Outside the men’s room: The winning way

By Kirk Haaland, Fan Blogger The Iowa State football team could find itself in a bit of a precarious situation this fall. A situation that will resemble that of 2006 for a variety of reasons, but most notably in my mind, will be an offense that is expected to be explosive with numerous returning starters that will need to carry a young and inexperienced defense. That 2006 offense returned 10 starters and was expected to create offensive fireworks to offset a defense that was supposed to give up its own share of fireworks.

That never happened. Everyone knew the offense was going to have to score—and score big—to win games. But it just appeared that Dan McCarney was not willing to play games like that. He still wanted to run the football, control the clock and protect his defense. By result, that team limped to a 4-8 record through injuries and inexperience, with very narrow non-conference victories over Toledo, UNLV, and UNI at home in what turned out to be the McCarney era finale over Missouri (no matter what Gary Pinkel thinks). Will Paul Rhoads play his hand the same way or will he push all his chips to the middle?

The scenarios aren’t exactly the same in regards to the offensive side of the ball. Fact of the matter is that the ISU offense struggled mightily at times last season, while adapting to its third system in four years. That being said, as Austen Arnuad’s improvements are being hyped by a straight-shooting coaching staff this spring, one can’t help but get excited for all of the returning offensive pieces. A third-year starter in Arnaud at quarterback, a 1,000 yard rusher and four-year starter at running back in Alexander Robinson, returning wide receivers Jake Williams and Darius Darks (the 2nd and 3rd most productive receivers last season) plus true freshman contributor Josh Lenz and injury embattled receivers Sedrick Johnson and Darius Reynolds, and four returning starters on the offensive line. That is without even mentioning some of the new guys coming in as well as the guys coming off of a red-shirt season. Perhaps the greatest hope lies with the expected improvement from the first year of the offensive system to the second year under offensive coordinator Tom Herman.

The defense is another story. Losing consistent starters in DE Christopher Lyle, NG Nate Frere, LB Fred Garrin, LB Jesse Smith, LB Josh Raven, CB Kennard Banks, and FS James Smith will be a definite blow to a defense that outperformed itself last season. It’s always difficult to replace starters, but I’m least concerned with Raven, Banks, and James Smith. Filling in for Lyle’ pass rush, Frere’s run clogging at NG, and Jesse Smith’s nose for the ball will be the most difficult.

Looking to fill the void for Lyle at DE will be three-year starter Rashawn Parker (coming off of a torn ACL and granted a 5th year of eligibility for 2010) and Patrick Neal/Roosevelt Maggitt, who gained valuable experience last season in Parker’s absence. Austin Alburtis, Stephen Ruempohamer, and injury ridden and local WDM Valley product, Jake McDonough will all battle to replace Frere at NG. A slough of linebackers have exited and three fresh backers will step into there place. As true freshmen Jake Knott and A.J. Klein gained valuable experience on the defensive side of the ball as well as on special teams.

But replacing Jesse Smith’s spot at middle linebacker will be Matt Tau’fo’ou (let’s just call him Matt T). Matt T. came in with high expectations last season before struggling through injuries in the 2009 season. He is hopeful to regain that year by applying for medical hardship after this upcoming season. Matt T. came in with high praise from uber-experienced Monte Kiffin last season, when he boldly claimed that Matt T. would play immediately for the Tennessee defense.

I may not know much about Paul Rhoads after just one season, but I can’t help but feel he’ll do whatever he needs to in order to give his team the best chance to win. He’ll gladly win 2-0 or 52-50. They both count the same. This premise is entirely based on the offense, though. Will Arnaud make the improvements necessary to be the engine that drives this offense? If the spring indicators prove true, that answer appears to be yes.

New Cyclone Fanatic Poster of the Week!

If you haven’t seen it yet check out the game thread from the Insight bowl. “nothingbutnet” was a disgruntled Gopher fan who thought better of his situation and decided to join forces with the good guys. Welcome aboard! (No promises that there will be any less heartbreak with the Clones, though).

Another Johnny Orr

With all of the turmoil and defections and negative aura swirling in the men’s basketball program over the past few months, I had a realization over the weekend that was a little scary for me to ponder. If Greg McDermott does not work out—and the odds are only getting slimmer—the next coaching hire will need to be similar to that of hiring Johnny Orr in 1980. The main difference being that Jamie Pollard will not be able to make the new coach the highest paid coach in the country.

It is difficult to make a successful coaching hire no matter how much money is being thrown about, but even more so when you’ve only got peanuts to work with. If and when a move is made in the men’s basketball program the biggest selling point may be to point at what Johnny Orr did and how he is viewed by the fans. He is on the “Iowa State Mount Rushmore” for more fans than not. It wouldn’t be easy to make another hire like that one, let’s all just hope and pray that it somehow does not come down to that.

Are message boards bad?

I have seen the question asked in a few different places in the past week so I’ll give my thoughts. I should preface this by stating that while reading message boards, I am more likely to want to rip my hair out than I am to find a profound opinion that I had not previously considered. I view message boards in a similar manner as I view coefficients of friction (yeah, I’m an engineer at my day job). Message boards are simply a multiplier of the current mood of the fan base.

When things are going well the mood of the board is able to blow that out of proportion (i.e. over-hyping players like Lucca Staiger, Bo Williams, or any other recruiting coup). When things are going poorly, the message board gets ugly. Really ugly. Head to the men’s basketball forum if you need any proof.

The bottom line is to consider the alternative. Would it really be better that there was so little interest that there wouldn’t be enough fans to support a message board? I don’t think so. The typical argument is how badly the board could come off to prospective recruits. That is certainly a fair point in my mind, as it would only make sense that a recruit would check out popular online gatherings like Cyclone Fanatic. It is true that many other boards are worse and every board has it’s moments for going off of its own proverbial rocker. My challenge to every Fanatic would be that there is no reason that has to be the standard and that perhaps Cyclone Fanatic should strive for more. Be critical, be constructive, but just be civil.

Trivia time

Last week’s question: We all know that ISU played Duke this year during the regular season and that Duke went on to win the national title. When was the last time ISU played the eventual national champion in the regular season that was not in the same conference as Iowa State? What was the year and how did Iowa State fare in that game?

Answer: In the 1971-72 season Iowa State lost 110-81 to UCLA at Pauley Pavillion and UCLA then went on to win the National Title.

This week’s question: Who and when was the last defensive Cyclone football player to garner All-American honors?