This morning's Paul Rhoads presser yielded a metric ton of information regarding the Iowa State football program. Mark Mangino is out as Iowa State's OC, new starters at QB and kicker, reigning Big 12 DPOY Kamari Cotton-Moya is done for the season and Kenneth Lynn is out for a violation of Big 12 rules. In an effort to help Cyclone fans digest all of this information, let's tackle one piece at a time and take a look at the new offensive coordinator in Ames.
Todd Sturdy came to Iowa State in 2012 to coach the wide receivers after a stint as offensive coordinator for the Washington State Cougars. Quenton Bundrage, Jarvis West, Josh Lenz and Justin Coleman are just a few of the receivers that have found success under Sturdy's tutelage since his arrival. During the offensive coaching changes prior to the 2014 season, Sturdy was moved to Quarterback Coach and Passing Game Coordinator.
Sam Richardson statistically flourished in his first year under Sturdy as well, posting yardage, passing TD and total offense numbers that placed his 2014 season among the top five in school history while setting school records for single season completions (254) and single game completions (37-Toledo).
Taking a look back at Sturdy's offensive principles at Washington State might give us a glimpse into what the Tipton, Iowa native may have in store for the Cyclones going forward in 2015. As part of the staff that preceded Mike Leach, our colleagues over at CougCenter wrote a great piece delineating some differences between the Sturdy Spread and Leach Air Raid offenses.
That article goes fairly in-depth in regards to X's and O's, so for those looking for a recap, I offer the following oversimplifications. Sturdy's offense centers around a balanced run/pass spread option concept, and play calls build on each other throughout the game. Passes are used to open up the run, which opens up play action, etc. Clock management and field position are utilized to manage a game plan and a lot of emphasis is put on pre-snap reads at the quarterback position.
Coach Sturdy has also dealt with quarterback changes within his offense as well. This piece, also by our friends at CougCenter, describes how the offense evolved under three separate quarterbacks. The prevailing truth is that Sturdy adjusts his offense to his personnel in an effort to maximize performance given the options he has to work with.
So what does all this mean for Cyclone fans? Rhoads mentioned that he and Mangino couldn't see eye-to-eye regarding the direction of the Cyclone offense and it can be extrapolated that much of the offensive inefficiency was due to players trying to fit a specific system rather developing a system that, given the current players' skill sets, would be the most effective.
Some fans will say, "We need to run the ball more, so why would we promote the Passing Game Coordinator?" Try not to put too much stock into that. Sturdy was promoted because of his experience as an offensive coordinator and his ability to adapt his offense to fit his personnel. To me, the change at the quarterback position says a lot about what the future of the Iowa State offense will look like for the remainder of the 2015 season. It seems Joel Lanning is much more comfortable in a power running attack that opens up play action as the game wears on. I would expect that is much more of what we will see.
Cautious optimism is the route I'm choosing to take with Sturdy. Making the change mid season limits the ability to make fundamental changes to the offensive system. There's no training camp to install a new playbook or time to make drastic changes amidst a weekly conference schedule. I think the main change we will see will be play calling that fits players' strengths and helps manage a game clock to take some pressure off a defense that is going to battle with some of the nation's best offenses.
Saturday's tilt with the Longhorns just got a little more intriguing. Best of luck to Coach Sturdy, and go Cyclones!