AMES — Paul Rhoads says that his Iowa State football program has been "blessed with great health" heading into Saturday’s season-opener against a Tulsa team that went 8-5 a year ago.
The underdog Cyclones are going to need it. The fact that odds-makers like Tulsa in this one was one of the top storylines during Rhoads’ first Monday morning session with the media of the 2012 season.
“They’re (the Cyclones) completely aware that they’re the underdog going into this football game," said Rhoads. "I don’t know if it is fair to say that we are comfortable being in the underdog position but we find ourselves in it quite often and have played to a high level I think if you go back the three previous years and look at the numbers – when we are favored and when we are an underdog – I think we’ve performed quite well in all of those situations.”
Four of Tulsa’s five losses in 2011 came to top 10 football teams at the time, those being Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Houston. We’ll have more on the Golden Hurricane later on in the week at Cyclone Fanatic.
WR mash-up: When Iowa State released its depth chart for the Tulsa game on Sunday evening, a mix-up at the wide receiver made headlines. Fans woke up on Monday morning and saw senior Chris Young penciled in with a starter along with fellow senior Aaron Horne. Neither Cyclone was listed as a starter heading into fall camp. However, being a "starter" at wide out in Courtney Messingham’s 2012 offense might not mean that much at all.
“We have three starters listed but their could be six, even eight or better who will see snaps on Saturday and when I say snaps, a significant number of snaps," said Rhoads. "The right guys on the field at the right time based off of situations is what we’ll try to figure out as this game rolls along and the season goes along.”
Plays need to be made. Big ones at that. Horne, a senior who was named the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2011, has shown that ability in the past.
“The play that Aaron Horne made last year against Iowa – that’s the kind of play that we want to see game-by-game as the year goes along," said Rhoads of his wide receivers. "We want to make those catches that are behind the line-of-scrimmage or two yards passed the line of scrimmage and turn them into big plays. The group has come along in that regard. We’ve got three guys coming off of freshmen years that they redshirted. We think Aaron Horne has a chance to really blossom in his second year in the offense as well as Jarvis West and Josh Lenz if he remains healthy – strange to say with a senior but he could have a breakout year just because he hasn’t been healthy the last couple of seasons completely through.”
Tight end play should be better in 2012: It was a surprise to many to see senior tight end Ricky Howard leap over Kurt Hammerschmidt on Iowa State’s depth chart. But like at wide receiver, it’s likely that all three tight ends, including junior Ernst Brun, will see significant minutes for Iowa State this season.
Rhoads spoke about what he saw from Howard during camp.
“He has the ability to move around. He is a good blocker. We will put him in blocking positions not just at the traditional tight end but alongside a tackle with his hand on the ground," said Rhoads. "We like him off the line-of-scrimmage. We like him moving. We like him in the backfield at times and he catches the ball really well. He is a sure-handed guy and we want to include him in those numbers.”
More on a tight end position that is critical to Iowa State’s passing game being more dynamic this season…
“I don’t think we have a Collin Franklin on this roster," said Rhoads. "Ernst Brun is more of a vertical threat that we’ve had since Collin graduated. But our tight ends will be a part of our system when it comes to throwing the ball and they must be. If you’re going to make a defense really understand they’ve got to defend everybody who can catch a ball out there and schematically adjust that way, they’ve got to be a part of our offense.”
An improved D: Rhoads described Iowa State’s defense heading into game week with one word during Monday’s media session.
"We’re a smarter defense," said Rhoads. "We have coached things a lot less as we’ve gone through training camp than we have in the past. The fact that we will play 10 and maybe up to 12 guys on the front four I think makes us better as we stay fresher as the game goes along.”
Paul Rhoads on week one opponents….
“I’d like to have an opponent that I know we should be able to go out there and defeat and be 1-0 after all of this work that you put into it. Tulsa is not that opponent. That’s why they are favored.”
— Rhoads saw a reason to be concerned with his offense heading into last year’s opener against Northern Iowa. So far, he hasn’t seen a repeat of last August.
“A year ago going into our opener, I was really concerned with what I saw in our preparation for UNI and it played out on the field. I don’t want that again. I don’t feel that way right now but I don’t want that.”
— While Rhoads told members of the media that junior (walk-on) Edwin Arceo will handle kickoff duties on Saturday for Iowa State, he still hasn’t made a decision on field goals and extra points. Rhoads said that he might very well make his decision between Arceo and true freshman Cole Netten on Saturday morning.
— How different will Iowa State’s offense look under the leadership of Courtney Messingham? That probably depends on who you are. The casual fan might not see much at all.
“Are we going to be different. Yeah. There are going to be differences." said Rhoads. "Again whether the naked eye of the every day fan sees it or not, I don’t worry about that but there are differences and I want to see them executed as we take the field.”