Of all the college football magazines you'll find on the shelves of your favorite book store, only one of them is referred to as the "Bible". For the better part of the last 15 years, Phil Steele has published the most accurate and detailed college football magazine on the market. How do I know this to be true? Well brah, because Phil Steele said so and you don't question Phil Steele. That's why.
Steele is famous for cramming as much information as possible into his lengthy publication (and for being college football's biggest savant) and a big reason for that is because the guy loves to abbreviate everything. Every June when his preview comes out, millions flock to the nearest Barnes and Noble and after slapping down a modest $13, they'll turn straight to Steele's abbreviation page just so they can figure out what the hell they're about to read.
Every year when I pick up my copy of Steele's preview, this abbreviations page always make me chuckle and while thumbing through 2013's preview, I had an idea; what if Steele let WRNL write the 2014 Iowa State preview section?
The Glossary of Abbreviations
HMBIGTS = Hold My Beer I'm Gonna Try Something
SLOA = Stunning Lack Of Accuracy
MBS = Messingham Bullshit
RMFJ = Rhoads Mind Fuck Job
POOP = Passer Offensive Output Percentage
PSOPD = Pretty Sweet On Paper Depth
APRU = Annual Paul Rhoads Upset
LLB = Long Lanky Bodies
BOACOMG = Back Of A Carton Of Milk Game
FFA = Freak Fucking Athlete
BAMF = Bad Ass Mutha Fucka
SOCF = Savior of Cyclone Football
RWWHS = Remember When We Had Seneca
HWI! = HE WAS IN!
BF = Beef Castle
WFM = Weird Fucking Mouth
TWSS = That's What She Said
FVB = Fucking VEISHEA Bro
JFM = Jevohn Miller Factor
PRFO = Paul Rhoads Freak Out
Not since Austen Arnaud has Paul Rhoads had a quarterback that was the unquestioned, #1 signal caller on the roster. In 2011, Steele Jantz won the starting job, but fell out of favor with his HMBIGTS style of play. Jared Barnett, a zone-read specialist, earned the starting gig and led Iowa State to three straight wins including the biggest win in school history over #2 Oklahoma State. A SLOA, however, led to Rhoads going back to Jantz to start the 2012 season. Jantz again started the first 4 games, but Rhoads again pulled a mid-season switch and Barnett started the next four. Just as it was a year prior, the SLOA struck again and it was back to Jantz. A few short games later, third-stringer Sam Richardson surprised everyone with a 23-27, 4 TD performance against Kansas and it appeared as if ISU had found their QB of the future. Richardson entered '13 as the starter and played well in the first few games, but between, injuries, MBS and a RMFJ, Richardson was forced to the bench in favor of redshirt freshman, Grant Rohach, who was about as ready for playing time as the Polish were for the Germans in 1939. Rohach struggled through the conference grind while Richardson, who had been battered and bruised as a result of ineffective OL play, inexplicably became a running QB (actually, there is an explanation...MBS). Perhaps a product of the opponents or perhaps a sign of things to come, Rohach played his best football in the final two games, throwing for 300+ yards in wins over Kansas and West Virginia. Now free of MBS and with Mark Mangino calling the plays, I expect ISU's QB POOP to improve in '14 and look for Rohach to enter the season as the starter. Never rule out a RMFJ, though, meaning that Richardson or even Joel Lanning could see the field at any moment. Perhaps one of these guys will emerge and dramatically decrease the annual RWWHS questions asked at tailgates (HWI!)
Alexander Robinson is the last Iowa State running back to crack the 1,000-yard plateau ('09). Shontrelle Johnson was thought to be eventual successor in the backfield after a promising freshman debut in 2010, but he suffered a serious neck injury against Texas in '11 and missed the rest of the season. James White picked up the slack, rushing for over 700 yards and Jeff Woody became the Cyclones featured short yardage back. With a healthy Johnson back in the fold to start 2012, the idea of PSOPD was born out of message board purveyors. Unfortunately, the stable of RBs never produced to the level of what was expected of them, both due to MBS, another injury for Johnson (ACL) and ineffective OL play after the loss of Kelechi Osemele (BAMF) to the NFL. The entire unit returned in '13 and junior college transfer Aaron Wimberly was added to the mix. It wasn't long before Wimberly became the featured back, but he failed to make it through the season healthy and the entire running attack suffered, rushing for just 143.8 yards per game (8th in the B12). Truth be told, the running backs have not necessarily been the problem. Between MBS, a lack of a feature back and too many LLBs on the offensive line, not to mention the fact that the team was almost always playing from behind, the Cyclone rushing attack just didn't get enough chances to carry the offense. In '14, I think the rushing attack can be improved, but Wimberly will have to stay healthy and ISU will need significant contributions from talented sophomore DeVondrick Nealy, not to mention, an assist from the play calling and the big uglies up front.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
In the B12, you simply have to have game breakers on the outside. Unfortunately, the last real game breaker to suit up in the Cardinal and Gold was probably Todd Blythe ('04-'07), although R.J. Sumrall ('08), Marquis Hamilton ('09) and Darius Reynolds ('11) each put together respectable efforts. In '13, however, Quenton Bundrage emerged as a true playmaker for ISU. His 9 TDs tied the single season Cyclone record set by Blythe ('04 and '05). With two years of eligibility left, it's not out of the realm of possibility for Bundrage to chase down Blythe's career TD record (31) as he would need to average at least 10 scoring grabs each for the next two years. Unfortunately, Bundrage isn't immune to the occasional BOACOMG where he completely goes missing. If Bundrage is going to join the conference elite at wideout, he has to become a much more consistent threat. At the very least, Bundrage should have some help over the middle from what could be the conference's best returning TE and a FFA in E.J. Bibbs. At 6'3, 261 pounds and comfortable both on the inside and outside, Bibbs is an imposing match up for any defense. His 39 grabs a season ago were second on the team. Both Rhoads and Mangino have made a point of talking about how Bibbs will be a focal point of the offense in '14. ISU will also have Jarvis West (71 career catches), Tad Ecby (22 catches in '13), Dondre Daley (13 catches in '13) and P.J. Harris (7 catches in '13) back. The Cyclones will add South Florida transfer, D'Vario Montgomery (6'5" 212-lbs) and four-star freshman and SOCF, Allen Lazard (6'5") to the mix as well. This group isn't lacking for talent, but someone has to deliver them the ball and they'll need a line to buy them time to get open. If those two things happen, I expect them to produce now that they're free of MBS.
On paper, ISU returns an experienced OL group with 83 combined starts and only one underclassman between the six primary guys that see the bulk of the playing time. They're led by BF Tom Farniok, who will be among the best returning centers in the league. Since Osemele and Hayworth Hicks left Ames, ISU's line has featured far too many LLBs and there has been a serious lack of girth on the inside (TWSS). That doesn't look to be the case anymore, though, with Daniel Burton (6'5" 320 lbs) locking down the right guard spot last year and a solid platoon of Oni Omoile and Jamison Lalk at left guard (though both could stand to still put on a few more pounds). ISU also has an experienced pair of tackles on the outside in Brock Dagel and Jacob Gannon and the highly touted Jake Campos will push for playing time at left tackle. Jacob Dunning and Ben Loth also earned starting duty last year and appear in the depth chart, giving the Cyclones eight linemen that have started a game. Things do appear to be looking up for the offensive line and a big reason for that is because Chris Klenakis and his WFM are no longer a part of the equation. Farniok didn't hold anything back this off season when asked what his thoughts on Klenakis were and just how happy he was that the OL coach had moved on from the program. This group was maligned by injuries a season ago, but all are currently healthy and a year older moving into the '14 season. Many believe this is the strongest position group on the team and they'll have to be if the Cyclone offense is going to produce at the same level of their conference peers.
If the defensive line is the most important position group on the defensive side of the ball, then the Iowa State defense might be fucked. Okay, it might not be quite that bad, but you have to wonder how this group is going to hold up. They lost their two best players in Rodney Coe and David Irving (FVB) in the off season as both were booted off the team and Brandon Jensen, who was a starter at NG last year, quit the team for most of the spring, only to rejoin recently. We'll see how Jensen works himself back into the rotation, but in the mean time, DE Cory Morrissey is the only returning starter from a group that wasn't exactly a strength a year ago. Morrissey earned honorable mention all conference accolades and his 6.5 tackles for loss were the second best on the team. Sophomore Mitchell Meyers and junior college transfer Dalyou Pierson will likely be the other bookend and Darius White and Gabe Luna will also see the field. On the inside, it will be a rotation of inexperience, filled by Robby Garcia, Pierre Aka, Devlyn Cousin and Vernell Trent. From a size stand point, most of these guys look the part, but if you asked if this group is going to be able to A) generate a consistent pass rush and B) slow down an opponent's rushing attack, I would say no.
Things get slightly better in the next level of the defense, but not by much. Under Rhoads and Wally Burnham, ISU has produced an all conference linebacker each of the last five years. I think that streak comes to an end in '14 as there just isn't star quality in this group. Jared Brackens started all 12 games last year while Jevohn Miller started 7 and Luke Knott started 5. Brackens was in the coach's doghouse during the spring but impressed during the spring game and likely earned his starting spot back. Miller and Knott traded time on the weak side with Knott performing much better, but he missed the second half of the year with an injury and was held out of action this spring. Miller did improve as the year wore on, but there are still serious doubts about his ability to shed blockers and simply be in the right place. In the middle, ISU lost all conference performer and 5th round draft choice, Jeremiah George. Alton Meeks, Kane Seeley and junior college transfer Jordan Harris are all vying to replace him and Meeks topped the post spring depth chart. Fan favorite Levi Peters is another guy that could factor into the rotation. Burnham has always managed to get good to great production out of his linebackers, but he'll have his work cut out for him this year. If Knott can't get healthy, could the JMF lead to a breakout season for someone like Brackens?
There's potential in the secondary, but this is largely an unproven unit as well. Nigel Tribune started 7 games last year as a true freshman at corner and looks like he could be a guy that could turn into a shut down corner over the course of time. On the other side, ISU will likely turn to Sam E. Richardson, who garners pass interference penalties just by putting his pads on. Richardson started 6 games last year and is the more physical of the two. The safety spots are where we have absolutely no clue. Devron Moore was brought in from the junior college ranks to start from day one, but he left the team this spring. He was recently reinstated, but as a walk on and his status and motivation going forward will be a major question going into fall camp. In Moore's absence, T.J. Mutcherson appeared to lock down the strong safety spot while redshirt freshman, Kamari Cotton-Moya emerged as the #1 free safety. Neither has seen any real time on the field, but on the bright side, the other coaches in the conference won't have a scouting report on ISU's safeties, so net positive, right?
ISU lost one of the best punters in the country in Kirby Van Der Kamp. Blessed with a dynamic left leg, KVDK flipped the field for ISU for the last four years. But he was also a gifted 4th down fake punt specialist, converting every single fake that Paul Rhoads dialed up during that time. You might say he was ISU's best defensive and offensive weapon...and yes, that's a little sad. ISU will try to replace KVDK with Holden Kramer. In the kicking department, ISU will go with sophomore Cole Netten. A little shaky early, Netten rebounded to hit 10-13 in B12 play and made 13-14 from 40 yards or shorter. Returning kicks will be Jarvis West and DeVondrick Nealy. After nearly 20 years of going without returning a kickoff for a touchdown, ISU returned two last year; one each by West and Nealy. West especially will be one of the most dangerous return men in the conference.
When you go 3-9, changes need to be made. The ISU staff saw a significant amount of turnover this off season as 6 new assistants were brought in, including new offensive coordinator, Mark Mangino. Now that ISU is free of MBS, one would hope that the number of PRFOs would decrease (as entertaining as they may be). DC Wally Burnham has proven to be a solid coordinator, but it will be Mangino and the ISU offense that ultimately turns this program around.
BF may be the most experienced player on this team but SOCF, Allen Lazard is not ready to deliver for this program just yet. Another APSU would keep Rhoads off the hot seat and may propel the Cyclones to a bowl game, but expect a long season in Ames as the youth gains experience and expect plenty of HMBIGTS moments.