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Courtesy: Athletics Communications

2010 Spring Football Outlook

Release: 03/25/2010
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AMES, Iowa - In his first meeting with his new team in January of 2009, Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads told his Cyclones they were going to win a bowl game. His players were somewhat taken aback. ISU had lost its last 10 games in 2008 and hadn’t had a winning season or gone to a bowl game in four years. But Iowa State’s players followed their leader to a 7-6 record that included a 14-13 win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

The final results could not have been better. The Cyclones tied Washington as the most improved BCS teams nationally with five more wins than the previous season.

The seminal moment of the season was a 9-7 win at Nebraska, accomplished by an Iowa State team that played without its starting quarterback or running back.  It was ISU’s first win in Lincoln in 32 years.

The video of Rhoads’ emotional talk with his team after the win over Nebraska became a staple highlight nationally. It had been viewed 235,000 times on YouTube by season’s end. The key moment was when Rhoads told the team that he was proud to be their football coach.  Iowa State fans feel the same way about Rhoads, the first ISU coach to post a winning season in his inaugural Iowa State season since 1931.  A first-year Cyclone coach had not won seven games since Clyde Williams in 1907.

Now, Rhoads enters spring football looking to build on that success with eight returning starters on offense and four on defense.

“I think that the first thing that you capitalize on is winning the bowl game,” Rhoads said. “It feeds into the workouts as kids are confident in what they are being coached to do. They see and feel the improvements and it helps us heading into spring football.”

On offense, the unit will rally around senior quarterback Austen Arnaud and tailback Alexander Robinson. Iowa State took a big step forward in its rushing game last season with Robinson becoming the first ISU back to rush for more than 1,000 yards since 2004. Robinson compiled 1,195 yards on the ground despite missing the Nebraska game, most of the Kansas State setback and parts of other games because of a groin injury. He rushed for 100 or more yards against Iowa, Kent State, Army, Kansas, Colorado and Minnesota. Arnaud threw for 2,015 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009, while completing 58.7 percent of his passes. Four lineman return and the 2010 receiving corps includes six pass catchers who caught at least one pass per game last season for offensive coordinator Tom Herman.

“I think that the immediate connotation attached to a spread offense is throwing the ball around the yard,” Rhoads said. “The 2009 Iowa State version involved a little more run than pass. It controlled the game and didn’t involve a lot of down the field big-play type passes. I think we will continue to evolve with what our spread offense is. It is safe to say that we would never go away from the running game being a very big part of the offense.”

According to Rhoads, further progress offensively this season will depend on attention to detail.

“If we are more precise with our timing, more precise with our blocking, more precise with our throwing and running then big plays will begin to happen more frequently in the offensive system,” Rhoads said. “That is one of the things that we sorely lacked last season and that’s one of the things that will add up to one of the most important stats of all, and that is points. Yards are not the ultimate factor. We have got to score more points especially in this conference.”

Iowa State made huge strides on defense last season under defensive coordinator Wally Burnham.  The Cyclones tied for the second-best defensive performance nationally in the redzone.  Rhoads’ team allowed 21.85 points per game, ranking 34th nationally.  Last year’s total was a seismic improvement over 2008 when the Cyclones ranked 110th nationally, allowing 35.83 points per game. Iowa State’s defense tied for second in the FBS with national champion Alabama, just behind leader Nebraska in red zone defense.  ISU clearly fit the “bend but don’t break” philosophy as an opportunistic defense. Iowa State defense ranked 34th nationally and fourth in the Big 12 in turnover margin.  The Cyclones forced eight Nebraska turnovers in its win over the Cornhuskers.

“Wally Burnham-coached defenses are always thinking take-a-way,” Rhoads said. “In 2009 we created a high number of fumbles and had an adequate number of interceptions. We were aggressive and opportunistic in the red zone at capitalizing on turnovers. The number one defensive goal is not allowing the fewest yards. The goal is to allow the fewest points. We greatly decreased those numbers a year ago. You can allow a team to drive the ball 80 yards and if you can hold a team to three or zero points you just played effective defense. We did that on a number of occasions in 2009. Now we would like to maintain that and decrease the number of yards we are giving up both in throwing and running the football.”

The heart of that 2009 defense, first-team all-Big 12 middle linebacker Jesse Smith, has moved on.  But David Sims, the 2009 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, returns after making five interceptions last season.  The biggest work this spring will be retooling the linebacker corps as the three 2009 starters have graduated.

The schedule is not easy. Eight 2009 bowl teams are on the slate, including a four-week stretch in which ISU faces Texas Tech, Utah followed by road games at Texas and Oklahoma.


4 ***Austen Arnaud, 6-3, 226, Sr.#  2,015 yards passing, 561 rushing; 22 TD pass/rush 2009
11 *Jerome Tiller, 6-2, 193, So.# Led ISU to a win at Nebraska in first career start
12  James Capello, 5-11, 200, Fr.#  Lebanon, Pa. native, redshirted 2009

Consider: 2009 marked Austen Arnaud’s third offensive system in his four seasons at Iowa State. He has thrown for 5,074 career yards. He is currently third on the all-time ISU total offense list with 6,054 yards. Arnaud’s mobility and toughness give the Cyclones a second rusher in the backfield at any given time. Arnaud ran for a career-high 84 yards against Kansas State. He has run or passed for 41 touchdowns in his career.

“Austen is a man when he runs the football,” Rhoads said. “He is very rarely brought down by one person. He fights for extra yards. He is a very effective runner as a quarterback. I think Austen has great leadership skills. He has one of those infectious, ever enthusiastic attitudes. Guys see that he means it. It comes from the heart. That is an important quality from the leader of the football team. He has plenty of ability to throw the ball. There is arm strength there and there is ability to throw the ball on target. He just needs to continually prove it.”

Backup Jerome Tiller stepped in when Arnaud was hurt last season, throwing a TD pass to lead Iowa State to its win at Nebraska in his first career start. The junior set a career best with 74 rushing yards against Baylor, including a 20-yard scramble for a touchdown.

“Jerome has come a long way in his mechanics of throwing the football,” Rhoads said. “Where Jerome needs the most improvement is his understanding of our offensive system and everybody’s role. I was watching highlights from the 2009 season and saw a number of plays Jerome made when he was filling in for Austen. He can be an electric type of player. He has different gifts than Austen in running the ball.”

James Capello will also test his wares this spring after a prep career in which he threw for 2,963 yards 31 touchdowns in Lebanon, Pa. en route to Pennsylvania Class AAA Player-of-the Year honors in 2008.

“James Capello goes into the spring as our most accurate thrower,” Rhoads said. “That is a pretty important trait when it comes to the quarterback position. He will have the opportunity to perform in 15 practices and prove whether he deserves attention for playing time or not. He provides your third running style. He is large, he is shorter, and he has changed his body since he arrived. He runs the football, gains 12 yards and moves the sticks. In the end production is what matters.”

Running Back
33 ***Alexander Robinson, 5-9, 186, Sr.#  1,195 rush yards in 2009; six 100-yard games
42 Beau Blankenship, 5-8, 200, So. Native of Norman, Okla.
22  OR James White, 5-8, 182, Fr.# redshirted 2009 season, from Dallas, Texas

Robinson averaged 5.2 yards a carry last season. His career total of 2,363 rushing yards ranks him 10th in ISU history.  Robinson is an adept receiver and has 57 career receptions for 588 yards. An honorable mention all-Big 12 selection, he is the 13th player in ISU history to have at least 2,000 career rushing yards.

“A-ROB is a great weapon, he is moving faster now in the offseason than he was a year ago,” Rhoads said. “Certainly the health of your running back is always a concern. We will probably be somewhat protective as we go through spring drills. We won’t hold him out of anything, but we will be protective because I think he is one of the best in the Big 12 and if that is the case then he is probably one of the better backs in the country. He has a great grasp of our system and it is never more apparent than when watching him help the younger kids in bowl preparation. He not only knows the big picture but he knows the little things as well. That is what makes him a great all-around player.”

Beau Blankenship probably would have had some carries last season but missed several games with injury and was limited to special teams work. James White, out of Skyline High School in Dallas, redshirted the 2009 season and will get a long look this spring.

“I am excited to evaluate James White as he comes off of his redshirt campaign,” Rhoads said. “He has the ability to jump around and move around very quickly, leaving people grasping nothing but air. I think he has a chance to really add to our quality of depth at running back. I think Jeff Woody is a player that we are going to keep a good eye on because of what he showed us as a scout team back last year. He has good speed and is very strong. Then you throw in Beau Blankenship and Bo Williams and I think we have a somewhat stocked position at running back.”

Left Tackle
72 **Kelechi Osemele, 6-5, 327,  Jr.# Started all 13 games of 2009 season; 2nd team All-Big 12/AP
69 Kyle Lichtenberg, 6-5, 261, Fr.# Native of Bettendorf, Iowa

Left Guard
77 **Alex Alvarez, 6-2, 300, Sr.# Started all 13 ISU games of 2009
61 Jon Caspers, 6-4, 291, Jr. Junior college transfer

63 ***Ben Lamaak, 6-4, 315, Sr.# Former HS QB; Made 13 starts at right guard last season
50 *Sean Smith, 6-4, 294, Sr.# Saw action in two games last season

Right Guard
51 **Scott Haughton, 6-3, 337, Jr. Has started last 17 games
70 Drew Davis, 6-8, 337, So.# Dubuque native

Right Tackle
79 *Brayden Burris, 6-6, 276, So.# Made first start at Texas A&M last season
76 Zack Spears, 6-5, 283, Jr. Native of Arp, Texas

Not only did the Iowa State offensive line open holes for the running game last season, it helped keep quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Jerome Tiller on their feet. The Cyclones gave up only 16 quarterback sacks in 2009, third fewest in the Big 12 to rank 21st nationally.

The Iowa State offensive line stayed intact through much of last season. The Cyclones had the same starting five on the offensive line in 12 of the team’s 13 games, with first-team all-Big 12 center Reggie Stephens missing a start against Texas A&M after having an appendectomy.

Left tackle Kelechi Osemele earned second-team all-Big 12 honors last season. Stephens has graduated but Ben Lamaak, a three-year starter, moves over from guard to make snaps this season.  Alex Alvarez has played some center in his career but is more comfortable at guard. Iowa State’s coaches believe Haughton has a promising upside as he gains more experience. Brayden Burris made one start last season. The key for the future will be to develop great depth with Sean Smith, Drew Davis, Trey Baysinger and Zack Spears among the contenders to be in the rotation.

“We have four out of five starters returning and you have a number of capable players either coming off of redshirt seasons or who played back-up roles and contributed to our football team,” Rhoads said. “We were very vulnerable in 2009 because the offensive line was very thin from a quality standpoint. I think that Ben Lamaak is in a capable position of replacing Reggie as our center. Alex Alvarez also played center a year ago and could fill that void if needed. Brayden Burris is a young man we are very excited about as he comes off a redshirt freshman season. We will just have to see where some of these younger players figure into the team picture.”


Wide Receiver
2 **Sedrick Johnson, 6-3, 211, Jr. 25 rec., 224 yards, 3 TDs in first two collegiate seasons
7 *Darius Reynolds, 6-1, 203, Jr. Caught 13 passes for 72 yards before fourth game injury last season
12 Donnie Jennert, 6-6, 191, Fr.# Redshirted 2009 season, from St. Cloud, Fla.

Wide Receiver
83 **Jake Williams, 6-1, 206, Sr.# 36 rec. 403 yards, 5 TDs in 2009
89 Keith Blanton, 5-11, 199, Fr.# Garland, Texas native

Wide Receiver
6 **Darius Darks, 6-0, 188, Jr.   Set ISU freshman mark with 49 catches in 2008; 28 catches in 2009
19    *Josh Lenz, 5-11, 190, So. 20 catches for 186 yards in 2009; returned punts and kickoffs

Tight End
88 **Collin Franklin, 6-5, 241, Sr.# 33 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns in ISU career
86 Kurt Hammerschmidt, 6-5, 251, So.# Chesterfield, Mo. native
81 Ricky Howard, 6-2, 244, Jr. Junior college transfer from Hespiria, Calif.

Arnaud and offensive coordinator Tom Herman spread out the Cyclone offensive attack to the point that 11 different receivers caught a pass last season. Among the returners is senior Jake Williams.  Williams made several key TD receptions last season, including a scoring catch of 47 yards from Jerome Tiller that was the difference in the Cyclone win at Nebraska. He leads all returnees with 36 catches for 403 yards and five touchdowns. Darius Darks set a freshman record in 2008 with 49 receptions. Fighting injury in 2009, he had 21 catches for 255 yards and a TD in the final five games of the season.

“If ever there is a guy on the team that could be described as steady-handed, it is Jake Williams,” Rhoads said. “The offensive coaches pounded the table a year ago for a scholarship for him saying that he just shows up and does his job. I finally was convinced of that and was more convinced as the season wore on. He brings his lunch pail and hard hat every day and gives you a full-time clock worth of work. We expect him to continue to do that. I think Darius Darks is making necessary physical improvement, changing his running style to keep his hamstring healthy. That hamstring injury dated back to last spring and fall cost him a lot of preparation time. Learning and executing that new offense and the execution put Darius behind. I think you started to see the reemergence of his abilities as the season wore on and we count on him being fully healthy, not missing practice time due to nagging injuries.”

Iowa State took another injury hit last season when Darius Reynolds went down in the fourth game of the season. At the time, Reynolds led the Cyclones with 13 receptions for 72 yards.  His return to the team will be monitored this spring. Josh Lenz was a hit as a true freshman, making 20 catches for 186 yards. Junior Sedrick Johnson made seven receptions after sustaining an injury early in last season’s first game.

“Darius Reynolds emerged through fall camp as as our best playmaker, but I don’t think he ever got on track in the first four games,” Rhoads said. “Sedrick Johnson got hurt early last season. He can be a great weapon.”

One of the biggest gaps to fill this season comes with the departure of tight end Derrick Catlett, who made 29 receptions for 301 yards and two touchdowns last season. Catlett’s blocking ability will also be missed. Senior Collin Franklin has made 33 receptions in his first two Cyclones seasons and will battle junior college newcomer Ricky Howard who will be on campus for spring football. Kurt Hammerschmidt will also battle for playing time.


21 **Grant Mahoney, 6-0, 168, Jr. Good on 59-63 career PATs; hit 30-of-45 career FG, long of 52
25 Zach Guyer, 6-3, 189, Jr. Urbandale, Iowa, native

16 Daniel Kuehl, 5-11, 199, Sr.# Backup in 2009
14  Chad Powell, 5-10, 200, So.#  Reserve

Kickoff/Punt Returners
23 **Leonard Johnson, 5-10, 194, Jr. Set NCAA mark with 319 KR yds vs. OSU in 2008
19 *Josh Lenz, 5-11, 190, So. 44-yd. PR against Army; 56-yard kickoff return vs. OSU in 09
1 *David Sims, 5-9, 209, Sr. Broke off 60-yard kickoff return; averaged 23.7 yards on 18 returns
7 Darius Reynolds, 6-1, 203, Jr. Medical hardship in 2009

Deep Snapper
46 **Dakota Zimmerman, 6-1, 221, Jr. Two-year starter

8 Brett Bueker, 6-3, 234, So.# Native of Bettendorf

Iowa State’s strongest unit may have been its special teams last season. The Cyclones had standouts at punter, kicker and return positions. The battle for punter won’t be settled until the fall.

Placekicker Grant Mahoney has made 59-of-63 career-extra point attempts and is 30-of-45 on field goals in his ISU career, connecting on a long field goal of 52 yards in the win over Nebraska. He was one of four kickers nationally (NCAA-FBS) with at least three field goal makes from 50 yards or more in 2009.

“Consistency will be a word that Grant will become tired of hearing come out of my mouth as we move through the spring,” Rhoads said. “We want to take his abilities and get them more consistent moving forward.”

Return specialist Leonard Johnson is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. As a true freshman, he ranked 19th nationally, averaging 26.4 yards per kickoff return. Johnson ran his way into the record books with an NCAA FBS record 319 kickoff return yards against Oklahoma State in 2008.

“Special teams will always be important here,” Rhoads said. “This year we have to become more productive. We have got to get a couple breakouts in both our punt and kick returns this year. I think we can do that and that special teams will receive great attention during spring drills. Our kickoff and punt cover teams were among the best in the country and we have a sense of pride that has been instilled in all our special teams.”

True freshman Josh Lenz earned punt return duties during fall camp and had a 44-yard return against Army to set up a score. He returned a kickoff 56 yards against Oklahoma State and averaged 28.2 yards on eight kickoff returns. Iowa State’s punt coverage team ranked fourth nationally last season, allowing just 2.19 yards per return.


Left End
91 **Patrick Neal, 6-0, 227, Jr.# Nine starts in 2009, making 27 tackles and a sack; played TE in 2008
90 Cleyon Laing, 6-3, 266, So.# Played in five game with two tackles
50 Willie Scott, 6-1, 214, Fr.# Played at Jones High School in Orlando, Fla.

Defensive Tackle
96 **Austin Alburtis, 6-2, 269, Sr.# 26 tackles and interception, 3.5 TFL in ISU career
94 Jake McDonough, 6-5, 270, So.# Appeared in one game last season
26  OR **Taylor Mansfield, 6-1, 253, Sr.# Played in every game over the last two seasons on special teams

Nose Guard
85 **Bailey Johnson, 6-2, 279, Sr.# Started last eight games; 22 tackles in 2009; 3 TFL
97 **Stephen Ruempolhamer, 6-3, 280, Jr. 20 tackles in 2009; 2 TFL, 1 sack; born in Holland
98  OR *Jerrod Black, 6-0, 279, Jr.# Native of Houston, Texas

Right End
29 **Rashawn Parker, 6-0, 250, Sr.# Knee injury ended 2009 season; 86 career tackles, 8 sacks
38    *Roosevelt Maggitt, 6-1, 242, So.# Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2008; 14 tackles in 2009
93  OR Aaron Moore, 6-2, 244, Fr.# Native of Frisco, Texas 

Rashawn Parker returns after getting a medical hardship. Parker, a four-year starter, was injured in the fourth game of the 2009 season. He owns 86 career tackles dating back to the 2006 season opener. Parker’s return softens the blow Iowa State suffered with the departure of end Christopher Lyle. Lyle got better and better last season and led ISU with 13 tackles for loss, five sacks and was the defensive MVP of the Insight Bowl. Patrick Neal started nine games in part because of Parker’s injury last season, making 27 tackles. Cleyon Laing saw limited action last season, Roosevelt Maggit, made 14 tackles in 2009 and redshirt freshman Aaron Moore will contend for playing time at end. Willie Scott is also in the mix at defensive end.

“I am very excited to have Rashawn Parker back for an extra year.,” Rhoads said. “He was really playing very well before he got hurt and having him back is very important as we lose two other starters on our defensive front. Ray brings leadership and he brings maturity to that room that is very much needed. We have young guys coming off of redshirt who need to learn what it takes to be successful at this level of collegiate football. I think Patrick Neal did a great job as he became a starter through injury last year. He is one guy who truly gives it up every day for the football team. Willie Scott is another guy that we can’t wait to see this spring on the field.”

Four-year starter Nate Frere has departed at defensive tackle and Austin Arburtis will step into the position this season. Alburtis has 26 career tackles. Jake McDonough is expected to challenge for playing time with Taylor Mansfield, who has played on both sides of the ball at Iowa State.

Bailey Johnson started the last eight games and had 22 tackles last fall. Stephen Ruempolhamer has game experience and Jerrod Black is back from injuries that have so far limited his career.

“You can’t play great defense without playing well on the defensive front. The front starts from the inside out with the defensive tackles. If our opponents can line up and run the ball in between the tackles then they can do just about anything that they want. We have to improve on our ability to be playmakers with our defensive tackles. It can’t be good enough to just be in your spot. We have to be able to get off of blocks and make plays. We are a year older and that should equate to being a year better, more productive. They all have considerable playing time, which should help that threesome to improve. We have other guys gaining weight and getting healthy. Jake McDonough is now healthy and has the ability to help our football team.”


SAM Linebacker
47   *A.J. Klein, 6-1, 237, So. 17 tackles last season, recovered Kent State fumble
48 Jacob Lattimer, 6-2, 244, Jr.# Saw limited action last season

MIKE Linebacker
45 Matt Tau’fo’ou, 5-10, 246, Jr.#. Saw action in two games
59 **Preston Kaufman, 5-11, 233, Sr.# Seven tackles last season 

WILL Linebacker
20 *Jake Knott, 6-2, 237, So. 6 tackles vs. Kent State and Baylor; 23 tackles last season
44 Kevin Hamlin, 6-3, 197, So.# Native of Jupiter, Fla.

The linebacking corps will be getting a complete makeover after the graduation of Jesse Smith (305 career tackles), Fred Garrin (174 career tackles) and Josh Raven (81 career tackles). Several individuals with limited experience will be vying for starting spots this fall. Of the returnees, sophomores A.J. Klein and Jake Knott have seen the most action. As true freshmen, Knott made 23 tackles last season and Klein made 17. Matt Tau’fu’ou and Preston Kaufman are back along with Jacob Lattimer and Kevin Hamilton.

“I think we are going into spring with no guarantees at linebacker,” Rhoads said. “I think we have the potential to play the nickel system, which only needs two linebackers. I think A.J. Klein will work at the MIKE linebacker spot. Preston Kauffman gives us experience there and Anthony Pritchard has joined our program and I am very impressed with how he runs around. I would like nothing more than a surprise there to give us depth at our thinnest spot on our team. Guys like Jake Knott, Jake Latimer and Kevin Hamlin, may play SAM or WILL. We would like to be able to bounce guys around to maintain the best players on the field. I think it will be wide open and very competitive at the position as we go through spring drills.”


Left  Cornerback
22 **Ter’ran Benton, 6-0 197, Jr. Returned to start Insight Bowl after breaking leg at Nebraska
5 *Jeremy Reeves, 5-7, 167, So. Saw action in 11 games last season, making 13 tackles
21 Jansen Watson, 5-9, 180, Fr.# Native of Kissimmee, Fla., redshirted last season 

Right Cornerback
23 **Leonard Johnson, 5-10, 194, Jr. Freshman All-American; 64 tackles and two interceptions in 2009
4 Anthony Young, 5-8, 174, Jr. Ontario, Calif. native, played at Palomar CC

Strong safety
1 *David Sims, 5-9, 209, Sr. Coaches’ Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year
  Five interceptions, 88 total tackles 2009
3      ***Zac Sandvig, 5-10, 192, Sr.# Made 32 career tackles; blocked a Baylor punt in 2009
10 Jacques Washington, 5-11, 200, Fr.# Owasso, Okla. native

Free safety
37    **Michael O’Connell, 5-11, 207, Sr.# 65 career tackles; career-high 11 stops at Texas A&M
17 Earl Brooks, 5-10, 191, Jr.# Deerfield Beach, Fla. native
14  Deon Broomfield, 5-11, 180, Fr.# Palm Bay, Fla. native

The secondary is the most experienced component of the Iowa State defense. Terran Benton made 41 tackles in nine games last season. The junior also made two sacks.  Benton suffered a broken leg in the Nebraska victory. He was able to come back and play in the Insight Bowl, in which he made five tackles, one for loss. Benton also recovered the fumble that ended a Minnesota drive to ice ISU’s 14-13 Insight win.

Leonard Johnson made a big splash as a true freshman as a defender and as a kick returner. The junior already has 111 career tackles, four interceptions, forced five fumbles, recovered four fumbles with three tackles for loss. At corner, sophomore Jeremy Reeves has some experience. One of three junior college transfers in spring football, cornerback Anthony Young, will get a long look.

“Leonard Johnson is a very skilled athlete but to be a great cornerback you need to know all the things that go with it,” Rhoads said. “I count on him to learn that and I count on (ISU secondary coach) Bobby Elliott to teach him that as we go through spring drills. I have no doubts that Jeremy Reeves has all of the makings to be a great defensive back. Anthony Young is a young man who we signed and counted on to come in and give us immediate help in the secondary and at the cornerback position. There you have four guys that give us excellent depth and abilities. Janson Watson could end up being a corner, a nickel, or even a safety when it’s all said and done. His growth will be key to some of the things we do as a secondary because of the multitude of positions he can play. I put Jacques Washington in that same group. We must figure out the roles these two guys are going to play in 2010.”

Sims had a great season at strong safety last fall, making 88 tackles. He made some of the biggest plays of the season. Senior Zac Sandvig has 32 career tackles. Free safety Michael O’Connell made 43 tackles last season and made a key interception in the Nebraska win. Earl Brooks will compete with O’Connell this fall.

“We need David Sims to play at an all Big 12 level,” Rhoads said. “He showed maturity at how he has approached the offseason. I think Mike O’Connell will settle in and give us depth at the safety position. We know he will play a lot of special teams as well as going into spring as a starting safety. I would love to see him just focus on that safety position. Zac Sandvig will remain a special teams stalwart and challenge Mike and David for playing time at safety.”


Rhoads and his coaching staff have only just begun.

“We would like to make further strides in the Big 12 North,” Rhoads said. “We came away with two division victories a year ago in beating Colorado and Nebraska and had gut wrenching losses to Kansas and Kansas State. We played Missouri for 45 minutes before being turned away. We know in 2010 that if we are going to upgrade our program it starts in the Big 12 North and those close losses have to end up in the other column. To move up we have to work harder and execute better than the other programs in the Big 12 North.”

The memories of ISU’s successful season in Rhoads first season still linger. Fans who want to relive the euphoria can always head to YouTube.

“I don’t know how to describe the response, popularity and awareness of what took place after our Nebraska game a year ago,” Rhoads said. “They caught our post game celebration on camera and it certainly showcased a program that is very passionate and emotional after ending that 32-year drought in Memorial Stadium. You can’t go back to that day and choose individual players and say that this guy or that guy was the reason why Iowa State won that day. The reason we won is because a full roster of players got on the buses and traveled to Lincoln, Neb. They had only one goal in mind and that was to win a football game as a team. I think that video and the response to it has even pushed us closer as we continue to work and develop towards achieving what we want this program to become and that’s a championship program.”

Rhoads is proud to be Iowa State’s football coach.  For Cyclone fans, the feeling is mutual.






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