Rhoads on the Move for Iowa State
AMES, Iowa Ironically, just when it is Paul Rhoads’ time, the new Iowa State head football coach seems to have so little of it. Rhoads’ transition to Cyclone head football coach has left little time for anything else but hiring new staff, meeting current players and diving into a recruiting season cut shorter by the circumstances of his accepting his job just before Christmas.
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Looking Ahead (new)
Rhoads’ two previous predecessors, Dan McCarney (1995-2006) and Gene Chizik (2007-08), both accepted their jobs in November. Both had almost a month on Rhoads, who assumed the reins of the Iowa State football program on Dec. 20 after Chizik accepted the head coaching job at Auburn. Accordingly, priorities had to be made. The new Cyclone head coach focused on three priorities.
“I have worked hard and haven’t been sleeping as much,” Rhoads said. “First, I wanted to meet individually with every member of the team. We had our first team meeting Monday, the first day of the spring academic semester.”
He is continuing to meet with each of the more than 80 players currently on the ISU roster.
“Second, we wanted to contact all of the recruits who have currently committed to Iowa State to follow up with each young man,” Rhoads said. “Then we had to start pursuing other players that we feel are capable of helping Iowa State win.”
Recruiting is not a one man job. While balancing a wide variety of responsibilities, Rhoads has been hiring a strong coaching staff. That is the other primary priority.
“We wanted to put together a staff in a timely fashion,” Rhoads said. “But we want to make sure that we have the best possible individuals who will be a good fit for Iowa State. That has been accomplished thus far.”
Football signing day is Feb. 4. That date has been on Rhoads’ radar since the moment Jamie Pollard offered the native Iowan his dream job. While his time at Iowa State has been short, the Cyclone head coach says there are factors that have worked toward his advantage.
“(The previous staff) already had a good group of commitments in the process,” Rhoads said. “I talked with (ISU athletics director) Jamie Pollard about honoring the commitments already made to student-athletes by the institution. We then looked at what other needs we had in this (recruiting) class.”
Each of Rhoads’ new assistants coaches brought knowledge of additional potential Cyclones from their current recruiting experience at their former schools.
“We evaluated those players, talked about where we were at in terms of specific needs and targeted any players available that fit those areas where help is needed. Each coach brought a pool of athletes to the table. Finally, we hit the ground running Jan. 5 when the NCAA said we could be back on the road. We are evaluating additional individuals that could help us win at Iowa State. Our staff has been running, driving and flying around the country. Again, we haven’t slept much.”
Per NCAA rules, Rhoads and his staff are in the office this week. The coaches meeting room includes a board with a long list of potential recruits. The in-house evaluations continue by video and personal recommendation. The staff will hit the road again Sunday.
“We are allowed just one call per recruit this week so things are manageable.”
Rhoads retained tight ends coach Scott Fountain, who was the Iowa State recruiting coordinator on Chizik’s previous Cyclone coaching staff. Fountain’s knowledge has provided the new staff a key link to what recruiting had already been accomplished by the previous staff.
“(Fountain’s) input is so valuable,” Rhoads said. “Scott’s attention to detail and professional demeanor had already impressed me. That is why I kept him on staff. His knowledge of the status of our commitments has been priceless.”
Recruiting is a numbers game.
“Each school is allowed 56 personal visits in any given year and the previous staff had already had a sizeable number of kids in for visits,” Rhoads said. “That means we have to evaluate each recruit and be smart about who we invite to campus.”
In the midst of the organized recruiting and hiring frenzy, Rhoads is hearing from job-seekers and well-wishers.
“When you are in the hiring process you are hearing from people you know and people you don’t know,” Rhoads said. “At this time, I just can’t get back to everyone. I wish I could have an NFL staff with as many coaches as I would like to have but that is not possible. You have to tell people you know that you don’t have a position for them and that is not easy. You have to do what you think is best for this program.”
The new Cyclone head coach has been inundated with cards and letters congratulating him on being hired.
“I was on a plane the other day and took out a stack of notes and cards five inches thick,” Rhoads said. “The woman sitting next to me said it looks like you have a lot of work to do.’ I intend over time to respond to as many people as I possibly can.”
In the meantime look for Rhoads in his office, at an airport near you or a school around the state.