Blum: Hipster Cyclones
I hate columns that start with a definition. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word hipster as, "a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns."
We all have a hipster in our life. Hipsters get characterized for their mismatched clothing, oversized earrings and multitude of tattoos, but in reality a hipster lives in the mindset. No longer are they confined to urban coffee shops in large metropolises, the hipster mentality has emerged in the once un-cool Midwest. Even the rural corn-fields of Iowa are not resistant from their progressiveness. They are the one who watched the first seasons of Breaking Bad and Mad Men before they went main-stream. Don Draper is their icon. They no longer care for the band Mumford and Sons because "they sold out, man." They play Bon Iver on Spotify repeatedly because, "those melodies are a representation of my life and the struggle...but, yo where's my iPhone 5s?"
Dexter, Newsroom, Alabama Shakes, House of Cards are all old hat for these folk. The entertainment is in the discovery. Once they become big-time, the luster wears off.
I actually wish I was more of a contemporary hipster. I end up three seasons behind on the good TV shows and listen to Katy Perry's Roar on boring old radio because I'm lazy.
Trailing slightly behind the entertainment hipster is the sports hipster. I consider myself a first-class sports hipster.
Growing up, I was always drawn to the young prospect or expansion team. I petitioned my dad to name our little league baseball team the Rockies when they announced their debut in 1991. I purchased a Jacksonville Jaguar mini helmet and was overly pumped when they drafted Steve Beuerlein with their 1st pick in the 1995 Expansion draft. I modeled my basketball game after Damon Stoudamire because he was the young stud on the brand-new Toronto Raptors and they had sweet Jurassic Park uniforms. Anyone could be a Bulls and 49ers fan, I wanted to be different.
Even now, I would rather watch the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers than the Miami Heat because they're young and hip and off the beaten path. Those shooters, that speed, that youth. Sign me up!
The discovery phase is often the most exciting.
Iowa State football is about to enter the hipster phase. With a record of 1-3, most of the public doesn't have a second thought regarding Iowa State. But beneath the surface record lies a team with young playmakers that is a blast to watch.
Most of the Paul Rhoads era has seen a steady growth in the program buoyed by a mix of veterans and young guys. His 2009 club had freshman like Jake Knott and A.J. Klein and Jeremy Reeves see action, but they also had known commodities like Austen Arnaud, Alexander Robinson and Marquise Hamilton to lean on and steady the waters.
This 2013 team has some key veterans in a couple positions, but the overwhelming majority of the team has just embarked on their Cyclone careers. This is like season one of Breaking Bad.
The Iowa State depth chart for this week's Texas Tech game lists just one senior starter on offense: slot receiver Justin Coleman. I have been following Iowa State for over 20 years and I only recall seeing that during the 2005 season and even that was a veteran club with a lot of junior experience. The 2013 Cyclones currently have four junior starters on offense, five sophomore starters and a freshman starter. And a heaping of under-classmen in the rest of the two-deeps.
It's one thing to throw out young guys just for the sake of buying time and to say you are young, but these fellas are taking advantage of their opportunities and producing. I can safely say that Sam Richardson, Aaron Wimberly and Quenton Bundrage are Iowa State's best QB-RB-WR triumvirate since the Meyer-Hicks-Blythe years and it is arguable that they are even more dynamic than those great Cyclones.
Bundrage is on pace to break Iowa State's record of nine receiving touchdowns in a season. Wimberly is averaging a stellar 5.2 yards per carry; good enough for 4th best among running backs in the Big 12 (Baylor has the top two guys and their offense is unfair.) Here are the other Cyclone backs to average five yards or more in a season over the last 20 years: Troy Davis, Ennis Haywood, Alexander Robinson.
Quarterback Sam Richardson is averaging 304 yards of total offense (passing + running.) He is 23rd in the country in that stat right behind Florida State's phenom Jameis Winston. To put that in perspective, Seneca Wallace averaged 248 yards of total offense during his Iowa State career.
It's enough potential to get the hipsters giddy. And to think those totals were accumulated while a majority called the offense a disappointment.
Promising starts don't always lead to equal finishes. It is a tall task to ask those gentlemen to continue that level of production, yet in the same light it doesn't seem fluky. Throw in a healthier offensive line, clean up the sack totals and who knows where this offense can go. These guys are on the rise.
Defensively, 49 of the 71 tackles in the Texas game were made by non-seniors. The defensive line which has plagued Iowa State for years is starting to come of age. This defensive group faces immense challenges the next few weeks and will take some shots upside the head, but they are also showing signs. And your October reminder: Wally Burnham is still a wizard. Iowa State is now 2nd in the entire nation behind Florida in the "haven't given up 36 points in regulation" streak. Despite his age, Burnham has always been a sports-hipster fave. He is college football's version of William Shatner.
All good things have to start somewhere. College football doesn't create boy bands or network ready TV shows; all exposure is earned. The Baylor Bears are a good example of a team that went from after-thought to sports-hipster favorite and now to full-fledged bonanza.
The Cyclones have a ways to go to reach the main-stream, but in the back-alleys of sports hipster-ville, Iowa State is becoming a squad to keep an eye on. The record may not indicate it, but there is some juice in the program. Latch on now, it is going to be a blast to follow.