahoma State could have clinched the 2010 and 2013 Big 12 titles, but slipped at home against rival Oklahoma. The Cowboys and the Portuguese have also had to exist in the shadow of two preeminent powers in their sports (Sooners/Spain). Still they have become two clubs nobody wants to play, and have reached enviable levels of year-to-year success.

TCU

Uruguay: Uruguay is a small country surrounded by some of the giants in World Cup soccer. The same goes for TCU, which doesn’t have the enrollments or resources of the likes of Oklahoma or Texas. But just like Uruguay, TCU has carved out success with a hardnosed style of play. Furthermore, Uruguay won the first World Cup ever played in 1930, while both of TCU’s national championships came in the same decade (1935, 1938).

TEXAS

England: All the tradition, history and resources. And yet in recent years, these two have been massive underachievers. In South Africa in 2010, the English surrendered the top seed in its group to the Yanks, then got obliterated 4-1 by Germany in the first game of the knockout round. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have failed to win more than eight regular-season games the last four seasons. Because of these struggles, both squads are flying somewhat under the radar, and the talent is still there for either to ignite a run. But first, someone -- anyone -- has to light the fuse.

TEXAS TECH

Mexico: After an emotional roller-coaster ride through the qualifying stages, Mexico is feeling optimistic following a manageable World Cup draw and cleaner play of late. Texas Tech rode the roller coaster of a five-game losing streak last season, but is feeling confident these days coming off its dominating bowl performance against Arizona State.

WEST VIRGINIA

Ivory Coast: Les Éléphants bring the fireworks with Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré the same way the Mountaineers have through the Pat White and Geno Smith eras. But while West Virginia dominated the Big East the way Ivory Coast has Africa, neither has been able to take that next step against the big boys. In its first two appearances in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, Ivory Coast failed to advance out of its group. Likewise, the Mountaineers have struggled their first two years in the Big 12. Both have the individual talents of a championship-caliber club, but neither will contend until the depth improves.

Big 12 lunch links

June, 11, 2014
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I've really enjoyed these glimpses into USA Soccer's prep for the World Cup.
The college football offseason is way too long. But we’re here to help with your suffering. With spring ball done and the season still months away, we’re giving you a taste of the 2014 season, with the long-awaited Big 12 Ultimate Road Trip series.

To those unfamiliar with this series, we both pick a game featuring a Big 12 team in every week of the season that we’d cover if the travel budget were unlimited and there were no editors telling us where to go.

We’ll be basing our choices on a number of factors, including the quality of the matchup and the stakes that could be involved. The only restriction is that each of us can pick only one game per week.

Let’s continue with Week 2.

Sept. 6

Kansas State at Iowa State
Missouri State at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma at Tulsa
Northwestern State at Baylor
BYU at Texas
Towson at West Virginia
Southeast Missouri State at Kansas
Texas Tech at UTEP

Jake Trotter’s pick: Kansas State at Iowa State

I’m intrigued by how the Longhorns might fare against BYU in their first test with Charlie Strong as coach, but when you get the opportunity to go to “Farmageddon,” well, you go.

Also the Big 12 opener for the entire conference, this tilt will quietly be a potential landmine game for the Wildcats, who justifiably have Big 12 title aspirations. Those aspirations will go right out the window with a loss to Iowa State the second week of the season.

Ames, Iowa, however, has been a difficult place to play under coach Paul Rhoads, who has masterminded a few upsets during his tenure. This Iowa State team should feature the best collection of offensive talent Rhoads has ever enjoyed, and he’ll have a proven coordinator calling the shots in Mark Mangino.

Tyler Lockett and Kansas State should be able to score points against a young, inexperienced Iowa State defense. But Bill Snyder’s defense will be put to the test, too, in what could be an early season conference thriller.

Someone save me a seat at Hickory Park.

Brandon Chatmon’s pick: Kansas State at Iowa State

Conference play already? Big 12 play gets off to an early start in Ames with plenty of intrigue.

Does Kansas State have enough playmakers to make a Big 12 title run? Did its 2013 struggles give Iowa State enough experience to make a bowl run?

This game will start to answer some of those questions.

Jake Waters and Lockett give the Wildcats one of the Big 12’s top quarterback-receiver duos, but the search for additional playmakers will continue into August. KSU’s secondary also will be under the spotlight against an ISU offense that features several top targets, including receiver Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs.

The Iowa State quarterback situation should have sorted itself out by this point, so the Cyclones could be poised to surprise if Mangino’s offense can get quality play from behind center. But it won’t matter if an inexperienced defense, particularly the defensive line, cannot hold up against the Wildcats’ physical offensive front.

The beauty of this conference game is the unsettled nature of both teams as they search for their identities early in the season, yet the familiarity of the programs with one another, thus making the outcome much harder to predict. It all combines to make a trip to Ames a perfect plan for Week 2.

Previous weeks:

Week 1: Trotter -- SMU at Baylor; Chatmon -- West Virginia vs Alabama (Atlanta)

Big 12 lunchtime links

May, 21, 2014
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"Stay down, stay down"... Come on, now, that's unnecessary.

Big 12 lunchtime links

May, 19, 2014
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"I'll send a nasty email about it." Good idea, those always work.

TCU’s future starting quarterback might have spent his spring in College Station, Texas.

It’s possible Texas' next starter hasn’t even moved to Austin yet.

And half the teams in the Big 12 still haven't officially named a starter for the 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtJ.W. Walsh showed comfort and patience this spring, emerging as the clear favorite to become Oklahoma State's starting quarterback.
But while quarterback continues to be the Big 12’s biggest moving part, the spring brought at least some clarity to the position across the league.

After losing the job last season, J.W. Walsh retook a commanding lead in Oklahoma State’s third quarterback derby in as many years.

Grant Rohach built off his strong finish last season to head into the summer as the clear frontrunner at Iowa State.

And even though Clint Trickett sat out the spring recovering from a shoulder injury, none of West Virginia’s other spring contenders could unseat him from the top of the depth chart.

Elsewhere, Kansas surprisingly named sophomore Montell Cozart as its starter days after he outshined incumbent Jake Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard in the Jayhawks’ spring game.

And Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight and Texas Tech’s Davis Webb rode the momentum of their breakout bowl performances to spring improvement.

Even the two schools with the biggest quarterback questions received some possible panaceas this spring.

Matt Joeckel, Johnny Manziel’s backup at Texas A&M the last two seasons, revealed two weeks ago that he would be transferring to TCU, where he’ll be eligible immediately. The Horned Frogs, who are installing an up-tempo offense similar to one Joeckel played in with the Aggies, ended spring with Trevone Boykin as their No. 1 quarterback, even though Boykin finished last year as a receiver.

To the south, another high-profile transfer could soon be following Joeckel to the Big 12. Since announcing he was transferring from USC, Max Wittek has visited Texas three times, including the Longhorns’ spring game. Wittek would be eligible right away as well, and with David Ash out for now with a fractured foot, Wittek could viably challenge to become Texas’ opening game starter.

Such positive developments at the most critical of positions are welcome developments for a league that struggled and juggled at quarterback through much of the 2013 season. In fact, Baylor’s Bryce Petty was the only Big 12 quarterback to start every game for his team last season.

Petty, who was on the short list of Heisman contenders until November, will again be the class of the league at quarterback.

But he should have plenty more company this season, beginning with Kansas State's Jake Waters, who improved as much as any quarterback in the country did over the course of last season. In leading the Wildcats to victories in six of their final seven games, Waters actually produced a higher Adjusted QBR rating than Petty during the same stretch.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder came away impressed with the confidence Waters carried throughout the spring, which included a crisp effort in the spring game minus his favorite receiver, Tyler Lockett, who sat out the scrimmage with a minor injury.

“He just understands things a lot better,” Snyder said. “He has gained more confidence, probably just because of going through the process of going through some growing pains.”

Both Walsh and Rohach also went through growing pains last season.

But after a jittery sophomore campaign in which he eventually lost the starting job back to Clint Chelf in October, Walsh re-established himself this spring and performed with the poise he did two years ago as a freshman to emerge as the favorite to become the Cowboys' starter again.

“J.W. has become more of a leader,” offensive tackle Daniel Koenig said after Oklahoma State’s “Orange Blitz” scrimmage. “He’s staying in the pocket more, which is good. Maybe a year or two years ago, he’d get nervous back there and start scrambling. But now he’s sitting in there and throwing.”

Rohach, who finished off the 2013 season by leading Iowa State to a come-from-behind, triple-overtime victory at West Virginia, also showed more confidence this spring, leading Iowa State on three of its six scoring drives in the spring game. Coach Paul Rhoads said he’d wait until mid-August before declaring a starter, but Rohach seems to have the clear edge over Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning heading into the summer.

"To begin [the spring], coming off that huge game against West Virginia, putting pressure on myself, my first few practices weren't very good," Rohach said. "But as spring ball went on I shrugged off those mistakes, and I think I got a lot better."

Webb and Knight also used their final performances of last season to springboard into their second springs on campus.

Webb has been especially impressive since earning MVP honors in the Red Raiders' National University Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State. In Texas Tech’s three spring open scrimmages, he tossed 13 touchdowns with no interceptions.

“He is night and day from what he was at this time last year,” Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I am really impressed with him.”

With a limited playbook and a no-contact jersey, Knight had a lackluster showing in Oklahoma’s spring game, and was actually outplayed by Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield. But behind closed practices, the Sooners liked the development they saw from their sophomore quarterback, who last torched two-time defending national champ Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

“He’s continued to make strides,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “It’s not even like he played perfect in the Sugar Bowl -- there are things he missed in that game. He’s by no means a finished product.”

The quarterback position in the Big 12 is by no means a finished product, either, coming out of the spring. But the position looks better -- and clearer -- now than it did just two months ago.

Iowa State spring wrap

May, 1, 2014
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Three things we learned in the spring about the Iowa State Cyclones:

1. The offense has pass-catchers: On top of returning tight end E.J. Bibbs, slot receiver Jarvis West and wideout Quenton Bundrage, receivers P.J. Harris, Brett Medders and South Florida transfer D'Vario Montgomery emerged this spring. Blue chip freshman Allen Lazard will also be joining the receiving corps this summer, potentially giving Iowa State its best collection of pass-catchers in years.

2. QB Grant Rohach is the favorite to start: Coach Paul Rhoads said the Cyclones will wait until mid-August before naming a starting QB. But after leading Iowa State to a pair of wins at the end of last season, then outplaying Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning in the spring game, Rohach will go into the summer as the odds-on favorite to be the starter when the Cyclones are finally ready to name one.

3. The OL should be way better: Injuries forced Iowa State to use nine different starting combinations along the offensive line last year. The silver lining? The Cyclones brought back a wealth of starting experience up front, headlined by four-year starter Tom Farniok at center, who was healthy again in the spring. This line should give new coordinator Mark Mangino a strong foundation to build around.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Can the interior of the D-line hold up? The Cyclones suffered major attrition along the defensive line this spring, as projected starters Rodney Coe and David Irving were booted off the team. The Cyclones did get some good news last week as Brandon Jensen, a starting nose guard last year, decided to rejoin the squad after initially quitting. But interior D-line play is still a major question.

2. How will Mangino impact the offense? Rhoads tabbed Mangino to turn around an Iowa State offense that finished 90th nationally in scoring last season. Rhoads was drawn to Mangino’s track record, which included taking Kansas to the Orange Bowl and coordinating a national championship attack at Oklahoma. Mangino brought energy and intensity this spring, but whether that will translate into more points will play out in the fall.

3. Who will be the defensive anchors? Under Rhoads, the Cyclones have seemingly always featured a defensive lynchpin. Last year it was All-Big 12 linebacker Jeremiah George. But with George graduated and several key players off last year’s defense gone, it’s unclear who that foundational defender will be. One possibility is cornerback Nigel Tribune, who started as a true freshman last year.

One way-too-early prediction:

Iowa State has ranked at least second-to-last in scoring offense in every year since 2005. But under Mangino and a host of budding playmakers, the Cyclones will feature their highest scoring attack since that ’05 season, and finish well above the bottom two in the league in scoring.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 30, 2014
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A couple former Big 12 stars are constantly reminded about their time at Gruden camp.
With spring ball done, we’ll be reexamining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, beginning Monday with quarterbacks. Some of these outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Baylor (pre-spring ranking: 1): After lighting up Big 12 defenses last fall, Bryce Petty thinks there’s still room for improvement going into his second and final season as Baylor’s starting QB. He spent spring break with QB guru George Whitfield working on pocket presence and completing passes in the face of the blitz. Petty connected on 62 percent of his throws last season while finishing fourth nationally in passing yards. If that completion percentage goes up by even just a little bit, look out.

2. Kansas State (2): Outside Petty, Jake Waters owns the most proven track record in the league. That speaks to the inexperience of the position in the conference, but it also speaks to the way Waters closed out last season. While quarterbacking the Wildcats to wins in six of their seven final games, he actually posted a better Adjusted Total QBR than Petty during that stretch. Even with Tyler Lockett sitting out, Waters still delivered a crisp spring game performance and seems poised for a big final season in the “Little Apple.”

3. Oklahoma (3): Trevor Knight might have been underwhelming in the Sooners’ spring game. But don’t let that be a deception. After recovering from some minor early season injuries in 2013, Knight took a major step forward late in the season, capped with a spectacular MVP performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. He’ll have to stay healthy (which was a problem his first season), and he’ll have to become more consistent with his passing accuracy. But the talent and upside is there for Knight to have a monster sophomore campaign. The Sooners still need to iron out who exactly Knight’s backup will be, especially given his penchant for getting nicked up. Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen failed to move the needle much in the spring. Blake Bell is at tight end. And Baker Mayfield, while terrific the entire spring after transferring in from Texas Tech, remains ineligible for 2014.

4. Texas Tech (4): While Knight had a lackluster spring game outing, Davis Webb had a spectacular one. Texas Tech’s lack of QB depth is scary (incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes will be the backup by default), but there’s no getting around how impressive Webb has been dating back to Texas Tech’s dominating win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Including that game and three open scrimmages in the spring, Webb threw 17 touchdowns with no interceptions. This spring, Webb showed more zip on his passes after adding close to 20 pounds of muscle. He hopes to get even stronger this summer, and has plans to train with Whitfield in May. If Webb goes down with injury, the Red Raiders will probably be toast. But if he stays upright, Tech could emerge as a dark-horse contender for the Big 12 title.

5. Oklahoma State (5): After a series of steady performances over the spring, veteran J.W. Walsh will go into the summer as the overwhelming favorite to open as the starter against Florida State. Even though he struggled with his accuracy and decision-making in 2013, the Oklahoma State coaching staff loves Walsh’s leadership, toughness and commitment. If Walsh can revert to completing passes at the rate he did as a redshirt freshman two seasons ago (67 percent), he could enjoy plenty of success. If he doesn’t, the Cowboys have a couple of other interesting options, who both had their moments in the spring. Walk-on Daxx Garman has the strongest arm on the roster. True freshman Mason Rudolph can make all the throws, too, though clearly still has a steep learning curve.

6. TCU (8): The Horned Frogs made the biggest jump on this list with the addition of transfer Matt Joeckel, who after backing up Johnny Manziel the past two seasons should be the odds-on favorite to take over as the starter. Coming from Texas A&M, Joeckel actually has the most experience among TCU’s other QBs operating the offense Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie installed during the spring. Joeckel’s arrival gives TCU the luxury to bring talented incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein along more slowly. It also allows the Horned Frogs to use Trevone Boykin the way they did last season, as a receiver and situational quarterback. With only one career start, Joeckel, of course, has much to prove. But the same goes for the majority of the league’s QBs.

7. Texas (6): The Longhorns ended spring ball with Tyrone Swoopes as their starting QB. That didn’t go well in the spring game, as Swoopes struggled mightily through most of the scrimmage. Texas could move back up the Big 12 QB rankings if USC transfer Max Wittek announces his intentions to enroll. But until he does, he can’t be counted on. Throw in David Ash’s foot injury and concussion past and true freshman Jerrod Heard’s inexperience, and Charlie Strong’s first summer in Austin figures to include plenty of QB uncertainty.

8. West Virginia (7): With Clint Trickett sitting out the spring after shoulder surgery, juco transfer Skyler Howard had ample opportunity to make a mark. Instead, the Mountaineers exited spring the way they started it -- with Trickett still atop the depth chart. A dearth of options is not coach Dana Holgorsen’s problem. Veteran Paul Millard outplayed Howard in the spring game. Logan Moore emerged after moving from receiver to QB before the spring. And four-star signee William Crest will join the fray this summer. But Holgorsen must get better QB play than he did last fall for the Mountaineers to recover from a disastrous losing season.

9. Iowa State (9): According to coach Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones’ QB competition will linger into mid-August. But Grant Rohach will go into the summer with the clear edge after outperforming Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning in the spring game. Rohach showed promise late last season, leading Iowa State to a come-from-behind, overtime victory at West Virginia in the season finale. But after furiously rotating through QBs in recent years, the Cyclones understandably want to give this derby due process to play out.

10. Kansas (10): Six of the league’s teams went into the spring with a quarterback battle. Of those, only the Jayhawks came out with an unequivocal starter. After sophomore Montell Cozart outshined Jake Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard in the spring game, coach Charlie Weis wasted little time in declaring Cozart the starter. Cozart still has a long ways to go, especially with his passing. But at least Kansas now has a young dual-threat QB with upside to build around.
The Iowa State football program already is feeling the impact of new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.

[+] EnlargePaul Rhoads
David Purdy/Getty ImagesHead coach Paul Rhoads thinks new OC Mark Mangino will have Iowa State pointed in the right direction.
After being hired in January, the former Kansas head coach just completed his first spring at the helm of the Cyclones’ offense and has amped up the atmosphere in Ames, Iowa.

“Change in itself sometimes creates energy,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. “I think it’s created energy with our guys, a real excitement about the offense.”

Change was need for a team that finished among the nation’s worst offenses in several categories, including points per game (24.8, 89th nationally), yards per play (4.82, 107th nationally) and third-down conversion percentage (34.5 percent, 100th nationally) in 2013.

Not only has Mangino infused energy into the offense, he’s engaging the players as well.

“Mark [doesn’t] hide the fact that ball-distribution is important to him and the offense,” Rhoads said. “We’ve had a lot of people get touches. The more people we have involved, the more excitement and energy you get out of practices and preparation.”

Mangino’s distribution plan was on display in the Cyclones' spring game as six receivers caught at least four passes. Rhoads understands his offense still has a long way to go.

And that journey will start with naming a quarterback.

“I would anticipate having him [a starter] named by the middle of August,” Rhoads said of the competition between Grant Rohach, Sam Richardson and Joel Lanning. “I think we still have work to do.”

Rhoads pointed to Mangino’s arrival and having a new quarterbacks coach in Todd Sturdy, who is sliding over after coaching the Cyclones receivers during the past two seasons, as reasons his team hasn’t seen a quarterback take the job and run.

“There was a lot of growth that took place through 15 practices and a lot more that has to take place,” Rhoads said.

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