Iowa St. Cyclones
Head coach Paul Rhoads has seen both highs and lows in two years as head man in Ames by taking the Cyclones to a Bowl and winning it in 2009 only to fall a game short of heading to the postseason a year ago. Inconsistent was a fitting description of Iowa State in 2010 as this team looked good one week and bad the next sometimes and it often was independent of the quality of competition they faced. The question facing Rhoads and his staff will be finding a quarterback to run the offense and a defense that can slow down the opposition.
The top priority for the Cyclones is replacing a large chunk of their offensive production with quarterback Austin Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson gone. That’s not good news for a team that averaged around 21 points per contest a year ago. The suitors for signal caller appears to be coming down to a battle between Steele Jantz, Jaquarious Daniels, Sam Richardson and Jerome Tiller. Running back Shontrelle Johnson gained less than 220 yards in 2010 but showed potential with over six yards per tote while receivers Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds appear to be the top receiving options. The best news appears to be along the offensive line with three players back and should give the Cyclones a viable rushing attack.
The defensive side of the ball has the experience with seven players back and will need to step up with an offense that seems destined to struggle. That might be asking a lot for a unit that provided token resistance throughout the 2010 campaign. This unit was lit up for more than 35 points in five of their defeats and were in the bottom third nationally stopping the run allowing more than 185 yards per contest. Iowa State’s strength might lie within the line backing unit with All Big 12 selection Jake Knott back to pair with AJ Klein who combined for over 225 tackles a year ago. Defensive end Rony Nelson returns after missing last season due to suspension (academics) and he might provide some boost. The Cyclones also have experience at cornerback where Leonard Johnson, Jeremy Reeves and Ter’Ran Benton (SS) started at least seven games
Punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was spectacular in his first year with a whopping 45 per boot. Place kicker Grant Mahoney also has a big leg and is capable of reaching the crossbar from 55+ yards but putting it between the uprights is no guarantee much beyond 40 yards. Leonard Mitchell will handle kick returns while Josh Lenz will bring back punts so the return and kicking games are fairly dependable.
The Cyclones proved they weren’t an automatic victory in 2010 by knocking off Texas and coming within a two point conversion of beating Nebraska. However, scoring points in 2011 has to be a concern and stopping or even slowing down opposing offenses has to happen or this will be another long season. Iowa State showed potential but almost zero consistency last year and that won’t win a ton of games.