Here is the final installment from this week’s press conference featuring Iowa State head football coach Paul Rhoads. You guys have been on the road a lot lately. How important is it for your team to protect the home field over these next few weeks?
PR: It’s extremely important. We’ve certainly played well at home and we need to continue to do that. The fact that the first one is going to be against the 18th ranked team in the country provides a huge challenge. A challenge that is certainly aided by being on our home turf, being on a grass field and being in a location where the Cyclones have had success against Oklahoma State, winning four out of the last five football games in this series, at home.
It seems like the teams that you are facing get faster and faster. How do you feel your team has responded to that?
PR: Well, last Saturday, not very well. We were exposed and we talked about having to make plays in the open field against a very athletic football team and we did not do that. We have to make plays in those situations that we have all season long. We have to shrink the field down so to speak by getting more players to the ball. When we have those opportunities, we have to make those tackles. We have to get off of those blocks and close down that distance the best we can. How effectively we’ll do that, we’ll find out Saturday.
You said after the game on Saturday that your team is not loaded with athletes. Can an Iowa State team have the athletes to compete with an A&M or an Oklahoma State, athlete for athlete.
PR: I believe so and there are two things involved. The first one, obviously is recruiting. If you recruit a guy who is 10’3, you’ve got a fast guy. If you recruit a guy who is 11’3, he’s never going to be fast or athletic. But then it’s the athletes that you recruit and how advance you develop them also that is a huge part. You recruit a guy who say vertical jumps 28 inches, which is a measurement of athleticism and change of direction and explosiveness. By the time you’ve had in the program for three years, if his vertical jump is up to 34 inches, you’ve developed some of that explosive athleticism that you need to compete with schools like that. Yeah. I think that we can recruit the guys necessary to compete with those schools in this league, to Ames, Iowa and more importantly, I know that we have the people in place to develop the players we get to be on that stage.
Coach how do you feel Marquis Hamilton has played this year?
PR: I think that he has played above expectations. You go through spring ball and you get an idea of what kind of players you have. Marquis I don’t think showed the ability that he’s shown this season in spring ball. I think that other players not necessarily overshadowed him but played better and as we started the season, he’s the one who came to focus quite quickly and it’s been consistent all season long. I’m very pleased with his senior year.
What’s he like off of the field?
PR: He’s quite, unassuming. He goes about his business. He’s always positive. He’s always working hard. He’s making sure that he understands the game plan and his role in what he has to do to help the Cyclones win.
You’ve really been working the past few weeks to find that solid number two running back. How important is that with A-Rob and his health situation?
PR: I think it is part of the ongoing development of the program. You’re always looking for a true backup at every position. So you have as little or no drop-off when a move has to take place. A-Rob is a difference maker. As far as somebody stepping in at that spot to provide that same level of play, we haven’t got it yet. We’ll keep seeking it.
Is it anything that Jeremiah Schwartz did or didn’t do to drop?
PR: Earlier in the season, when Alexander was playing well and gaining yards, 80-some in the first game and 100 for a stretch of games, I told you that he was still leaving yards out there on the field. As he got more snaps, he got better reads and his totals went up. Jeremiah went through that same problem of not keying runs like he should and not hitting runs in certain spots. We thought he had the opportunity needed where he should have been making those yards in those games. We needed to give somebody else an opportunity.