Basketball is essentially over, there are no Big XII teams to play in baseball, and the doldrums of summer sports are slowly creeping in. As much as we might not like to admit it, there's still something going on in Ames and it's called the Seventh Spring of Rhoads. Or the one where he pins his hopes on an experienced offense to get him back to a bowl game.
Due to a mixture of licking our wounds after UAB and having lives outside the blog we haven't been covering spring ball as well as we should. So let's go through some of the major articles from the past few weeks and talk about what that means for the spring and beyond.
Sam Richardson cementing his legacy at Iowa State is the major storyline of this fall, but it's the foundation that he sets this spring that will determine if he stands alongside Bret Meyer and Austen Arnaud in the record book, or if he gets lost to history like Alex Espinoza or Todd Bandhauer. The former are atop the record books in nearly every passing category in Iowa State history, but also were starters on two of the three bowl winning teams. The latter are also in the record books, but never appeared in a bowl.
It's well documented that Richardson has never won a Big XII game in which he started and that despite all of his statistical progress is still lacking the defining moment in his career that even guys like Steele Jantz (2011 vs Iowa) and Jared Barnett (2011 vs Oklahoma State) earned.
Come eight months from now we're going to be writing about Richardson in a mostly final sense. What's left to be determined is if his story will be one for the ages or one for a bank of trivia questions. He's on his third offensive coordinator in five years but finally has the starting job as his and his alone. Focusing on leading the offense might be the difference between ending his career in Morgantown and ending it somewhere warmer.
Lazard was supposed to ease in to last season, but Quenton Bundrage's torn ACL changed all of that. Now the sophomore will get the chance to truly pair up with Bundrage and create one of the most dangerous receiving duos in the conference. There is no hype train around this receiving corps. Well, there is, but this is a hype train that even our basketball team can be proud of.
Bundrage, despite all of his disappearances in 2013, is a legitimate all conference performer. Lazard has the pedigree to be the same. There has not been a group of receivers at the top of the depth chart this talented in my lifetime. Even the dependency on Lane Danielson and Jack Whitver in the early 2000s doesn't rival this because both Bundrage and Lazard possess NFL potential. If Sam Richardson leads the Cyclones back to the postseason it's going to start with his favorite targets.
Here's what's infuriating about the article above: Jamison Lalk is not new to the team. Hell, he's been the spell for Farniok when he went down with injuries the past two seasons. So why bring in JUCO Patrick Scoggins and expect him to play center when he's never snapped the ball in his life?
The easy answer is Scoggins is built more like a center than a guard (6'1", 290 pounds) and Lalk's 6'6" frame and experience is better suited at guard. That's a fair argument to make, but when an offensive line coach is searching for his best eight or nine guys to build a rotation around he's going to put guys in the best position to succeed.
The pro to Lalk moving to center, and likely winning the job, is going to be the experience he provides every down on the line. The obvious con is the potential wasted scholarship on Scoggins, although there's hope he can play meaningful minutes at times this fall and step in next year when needed.
The headline is definitely not true and full of hyperbole, but the attention defensive end Dale Pierson is getting is just the type of thing you don't want to hear about the defensive line in the spring. Pierson had a good end to 2014 and reminded me a lot of former defensive end Rony Nelson, but he's just one man. All the pass rushing ability in the world won't save Pierson if the line is still as small and thin as it was last season.
The Cyclones are looking for a replacement to Cory Morrissey and that role is likely to fall on Pierson. Trent Taylor should be in the mix as well, but is currently behind Pierson on the depth chart due to his fade late last season. For as bad as the defensive line was last year it was the ends that were the lone bright spot at times, and that has to happen again to field a competent defense.
Iowa State scrimmaged inside of Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, and somehow both coordinators and the head coach were pleased with the results. I suppose you can be happy when you see 2nd and 3rd stringers stepping up on occasion, but you have to hope the first string offense made more good plays than bad on Saturday.
Mark Mangino's interview is worth a listen just for the simple fact he notes that the offense is physically and mentally tougher than last season. That's a great thing to hear and further underscores how bad Sam Richardson, and the whole offense, struggled between the ears last year.
Defensively there has to be some concern over the linebackers. Jordan Harris is finally beating out Kane Sealy at MIKE, which has to happen for this team to have a chance at the postseason. With Luke Knott out due to injury the WILL spot comes down to a competition between Levi Peters and Brian Mills, and despite how much of a fan favorite Peters is, he is not a Big XII linebacker. I suppose neither is Knott, which is why I would have preferred Alton Meeks had stayed and he or Seely could have moved outside. At SAM JUCO Jarnor Jones is still locked in a battle with Reggan Northrup, but I expect to see Jones secure this spot by the midpoint of fall camp.
We'll have more thoughts as the week marches towards the 1:00 PM start of the Spring Game this Saturday.