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Courtesy: Athletics Communications

Spring Football Preview: Offense

Release: 03/19/2012
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Editors Note: This is the third of a three-part series previewing Iowa State spring football. Links to the first and second pieces are below.

The 2012 Iowa State offense will be under the direction of Courtney Messingham, an original member of Rhoads’ Cyclone coaching staff. The former Northern Iowa quarterback is coaching the Cyclone signal-callers in addition to his coordinator duties. He made major improvements as tight ends and then receivers coach. It is obvious that head coach Paul Rhoads has confidence in Messingham.

"The objective as we go into spring ball 2012 will be developing this offense with a new coordinator in place, a new quarterbacks coach and a new wide receivers coach," Rhoads said. "There’s going to be tweaks that are going to take place, as Courtney implements his philosophy as well as his personality into the offense. The same goes for coach (Todd) Sturdy as he takes over directing our receivers.

"The overall philosophy and scheme of the program of the offense will stay the same, such as no huddle, varied pace and getting the ball in to the hands of our playmakers in as much space as we can," Rhoads added. "Courtney’s leadership will be a primary factor of this spring practice.”

Offensive Line
There are those among the departed that will be missed. Kelechi Osemele closed out his career with 45-straight starts and earned first-team All-America honors from Sports Illustrated last season. Right guard Hayworth Hicks started 23 games during his Iowa State career.

Rhoads acknowledges two major contributors have been lost, but Rhoads has felt better about depth at the position with each passing season.

"We have lost two starters from last year’s offensive line who will likely end up in the National Football League so we have to have a good mindset about replacing those guys," Rhoads said.

"In 2011, the offensive front started to emerge as an asset for our football team, especially with the amount of injuries that occurred with that group," Rhoads noted. "We were just mainly trying to plug in the holes.”

The fact is, there are a significant number of offensive linemen with playing experience. It starts at center with Tom Farniok. The 6-4, 280-pound sophomore started every game of his freshman season. Senior Sam Tautolo also saw action last season, playing in five games for the Cyclones. On the left side at tackle, senior Carter Bykowski has good size at 6-8, 303 and has played in 33 career games. Kyle Litchtenberg will battle for additional time after starting three games last season as a sophomore.

"When you look at the roster, we have a number of guys right now that have playing experience," Rhoads said. "Having guys like Bykowski, Lichtenburg, Tuftee, Farniok, (Jacob) Gannon, and (Brayden) Burris is a big plus."

Tuftee returns at left guard after starting 10 games last season and Bob Graham has the opportunity to compete for Iowa State this spring.

On the right side, Gannon, a sophomore, got a taste of college football in 2011, starting two games. Iowa State coaches are confident he will get better with more experience. Shaban Dika, who missed much of last season with a knee injury, also has a chance to play extensively this fall. Brayden Burris has 19 career starts, including seven last season. Burris was slowed by injury last season but will be full strength for spring ball. Redshirt freshmen Jamison Lalk and Brock Dagel are expected to make an impact for the Cyclones.

"Jamison Lalk, Oni Omoile and Brock Dagel come off freshman redshirt seasons and we are anxious to see what they can do competing against a higher level of competition this spring," Rhoads said. "The rest of that group gives us a real solid foundation. This may be the deepest position on the offensive side of the ball."

Offensive Line: Spring Depth
71 ***Carter Bykowski, 6-8, 303, Sr.#
69 **Kyle Litchenberg, 6-6, 294, Jr.#

64 *Ethan Tuftee, 6-4, 318, Jr.# 
78 Bob Graham, 6-5, 293, So.# 
OR 77 Oni Omoile, 6-3, 284, Fr.#

74 *Tom Farniok, 6-4, 280, So.#
67 *Sam Tautolo, 6-3, 304, Sr.
56 Ben Loth, 6-6, 296, So.#

65 *Jacob Gannon, 6-7, 286, So.#
73 Shaban Dika, 6-5, 318, So.#

79 **Brayden Burris, 6-6, 298, Sr.#
76 Jamison Lalk, 6-6, 275, Fr.#
OR 72 Brock Dagel, 6-8, 284

Tight End
The tight end as a receiving force dipped somewhat after Collin Franklin caught 54 passes in 2010.

"The tight end position needs to re-emerge as a playmaker for us to score more points, bottom line," Rhoads said.

Returnee Kurt Hammerschmidt has 18 career catches for 162 yards and one touchdown.

"Kurt Hammerschmidt returns for his senior season and with the amount of time that he’s experienced on the playing field in this league and in our program, I think he has a chance to blossom this season," Rhoads said. "He is a capable receiver and will be a physical blocker within our scheme."

Ricky Howard missed the 2011 season after an August knee injury, but has returned and puts the tight end starting job up for grabs.

"Ricky Howard comes off a knee injury that sidelined him for 2011, but he was cleared to play in February and that’s exciting," Rhoads said. "Ricky, at the time of his injury, was our most physical tight end in camp last August."

Ernst Brun redshirted last season and will get a shot this spring.

"Ernst Brun showed during bowl development practice the capacity to really be a downfield playmaker," Rhoads said.

Tight End: Spring Depth
86 **Kurt Hammerschmidt, 6-6, 271, Sr.#
84 Ernst Brun, 6-3, 240, Jr.#
OR 81 Ricky Howard, 6-4, 257, Sr.#
89 Pierce Richardson, 6-5, 238, So.#

Wide Receivers
On paper, the wide receiver position is well-stocked. Returnees Josh Lenz, Albert Gary and Jarvis West are back along with the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, Aaron Horne. Iowa State did lose Darius Reynolds, who left behind 81 career receptions for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns. In addition, gone is Darius Darks, one of the most prolific receivers in school history. He departed Iowa State with 127 career catches for 1,346 yards and seven TDs.

"This position has slowly climbed to a spot where this offense needs it to be," Rhoads said.

The Cyclone receivers will have a new position coach this season in Todd Sturdy, the former offensive coordinator at Washington State.

"I am hoping in 2012 that our wide receivers emerge as a group that can finish plays off," Rhoads noted. "I want better than steady performances. As always, you want to increase your completion percentage. You do that by catching every pass that is thrown to you."

A key performer in the second half of the 2011 season was Gary. The junior did not catch a pass in the first seven games of the season, but grabbed 21 balls in the last five contests. He finished the season with 23 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think Albert Gary was playing as well as any receiver we had as the 2011 season was coming to a close," Rhoads said.

Horne exceeded all expectations. A teammate of Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz at City College of San Francisco, Horne made 38 receptions for 431 yards and was Iowa State’s most fearsome big-play performer. The senior had four plays of 40 or more yards last season.

“Aaron Horne comes off a first year in which he tackled newcomer of the year honors and I think has a chance to be another playmaker in the group,” Rhoads said.

Lenz, like Horne a dependable kick and punt returner, is back for his senior season. Lenz has made a career out of big plays and his loss due to injury in last year’s win over Oklahoma State put more pressure on Iowa State’s wideouts for the rest of the season. The Dubuque native starts the 2012 season with 73 career catches for 866 yards and four TDs.

"I am glad to have Josh Lenz back and healthy,” Rhoads said. "I was talking to (Oklahoma head coach) Bob Stoops and he told me losing Josh really hurt our football team late in the season."

Senior Chris Young, who made six receptions for 68 yards and a score, is back.

"Chris Young is a junior college player who is in his third year with us," Rhoads stated. "When you get a guy who is a third-year former junior college player, you have a chance to really gain some production."

Jarvis West was a hit with Rhoads as a pass catcher and as a kickoff returner. West had 25 catches for 141 yards last season and his head coach expects even more from his diminutive standout in 2012.

There are newcomers worth touting. Quenton Bundrage, Tad Ecby and Ja’Quarious Daniels will get a look this spring after redshirting last season. The wildcard is former quarterback Jerome Tiller. The senior, who sat out all of last season, will make a transition to wide receiver during spring football.

"Our fans saw glimpses of Jarvis West’s big-play ability last season," Rhoads said. "When you add Quenton Bundrage, Tad Ecby and Ja’Quarius Daniels, you have another group on the offensive side of the ball that is deep and talented. Jerome Tiller is making the switch from quarterback to wide receiver and we will be excited to see what he can produce."

Wide Receiver: Spring Depth
19 ***Josh Lenz, 6-0, 194, Sr.
15 *Chris Young, 5-11, 197, Sr.#
6 Tad Ecby, 6-0, 201, Fr.#

18 *Albert Gary, 5-10, 196, Jr.#
3 *Aaron Horne, 5-9, 178, Sr.
5 Ja’Quarius Daniels, 6-3, 227, Fr.#

1 *Jarvis West, 5-7, 165, So.#
9 Quenton Bundrage, 6-2, 184, Fr.#
OR 11 **Jerome Tiller, 6-3, 204, Sr.#

Running Back
James White made a big splash at tailback last season. A season-ending neck injury to Shontrelle Johnson in the fourth game of the 2011 campaign put more pressure on White to produce and he did so diligently. The junior earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors, gaining 743 yards on 159 carries and rushing for eight touchdowns. White had two 100-yard games with a 148-yard effort at Baylor and 138 at Texas Tech. White’s first touchdown reception was on a wheel route for Iowa State’s first overtime score in its win over No. 2 Oklahoma State. It was hard to believe that the versatile White, who caught 21 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown last season had only five carries before the start of the 2011 season.

Rhoads says that White won’t have to shoulder the rushing load by himself.

"Running back is a position that a number of players are always going to play, that certainly was the case in 2011 and won’t be any different in 2012," Rhoads said. "James White will lead the way on to the spring practice field for us. James gave the fans a lot of excitement in 2011. I saw him squat 500 pounds back in the weight room and that is a heck of an accomplishment for a guy his size. Someone once described (former Iowa State back) Troy Davis as a ‘pocket Hercules.’ James White is close to that."

Fifty years from now, Iowa State fans will still know the name Jeff Woody. The former Southeast Polk standout literally spun the most memorable performance of the Oklahoma State victory. In the second overtime, Woody banged his way to the end zone on runs of 6, 15 and 4 yards as the Cyclones beat the Cowboys, 37-31 before a national TV audience.
Woody came on strong late in the 2011 season rushing 61 times for 317 (5.2 yards per carry) in the last six games of the year. His size (6-1, 245) makes him hard to stop. Iowa State’s most secure ball-handler scored six times last season.

"Jeff Woody started slow in 2011, but certainly finished with a bang," Rhoads said. "I expect him to pick up where he left off at the conclusion of the 2011 season."

There are talented newcomers in the mix. DeVondrick Nealy and Rob Standard have impressive prep credentials and earned Rhoads’ confidence while redshirting last season. Walk-on Tyler Leo has also raised the eyebrows of the coaching staff.

"Both DeVondrick Nealy and Rob Standard are both having excellent off-seasons," Rhoads said. "They are backs that catch the ball well and make people miss. Tyler Leo has been a very steady performer for us on special teams and is a hard runner himself."

The wildcard at tailback is Johnson. The shifty speedster had 18 carries for 108 yards in the Iowa win before suffering the neck injury against Texas that keeps him from participating in spring football. Recovery has gone well but his status will not be determined until the summer.

Running Back: Spring Depth
8 *James White, 5-8, 187, Jr.#
21 (*Shontrelle Johnson, 5-9, 196, Jr.)
32 **Jeff Woody, 6-1, 245, Jr.#
20 DeVondrick Nealy, 5-10, 180, Fr.#
10 Rob Standard, 5-10, 187, Fr.#

There is little to separate the 2011 contributions of Iowa State quarterbacks Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett. Both quarterbacked the Cyclones to three key victories. Iowa State would not have traveled to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl without either quarterback. Both had monster games in key overtime victories. Hence, the two start spring football with an equal chance of being the starting quarterback in 2012.

Jantz won the starting job last season after coming to Ames from City College of San Francisco. He led the Cyclones to a win over Northern Iowa, running in the game-winning touchdown from one yard out as Iowa State prevailed, 20-19.

The performance set the stage for one of the greatest games ever played by a Cyclone quarterback. The following week against intrastate rival Iowa, Jantz was the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week after leading the Cyclones on four consecutive touchdown drives, three in overtime to lead the Cyclones to a dramatic 44-41 three-overtime win over archrival the Hawkeyes.

Jantz made three critical third-down conversions late, including a third-and-15 and third-and-20. He then rushed for 2 yards on a fourth-and-1, before throwing a four-yard strike to Darks, all on a 13-play, 59-yard drive to tie the game with 1:17 left in regulation. Jantz, in just his second collegiate start, hit on 25-of-37 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 42 yards to compile 321 total yards. Jantz' single game QB rating was 166.58.

Jantz led the Cyclones to a win at Connecticut the following week but rolled his ankle in the 24-20 win. Iowa State lost its next four games. Rhoads turned to Barnett, who had begun fall camp as the No. 3 quarterback.

In his first start, at No. 19 Texas Tech, Barnett hit on 14-of-26 passes for 144 yards and one score while rushing for 92 yards on 19 carries and another TD. Iowa State scored a 41-7 victory, the biggest win over a ranked opponent on the road in school history.

His signature game would be the biggest win in school history, the 37-31 double overtime victory over Oklahoma State at Jack Trice Stadium. He put up big numbers, hitting on 31-of-58 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Barnett also rushed 14 times for 84 yards. His 460 yards of total offense vs. OSU ranks third in Iowa State single-game history.

This spring, Rhoads looks for consistency from his experienced field generals.

"Accuracy is something we desperately need on every play and every performance when we are throwing the football," Rhoads said. "I am anxious to see what the off-season development and what the new tutelage from coach Messingham will provide these guys. We are a year older and we should be a year better at the position."

Former quarterback Jerome Tiller has moved to wide receiver, but redshirt freshman Sam Richardson is ready for his collegiate debut. Iowa State’s coaches liked what they saw of the 6-2, 204-pound Floridian.

"I would expect Sam Richardson to compete and to show up in his first freshman spring," Rhoads said.

Quarterback: Spring Depth
2 *Steele Jantz, 6-3, 224, Sr.
OR 7 *Jared Barnett, 6-1, 199, So.#
12 Sam Richardson, 6-2, 204, Fr.#
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