It’s been awhile since I last graced this space with a post. I have no real excuse. Inspiration has been lacking, I guess. But while there really isn’t anything burning in my belly, there are a few issues that I would like to touch on. Consider this a cramming session of sorts.
There’s still a lot to learn about this team, but I can honestly say that I have been pleasantly surprised with Hoiberg’s first squad and the job he’s doing thus far as a rookie head coach. If someone would have offered me 9-2 through 11 games, I would have taken it in a heartbeat, even with the two losses being of the heartbreak variety. I’m certainly not saying that the Cyclones have arrived, but the Mayor’s first month in office has been more impressive than I expected, which makes the thought of next year’s talented squad even more tantalizing.
Admittedly, I expected many more stinkers to this point- something we really haven’t seen much of. With the switch to an up-tempo offense, I expected a lot of mistakes and turnovers. Iowa State is averaging just 11.2 turnovers per game, which is 327th nationally and second fewest in the Big 12. Defensively, I expected many more possessions marked by mental lapses. Cyclone opponents are shooting just 36.7%, good for 14th nationally and fourth in the Big 12. Iowa State is currently the fifth best team in the Big 12 in scoring defense. Consider me impressed.
With four non-conference games remaining, Iowa State has a very good shot to enter the Big 12 slate at no worse than 12-3. The game at Virginia on December 30th will be a tremendous test, as the 6-3 Cavaliers recently knocked of then #15 Minnesota in Minneapolis as part of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. If the Cyclones can find a way to win a road game of that caliber, I’ll have to check my excitement as we head towards conference play.
If you’ve been paying attention to the coaching merry-go-round that always takes place this time of year, you probably heard that Coach Rhoads was mentioned by several media outlets as a possible candidate to replace Dave Wanndstedt at Pittsburgh. (Rhoads was defensive coordinator at Pitt from 2000 through 2007.) While it sounds as if Rhoads had little to no interest in the job all along, these rumors elicited all sorts of reactions among the Cyclone faithful.
In my opinion, the most shocking of these was the “if this happens, Pollard should be fired immediately” take. Huh? Because he hired a talented and respected head coach? I’m assuming the logic must have been that if Rhoads were to leave it would have to be because Pollard didn’t do enough to keep him happy, which is laughable, in my opinion. First of all, Pollard offered Rhoads his first head coaching gig, a gesture that was highly appreciated, I’m sure. Also, I have my doubts that Pollard has a secret vault under the Jacobson building where he’s hoarding piles of cash that could otherwise be used to bump salaries and improve facilities.
Pollard has done his job. He has hired talented coaches and has clearly articulated his plan for surrounding these coaches with the resources that they need. Heck, even Rhoads himself has plainly stated what it is that he would like to see. He wants butts in the seats of Jack Trice Stadium and a new football-only complex. Guess who needs to make this happen? I’ll give you a hint: Pollard and Rhoads aren’t buying season tickets and printing their own money. If we don’t want to lose Coach Rhoads the next time there’s an opening on the merry-go-round, we fans need to step up and take some ownership.
This week Iowa State signed Steele Jantz (helluva name, by the way), a 6’4″ 220-pound JUCO QB out of California who threw for 3,075 yards and 23 TDs this season. This left many fans scratching their heads- not because Jatz isn’t worthy of a scholarship, but because the roster is already loaded with fair amount of supposedly talented QBs. I don’t necessarily fall into the camp that believes the coaches wouldn’t sign Jantz if they didn’t expect him to be the starter in 2011. At the QB position, I think he’s worth a scholarship if he can push a much-needed competition and at least be a quality back-up. After all, a back-up QB is just a play away from being the man.
What this does signal, in my opinion, is that the staff isn’t all that confident in Tiller’s ability to lead this team next season, and for good reason. Quickly, name one thing that Tiller does better than Austen Arnaud. Anything? Fans were often very critical of Arnaud last season, yet Tiller has a long way to go for the QB position to even be as good, let alone improved, in 2011. I don’t believe the coaches are giving up on the young guys in the system, but they clearly want another ‘experienced’ QB to push these guys and provide more options if a young buck like redshirt freshman Jared Barnett can’t take the offense run with it.
Sometimes Cyclone fans have to take joy in the little things, which is why I can’t wait to see renderings of the new Jack Trice Stadium scoreboard that is scheduled to be constructed this offseason. Plans call for the structure to be built over the Jacobson building in the north endzone, opening up the south endzone for an eventual seating expansion. Pollard has stated that the scoreboard will not be able to utilize the Jake for structural support, meaning it has to go up and over and be anchored into the ground on each side of the building. Translation: It should be one heck of an impressive structure.
A new stadium sound system is also part of this project. Couple these much-needed improvements with rumors that the scoreboard design could incorporate tunnel entrances of some sort, and I’m dying to see the plans. Jack Trice Stadium has come a long way in recent years, but it’s far from a finished product. Baby steps.