Iowa State's media day wrapped up yesterday, and amid the hustle and bustle of reporters jamming microphones in players' faces and trying to get everyone to line up in rows for staged pictures, several actual, honest-to-god facts leaked out. Not during the player interviews; those are fun but all follow the same pattern: Excitement for the season, readiness for camp, knowledge that this is absolutely the best team they have been a part of at Iowa State. But Paul Rhoads was a little more forthcoming with facts.
During Paul Rhoads' press conference, he confirmed that all veteran players are academically eligible, which is the goal every year. He stressed the need to find a good place kicker, which only seems like it's been the goal every year. Finally, he indicated that defensive lineman Cleyon Laing will be having minor foot surgery, and should be healthy in a few weeks. After the jump, a highlight of the most interesting quotes from Paul Rhoads' press conference.
More Running, Less Gunning: "We’re going to run the football. We need to be a run-first football team and set the pass up with the run game. We have quality running backs. We know that we have more depth than we’ve ever had in our offensive line. Quarterback has to be a very big part of that running game."
In itself, this isn't surprising. Under the direction of Tom Herman, Iowa State's offenses have been fairly balanced, leaning towards the run. Rushing attempts have outweighed passing attempts by a 54.9% to 45.1% margin for the past three years. So why even bring this up?
Probably because the rushing attack has been pretty pedestrian for the past three years. ISU averaged 4.2 rushing yards per attempt last year, 3.8 the year before, and 4.5 in 2009. Decent, but nothing great. And when your team's quarterback play is as bad as it was last year (Steele Jantz - 106.8 QB rating, Jared Barnett - 99.4 QB rating), you're going to want to run the football as effectively as possible.
Rhoads stressing the need to run the ball effectively this year means that the Cyclones are trying to take as much pressure off the passing game as possible. With a new passing coordinator and two experienced but somewhat ineffective quarterbacks, this is probably a good idea.
Speaking of that new passing coordinator... Asked about new offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham's physical location, Rhoads confirmed that Messingham would call the game from the sideline. "We’re going to go through training camp with (Messingham) in that position. Todd Sturdy, our new wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator who has also been a coordinator at this level will be in the press box and we’re going to go through our preseason scrimmages with Todd in the box and Courtney on the sideline and make sure that all of the information is getting exchanged to allow Courtney to stay down there and call the game."
Well, this is unusual. It sounds like Iowa State is really going to be splitting up the offensive coordinator duties this year. Courtney Messingham is coaching quarterbacks, which means staying on the sidelines is probably a good move. Being on the sidelines allows Messingham more direct interaction with his quarterbacks before and after drives. Messingham has also been the de facto quarterback coach on the field during game days for the past few seasons, so it's a role both he and the quarterbacks are comfortable with.
But while both Messingham and Todd Sturdy have offensive coordinator experience, Sturdy has that experience at a higher level (Washington State). Most offensive coordinators like to be in the booth on game day, because it allows them to call plays to see the entire defense from a good vantage point. Does putting Sturdy in the booth mean that he'll have an impact on play calling, or is that just where he feels most comfortable?
It's too early to tell how this division of labor will work out, but it has its pros and cons. Will Messingham and Sturdy's offensive philosophies gel? With one current and one former OC handling the offense, will their combined experience take the offense to new levels of production, or will it be a case of too many cooks in a kitchen? Finally, is Todd Sturdy ever going to turn that visor around?
Free Albert Gary! Oh, he's already been released? Cool... Rhoads on any possible future punishment for Albert Gary, "There are issues that have to be worked out traveling but that is already in process. He has served full team punishment and athletic department discipline. He will be practicing with us tomorrow and ready to suit up on Sept. 1 against Tulsa."
This is more of a housekeeping issue than anything else, but it's still good to know that Gary's going to able to play from game one. Gary was arguably one of the most effective receivers in the latter half of the 2011 season, catching 23 passes for 287 yards.
So he's already served his suspension for his incredibly stupid actions last year, and he's eligible to play every game this year. Currently he's on probation and in a halfway house, which severely restricts your ability to leave the state. But it sounds like Iowa State has already started the process to get Gary eligible to leave the state. With the first out-of-state game coming up in a little over two months at TCU, that's an issue that needs to be resolved soon.
David Irving, Come At Me Bro: When asked about the freakishly-proportioned sophomore defensive lineman's development, Rhoads had this to say, "Not as fast as I probably would like. Why that is is because he’s a great talent. You don’t get many people to come through your program with that kind of height and width and ability to run and the length of that wingspan that bats down passes and reaches out at a running back after taking care of a quarterback who didn’t keep the football, etc. David has an opportunity to be a very good football player for us and we’d like for him to arrive sooner rather than later."
David Irving probably should have been redshirted last year. He was 17 years old, had only been playing football for a few years, and really didn't know how to use his height to his advantage. Fans see his height and dimensions and think he's going to be able to dominate opposing linemen. He's not. He's probably going to see playing time this year, but may still be a year away from reaching his potential.
But it sounds like some of his development might be mental, too. Irving is still learning to play football at a high level. It sounds like Rhoads is trying to motivate him publicly, light a fire under him to accelerate his learning curve.
Gahh, this QB battle is neverending... On naming a starting quarterback, Rhoads said, "I don't think it'll happen earlier than our first full sets of scrimmages, which conclude on the 18th of August I think... I don't know, what do you think? Maybe September 1, pregame show, something like that? I don't know, it'll be close to the 18th of August when I'll be able to name a starter."
Oh Rhoads, you rascal... Always quick with a joke when talking about the most important position battle on the team. As expected, Rhoads didn't name a starting quarterback, but at least he gave a time frame of when fans can expect a decision. Neither Jared Barnett or Steele Jantz separated themselves during spring ball, so waiting to evaluate their progress throughout summer practices and scrimmages seems like a wise idea.
Rhoads also dropped the tidbit that redshirt freshman Sam Richardson is also a part of the quarterback competition, although who knows how valid that statement is. Rhoads may be trying to keep all three quarterbacks motivated, or Sam Richardson might have improved enough over the summer to make a run at the starting position.