Go ahead, put up some cones and orange signs. After Iowa State’s annual spring game on Saturday it’s clear, the Cyclones remain under construction.
Iowa State didn’t do much to inspire confidence after a 3-9 season, but it’s important to remember it’s April 12.
The QB play mimicked the up and down day for the Cyclones. Grant Rohach did his best to claim the starting spot. Playing with the first-team offense, the sophomore appeared to have the best grasp of new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s playbook.
“From my vantage point, there was good composure back there, and getting people lined up and running the offense” Rhoads said.
“I would say Grant was probably was the top (QB) performer of the day, but that doesn’t put him on top.”
Rohach led scoring drives on his first two series. At his best, the California native was a threat throwing and running. Rohach finished 22-of-38 passing for 171 yards and added 20 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately, just when it looked like he would run away from his QB competition, he threw interceptions on consecutive passes.
“To win in this league, you got to be able to throw and catch the football,” Rhoads said. “That’s an area we still need great improvement in as we move forward.”
With Rohach looking like the starter, it appeared Joel Lanning was running with the No. 2’s. The Ankeny native flashed a strong arm and the strong running ability that made him a highly touted recruit.
“He’s got great velocity,” Rhoads said.
Lanning probably has the strongest arm of any Iowa State quarterbacks. Developing that accuracy is the next step to be the starting signal caller. On the day, he finished 7-of-14 passing for 44 yards
“It felt like an actual game,” Lanning said. “It was a lot faster than the practices.””
Sam Richardson played mostly with the third string unit. The junior didn’t have much time to throw and when he did, he looked shaky at best.
So what did we find out about Mark Mangino’s offense? Probably not much. Iowa State kept most of its new playbook under wraps Saturday.
What the Cyclones did show is a willingness to throw short, easy passes that are intended to let the receivers run after the catch. A lot of times, Iowa State would swing a pass out into the flat and pick up yardage.
“You’re going to see all aspects (of the passing game),” Rohach said.
While the Cyclones are holding the best plays back for when it actually matters, it’s clear Iowa State players are enjoying their new coach.
“(Mangino) has a very high IQ, he’s very cerebral,” center Tom Farniok said. “He demands a lot, but if you want to be good, you have to demand a lot.”
E.J. Bibbs has the look of a NFL tight end standing 6-foot-3 and 261 pounds. It’s clear Mangino feels the same way. Throughout the scrimmage, Iowa State QB’s targeted Bibbs, even hitting him on swing passes numerous times.
“As I reminded Mark (Mangino) last week, if he’s not our best offensive football player, he’s one of two,” Rhoads said.
Most impressively, Bibbs can be open without being truly open because of his huge frame. In the second half, he caught a pass over the middle despite being blanketed by a defender.
The senior tallied eight catches for 50 yards.
Could walk-on Brett Medders emerge as an option in the passing game? Absolutely says Coach Paul Rhoads. The wide receiver snared six passes on Saturday for 48 yards. Twice on third down, Medders slid to the ground to make a catch and keep the chains moving.
“Brett Medders made a ton of extraordinary plays today,” Rohach said.
Rhoads was impressed with the play of his junior wide out.
“He’s been showing up consistently,” Rhoads said. “I’m very pleased with his progress. I’ll go back to my opening statement about responsibility and helping young men become men. It’s been a joy to see Brett turn that page.”
There’s been plenty of noise made about the losses on Iowa State’s defensive line this offseason, but for one day at least the holdovers responded. The unit consistently pressured the Iowa State quarterbacks on Saturday.
In face, the Cyclones notched 12 sacks in the scrimmage.
“The defense really stepped up,” Rhoads said. “They played together, they played with energy and they played well.”