Big 12: Rodney Coe

There’s a weak link on every team, but also a strength. This series will look at the strongest and weakest position groups for each Big 12 team heading into the fall.

On Tuesday, we continue the series with Iowa State.

[+] EnlargeEJ Bibbs
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesTight end E.J. Bibbs comes off a season in which he posted 39 receptions for 462 yards.
Strongest position: Receivers/tight ends

The Cyclones return the best receiver/tight end duo in the Big 12.

Receiver Quenton Bundrage has the potential to be one of the Big 12’s top receivers if he becomes more consistent catching the football with his size and big-play ability, and E.J. Bibbs could be the Big 12’s best returning tight end. That duo gives ISU a terrific 1-2 option after they combined for 87 receptions for 1,138 yards and 11 touchdowns.

ISU’s bevy of receiving targets doesn’t end there.

Jarvis West is a dynamic receiver and returner who can change games with one play. D'Vario Montgomery, a 6-foot-5 transfer from South Florida, looks like he could become a big, play-making target, and Brett Medders was one of the Cyclones’ surprises of the spring. Add ESPN 300 receiver Allen Lazard into the mix and suddenly the Cyclones' receiving corps looks like it could rank among the Big 12’s best, especially if ISU can find a quarterback who can consistently deliver the ball.

Weakest position: Defensive tackle

There's a help wanted sign hanging outside the defensive tackle meeting room.

It’s dire straits along the Cyclones’ defensive interior after defensive tackles Rodney Coe and David Irving were removed from the program, although Brandon Jensen’s return will help tremendously. Jensen, who started all 12 games but quit after the 2013 season, returned to the program shortly after spring football.

Nonetheless, defensive tackle is a major concern for the Cyclones program.

The Cyclones’ post-spring two deep featured sophomores Devlyn Cousin and Pierre Aka along with freshmen Robby Garcia and Vernell Trent, who have a combined zero starts, making Jensen’s return the best thing that happened at the position during the spring semester. ISU will add junior college signee Terry Ayeni this summer, which should help. But the defensive tackle position is clearly the Cyclones' weakest and arguably the weakest in the entire conference.
He could have been the anchor of Iowa State’s defensive interior.

Instead, former Cyclones defensive tackle Rodney Coe is searching for a new home after being dismissed from the team by ISU coach Paul Rhoads last week.

Better now than later, Cyclone Nation.

True enough, Coe brought size to the defensive line at 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds. He was emerging as a key player for Rhoads’ squad after starting the final four games of 2013 and finishing with 37 tackles, including five tackles for loss, after transferring from Iowa Western.

Yet, Coe’s explanation of his dismissal is revealing. The former Cyclone told Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register he was dismissed for breaking team rules including showing up late for meetings and not fulfilling various obligations.

“They see that as me having an attitude and putting myself before the team,” Coe told the Des Moines Register.

The junior college transfer went on to say he was surprised by his dismissal because he “didn’t think they would go to that extent.”

Why not?

For all the positives Coe brought to the table for a ISU defense surely in need of playmakers along the defensive line, keeping Coe while he didn’t live up to program expectations wouldn’t have been good for anyone. He would have continued to believe his behavior was a minor issue, his teammates would have seen a senior who didn’t seem committed to the program yet remained in the locker room alongside the guys who proved their commitment on a daily basis and the coaching staff wouldn’t have known if they could trust him to maximize his individual potential while anchoring the defense this fall.

Now, with his dismissal, Rhoads sent a message to his team that will reverberate throughout the locker room. The coaching staff can move forward with the players they currently have at defensive tackle with a focus of finding a way to make it work without him and Coe gets the opportunity to learn from his mistakes.

Let’s hope Coe lands on his feet and re-affirms his commitment to football and his academics but his dismissal from the Cyclones program could be a blessing in disguise … for all parties involved.

Big 12 lunchtime links

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
12:00
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My pick to win the Big 12 basketball tournament is looking pretty strong:
  • Ex-Iowa State DT Rodney Coe tells the Des Moines Register's Tommy Birch why he was booted off the team earlier this week.
  • West Virginia linebacker K.J. Dillon has come back bigger and stronger, writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Stephen J. Nesbitt.
  • Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury answered questions on a Reddit AMA (ask me anything). Red Raiders center Tony Morales is ready to go again after dealing with injuries throughout his career, writes the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams.
  • QB Trevor Knight has welcomed his new leadership role, according to the Tulsa World's Eric Bailey. Oklahoma's Blake Bell is not missing his blue, non-contact jersey.
  • Safety Daytawion Lowe opened some eyes at Oklahoma State's pro day, reports The Oklahoman's Cody Stavenhagen. Receiver Josh Stewart improved his numbers from the combine. The Cowboys picked up an OL commitment.
  • Former Kansas State star back Darren Sproles was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth-round pick.
  • Athlon gives its top Big 12 defensive backs of the BCS era.
  • A former Fiesta Bowl chief executive was sentenced to eight months in federal prison after acknowledging that he participated in an illegal campaign contribution scheme.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: DL

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Monday with defensive line. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the defensive lines at the moment:

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesOklahoma end Charles Tapper will lead the Big 12's best defensive line in 2014.
1. Oklahoma: D-line began as a weakness but quickly turned into a strength under first-year position coach Jerry Montgomery. End Charles Tapper was an All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore, and tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to earning similar honors before a back injury ended his season prematurely. Both players are back. So is Geneo Grissom, who had three sacks in the bowl win over Alabama. Nose guard Jordan Wade earned a starting role late in 2013, and Chuka Ndulue will be a starter for a third season. Basically, the entire rotation returns. If Phillips rebounds from the injury, this could prove to be Oklahoma’s finest D-line since 2009, when NFL All-Pro Gerald McCoy roamed the middle.

2. TCU: DE Devonte Fields, the Associated Press’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2012, had an empty season in 2013 thanks to a suspension, then a season-ending foot injury. If Fields can return to the player he was, TCU will be formidable up front. Chucky Hunter was a second-team All-Big 12 pick inside last season, and he’ll be flanked by an array of experienced tackles in Davion Pierson and Tevin Lawson, who were all part of the rotation last season. Ends Terrell Lathan, James McFarland and Mike Tuaua, who combined for 11 sacks in 2013, all return as well. Even with DT Jon Lewis giving up football, TCU's D-line figures to be as deep as any in the league.

3. Texas: Cedric Reed, one of the best sack men in the Big 12 last season, returns after giving the NFL a cursory thought. The Longhorns have to replace Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat on the other side, but ESPN 300 recruit Derick Roberson, the No. 8 DE in the Class of 2014, could help right away. The Longhorns should also be stout inside, with run-stuffing tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson back to clog the middle.

4. Kansas State: Ryan Mueller, who was eighth nationally with 11.5 sacks last season, comes back after a breakout All-Big 12 season. Travis Britz is an all-conference-caliber tackle and gives K-State one of the better one-two punches on the D-line in the league. Joining them will be Terrell Clinkscales, who was the No. 4 junior college DT in the 2014 class. The Wildcats pried Clinkscales away from Nebraska, and at 315 pounds he could be the perfect complement to Britz, who relies more on quickness.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
John Rivera/Icon SMIBaylor defensive end Shawn Oakman will play a bigger role next season.
5. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose two-time All-Big 12 tackle Calvin Barnett. James Castleman, however, will be a three-year starter, and end Jimmy Bean had a career night in the Cotton Bowl with three tackles for loss. The key to the Cowboys fielding one of the better lines in the league again will be whether Ben Hughes, Vincent Taylor and/or Vili Leveni can emerge inside after redshirting in 2013. All three are promising prospects, especially Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class.

6. Baylor: The Bears feature two of the more intriguing defensive linemen in the league. DE Shawn Oakman, a former Penn State transfer with tremendous length at 6-foot-9, finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss last season, but he tailed off in Big 12 play. Baylor will ask him to play a much bigger role along the line, and he has the potential to give the Bears a unique playmaker there. On the inside, Baylor will lean more on Andrew Billings, who was part of the DT rotation as a freshman. If both Billings and Oakman play up to their vast potential, Baylor could be a handful up front.

7. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose two of three starters along the D-line, including second-team All-Big 12 end Will Clarke. West Virginia is hoping for big things from DE Kyle Rose, who played a lot as a sophomore. Dontrill Hyman will likely fill a starting role on the other side, though he could get pushed for time by Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu, who both will be in their third year in the program. The Mountaineers will lean on Christian Brown and Darrien Howard at nose guard. Howard was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and played as a freshman. There’s some talent and potential here.

8. Iowa State: Like Texas Tech, Iowa State loaded up on immediate defensive line help, signing three juco defensive ends in Dalyou Pierson, Terry Ayeni and Gabe Luna, who is enrolled already for spring ball. Those three together with All-Big 12 honorable-mention selection Cory Morrissey and sophomore Mitchell Meyers should give Iowa State a solid rotation at end. Rodney Coe, who started the last four games, will anchor the Cyclones inside.

9. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose their two best defensive linemen in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and Tech got pushed around up front anyway last season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury recognized this deficiency and signed four juco defensive linemen, all of whom have a chance to play immediately. Of the returning linemen, Branden Jackson was by far the most productive, totaling nine tackles for loss and four sacks as a starter.

10. Kansas: Despite also losing two starters, the Jayhawks have experience up front. Defensive captain Keon Stowers is back after manning the middle in 2013. Ben Goodman returns as well in Kansas’ “buck” role, and he is coming off a very solid sophomore season. Goodman’s backup, Michael Reynolds, and rotation players Tedarian Johnson and Ty McKinney give the Jayhawks depth.
Signing day has come and gone, but we'll have plenty of coverage looking at each Big 12 team's class. This morning, we'll look at how each team filled its needs.

BAYLOR

Needs filled: Prerogative No. 1 for Baylor is fixing its defense, and the Bears are getting some help at linebacker in prep transfer Brian Nance, Raaquan Davis (No. 28 outside linebacker) and Travon Blanchard (No. 37 OLB). Future defensive tackle Andrew Billings was a home-grown talent who should compliment Javonte Magee well up front in the years to come. The Bears also need to keep the offensive machine humming. They seem to have done that with their two top signees, Robbie Rhodes, the nation's No. 3 receiver, and Chris Johnson, the nation's No. 5 dual-threat passer who coach Art Briles raved about in his signing day presser.

Holes remaining: Debate their quality all you'd like, but the Bears lost players in the secondary like Chance Casey and Mike Hicks, and cornerback Joe Williams will be a senior. There's not a lot of strength at defensive back in this class, unless Taion Sells (No. 46 safety) and Alfred Pullom (No. 67 safety) can blossom in Waco.

IOWA STATE

Needs filled: Rodney Coe comes to Ames via junior college and will try and replace some losses along the defensive line, but the biggest need for the Cyclones has been offensive playmakers. Aaron Wimberly checks in via the juco ranks at running back, but can ISU develop Texas receivers Brandon Harris and Bryan Ajumobi into major weapons at the Big 12 level?

Holes remaining: The Cyclones lost a pair of starters at linebacker and signed just one linebacker in this class, Florida native Brian Mills. Besides that, Iowa State did a nice job of bringing in big bodies along the defensive line and filling some offensive line holes, too, headlined by in-state prospect Jake Campos, who Iowa State swiped from Mizzou.

KANSAS

Needs filled: I'll be honest here, KU could use a big talent upgrade at pretty much every position on the field, other than running back. It's all about the jucos for the Jayhawks. Marquel Combs could be a major player up front to help KU stop the run and collapse pockets, but KU got a pair of big-time playmakers at receiver, too, in Ishmael Hyman and Rodriguez Coleman. Chris Martin offers another solid option as a pass-rusher. The Jayhawks also added a pair of quarterbacks in Montell Cozart and Jordan Darling.

Holes remaining: Did KU get enough high-quality linemen to replace its three lost starters? Ahongalu Fusimalohi is a juco transfer and Joey Bloomfield is the nation's No. 118 offensive tackle, but replacing solid starters like Tanner Hawkinson and Trevor Marrongelli is no easy task.

KANSAS STATE

Needs filled: K-State basically lost its entire defense from last year, so any defenders will be greatly appreciated. Four of the classes' top five signees are defenders, highlighted by inside linebacker Nick Ramirez and juco corner Nate Jackson. Inside linebacker Tanner Wood and juco defensive end Devon Nash will also help fill the Wildcats' big losses defensively.

Holes remaining: The Wildcats are solid at running back this year, but it could be looking a bit thin in the future. John Hubert will be a senior this year and Bryce Brown didn't pan out, so K-State might have used a running back in this class. It didn't happen. K-State was shut out at the position.

OKLAHOMA

Needs filled: Defensive line was the biggest one, and the Sooners grabbed two pass-rushers in the ESPN 300, D.J. Ward and Matt Dimon. Those two should pay off big, and Ward has enrolled early. Hatari Byrd also gives the Sooners an answer in the secondary while the nation's No. 3 running back, Keith Ford, helps provide solid depth at running back.

Holes remaining: Oklahoma lost Tom Wort to the NFL draft and Corey Nelson will be a senior next year, but Oklahoma didn't stock this class with a single linebacker. The Sooners don't put many traditional linebackers on the field and has converted a lot of safeties into outside linebackers, but still.

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