AMES – The Countdown is on. In less than three weeks Iowa State kicks off against Tulsa.
Ready or not.
The Cyclones are working feverishly to prepare for the Golden Hurricanes and another daunting schedule. On Saturday, that meant 170 snaps during the first of Iowa State’s three scrimmages.
So how’d the Cyclones look? About as you would expect for the first scrimmage of the year. The good news is the veteran players set the tone for the day.
“The atmosphere out there was different, it wasn’t as hairy,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “It was the mark of a team that does have experienced, veteran football players and they acted like that. The effort was good. It was very business-like. Now, as we go to the next two scrimmages I’d like the intensity to spike up to that business-like, intelligent approach was today.”
Jantz or Barnett?
Not surprisingly, Rhoads didn’t name a starting quarterback after the scrimmage. Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett are battling for the starting spot, and the race should go down to the wire.
Both showed their potential on Saturday, but neither took a step ahead of the other.
“I thought both of them had their moments,” Rhoads said. “Steele is such a scary threat to defenses when he takes off running the football. That doesn’t mean he is going to take off always down the field, he is going to launch it and he continues to do that.
“Jared did a nice job of running the football team.”
How will a winner be picked? Quite simply, the guy who is the most consistent.
“We’ve got to get consistent,” Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said. “When you watch those guys who are up there for the Heisman, those guys are consistent. They play every week consistent, every day in practice they are consistent. That’s where we need to get too.”
Noticing a theme? With the arsenal of weapons on the Cyclones’ roster, Rhoads wants a guy who completes passes, moves the chains, and take cares of the football.
Right now, Jantz, Barnett and Sam Richardson are completing around 60 percent of their passes in team situations. That’s excellent during games, but Rhoads is looking for more in practice.
“Quite honestly, in practice we’d like it to be a little higher when you’re looking at those numbers,” Rhoads said. “I don’t think the numbers are going to be that high today coming off the scrimmage and that will be a concern for me when I talk to our staff.”
Luckily for Iowa State, there are 20 more days left until kickoff, but the clock is ticking to pick a starter.
Hybrid defenders key to Iowa State’s success
In the Big 12, offenses play at warp speed. If your defense doesn’t suit up guys who can both stuff the run and cover a slot receiver, it’s going to be a long year.
That’s exactly the type of players Deon Broomfield and C.J. Morgan are. Hybrid-type defenders like Broomfield and Morgan are key to the Cyclones’ success.
“If you don’t have those type of guys, you’re in trouble,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “You have to go recruit that kid and hope he is the guy. You never know with that position, but that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for safeties out of high school that can be big enough to move in and play close to the box.
“Here’s the thing, you got to have a guy, when you put him down there, he has to be able to play man coverage too. That’s the hard part, to find a guy that can take on a block every once and awhile, and play good man coverage.”
With Broomfield and Morgan leading the way, Iowa State’s secondary played well on Saturday. Rhoads is confident the Cyclones’ back five will be a solid group this season.
One player who has stood out is cornerback Jansen Watson. The junior is slotted to start at for the first time this year.
“As I’ve always told you, the light comes on at different times for different players,” Rhoads said. “Right now the light is really coming on with him.”
News and notes
– Freshman linebacker Adam Pavlenko was homesick and has left the team, Rhoads announced.
– Rhoads confirmed wide receiver Quan West tore his ACL last week. He is scheduled to have surgery as soon as the swelling goes down.
– Messingham signaled out the running backs for another productive practice. The return of a healthy Shontrelle Johnson only boosts an already strong stable of ball carriers.
“Shontrelle Johnson is going to be a big help to us,” Messingham said. “He’s going to be a big part of our offense and he needs to be.”
– Wally Burnham came prepared for his meeting with the media on Saturday…
“We got some pressure on the quarterback, I know that will probably be a question,” he joked.
– Burnham noted that he doesn’t measure defensive line success just by sacks. If you can make opposing quarterbacks move in the pocket and disrupt their rhythm, that’s a successful play.