DALLAS — Below is a transcript from Paul Rhoads’ press conference at the Big 12’s annual media days event at the Omni Hotel in Dallas. Be sure to check out CycloneFanatic.com later today and the rest of the week for more coverage of the Cyclones.
COACH RHOADS: Thank you very much. Gilbert High School lost last night in the district championship, so it’s officially football season. We start practice in 13 days, and I couldn’t be more excited about that.
We’ve had a great summer as a football team and notably with NCAA rule changes we’ve been able to spend time around our kids. And that’s made for a most enjoyable summer to watch our guys develop and to work and to train hard towards the 2014 season.
We have six new coaches on our football staff. That’s a lot of change. That’s a lot of transition highlighted by the addition of Mark Mangino to our staff.
He inherits an offense that is experienced with a group of quality players. Two of them are with us today. E.J. Bibbs, who I think is the best tight end in the Big 12 Conference and certainly one of the best in the country, and Tom Farniok, a four‑year starter, for us on offense. We’ve also got playmakers in Quenton Bundrage at wide receiver and Aaron Wimberly at wide receiver.
On the defensive side of the ball will be a young, spirited group and, quite honestly, will be led by our defensive coordinator, veteran Wally Burnham who has been doing it for a lot of years, and I look forward to watching him mold this group certainly in the month of August if not the entire season.
Cory Morrissey joins us today. He’ll be our leader on the defensive line. We have a host of linebackers that will provide us great depth. Jevohn Miller is with us today. And I’m excited about what Nigel Tribune will develop as a second‑year starting cornerback for us in the back end.
Q. Can you just elaborate a little bit about how Mark Mangino got to Ames here? Did you reach out to him? Was he available ‑‑ obviously he was available. But just the whole process how he was able to come on board?
COACH RHOADS: I reached out to him and certainly had great respect for what he’s done in our profession.
It took me a week one day to get to Pittsburgh through Detroit and as weather can be that time of year and condensed what the additional interview process I wanted it to be.
I spent eight years in Pittsburgh, and Mark’s a western PA guy. So we knew each other through mutual people that way and had a respect because of that.
Coached against him in 2009, my first year as the head football coach at Iowa State, and then his proven track record as a play caller, as a tough guy, type of coach in what he could bring to our offensive mentality that way, but at the very top of the list was the simplicity with which his offenses have had success, and that was something that our program needed.
Q. Do you have a target date or a certain number of practices in trimming that quarterback competition from three to two?
COACH RHOADS: August 16th is our second full scrimmage. And by the end of that scrimmage if not before we’ll be able to name the starter.
As you say trimming the competition, it will take place on a daily basis. But we’re excited about the competition. We don’t have a starter named, but we have two starting quarterbacks in our offensive system.
There will be a lot of coaches that would be like to be able to say that as well, and I look forward to the competition as it begins on the 4th.
Q. You got off to a rough start last season. Then you get Texas in that conference opener. Lose a heartbreaker. Looking back, can you talk about how that game may have gotten you on the wrong track and if you could have got that victory what it could have done during the season?
COACH RHOADS: Without getting in trouble, are you asking?
Q. Go ahead and get in trouble.
COACH RHOADS: (Laughter). Yeah. There’s no question that devastating loss affected our football team. But we came back the next week and fought like heck and lost a game by a touchdown, but then our butts started to drag a little bit lower and we suffered some bad defeats.
But with all credit to our kids, they continue to persevere. They continue to train Sunday through Saturday and finished with two victories and currently ride a two‑game winning streak going into the 2014 season, and that certainly is what we’re expanding and moving forward with.
Q. With incoming freshman line receiver Allen Lazard, what do you need to see from him for him to play from day one for you guys?
COACH RHOADS: You’ve got to pick up the system first, no matter what position you’re playing, you’ve got to understand what it is you’re doing. And then being productive at your craft. And Allen is a physically matured young man.
He came in and did a great job with our summer weight program this year. Maybe even above our expectations as a coaching staff, and with that in mind, he’s going to get his reps. He’s going to get his opportunity to catch balls. If he’s where he’s supposed to be catching balls in the process he’ll have an opportunity to play right away.
Q. Paul, not to cost you any money or not, but the Texas finish, did it make you lose some faith in the replay system?
COACH RHOADS: No. I think it accurately depicted what the replay system is and what it’s not going to be capable of overturning. What we’ve always known is the ruling on the field is most important.
And if you’re ever going to challenge as a coach, you want to know exactly what the ruling on the field is before you do that. We didn’t have to challenge, it was something that was going to have to be reviewed as it should have been, and it never produced what the rules state was enough information to overturn it.
So I wouldn’t say I’ve lost faith in it because of that, doesn’t make it any easier to swallow that loss, because it’s a game we certainly thought belonged to us as it played out on the field.
Q. How will the offense change with Mangino?
COACH RHOADS: We’re going to be a spread system. It’s a generic term but we’re going to deploy a lot of three wide receiver sets and one back offense. We’re not going to huddle. Those are things that are familiar to the Iowa State fan base and Big 12 followers in what we do.
The change I think you’re going to see will be in the very pace that we utilize and also the simplicity of what it is that we’re trying to accomplish. We’re not smart enough in Ames and even though it has several nicknames that would indicate that, that we’re going to go out and outsmart other coaches and other teams, we want to be simple where our kids can execute at a high rate of speed, and I think that’s exactly what Mark brings to our offense.
Q. Can you tell me as a defense coach, I mean, trying to recruit for defense that plays a lot of spread offenses, how will the recruiting change over the years and how has the spread affected your defense trying to defend those teams?
COACH RHOADS: I’ll answer it in two ways in how you recruit kids. I think you recruit kids in the Big 12 Conference to play defense, very positively, because of the offensive talent that they’re going to face. You look at the quarterbacks and wide receivers and the running backs that our league has been producing here in the very recent times, and you’re telling the young man he gets to line up, and that’s who he’s building his resumé off of defending those guys, that’s who they want to play against. They want to play against the best in the country, and it’s a positive influence in our league in recruiting.
How it’s impacted who you recruit, we very much recruit deeper numbers in the secondary.
We recruit 12 guys from a roster standpoint. We’re recruiting a true nickel type of linebacker, outside guy that’s a hybrid safety cornerback linebacker type that’s not going to be in the box in a regular basis, then we’re also recruiting that guy.
You’re looking for as much speed as you possibly can and at a place like ours, the hardest position to recruit is not just the defensive line but the interior defensive guys, and when it’s hard to find those guys you better be able to use the system that allows you to put guys that are effective against spread offenses, because that’s what we’re seeing.
Q. When you were talking to Mark, how much do you think having guys like Aaron and (indiscernible) quite experienced talent, how important is it to come to Iowa see it as an opportunity?
COACH RHOADS: I think he wanted to see that the cupboard wasn’t bare. I think he found that out. I think he was anxious to get back to this level. Mark and his wife Mary Jane had gone through cancer, her cancer, and beat that.
I think he gained a different perspective on the game, let them step back and get back to it at Youngstown State and get the taste for it.
He wasn’t going to just jump back in at any job. I think he saw the opportunity for success at our place. He liked the way that the program was being run. He knew that we’re full of toughness from playing us in 2009 and talking to other people that had been playing us since then.
But the fact that there were worse players in place was very much a part of the decision.
Q. Going back to something you just mentioned about recruiting defensive linemen, especially interior defensive linemen, why is it so difficult for your program? Has that been historically true as well?
COACH RHOADS: I think it’s not just our program, I think it’s historically true across the country. And it’s the simple answer to that question, you walk through the shopping mall, you don’t see a lot of 6’6", 290 pound guys that can run really fast nor anywhere else walking around the streets.
The numbers of those guys, they just don’t exist and we all want them, and so every time you find those guys, the haves in this game of college football, the traditional college programs, they’ll get first crack at those guys.
We’re going to take guys that on occasion are 230 pounds and develop them to be that 290‑pound guy. A name you might remember, and some others, Jordan Carstens, who I recruited as a walk‑on at Iowa State, had to talk Mack into bringing him in as 105, and he goes on to the National Football League with Carolina. He was about 210 pounds coming out of high school and ended up being an All Big 12 player. You gotta get lucky at places like ours that that high‑profile athlete doesn’t usually have a lot of interest in quite honestly.
Q. There’s been a mandate in some conferences and now there’s even talk the NCAA might limit the number of contact practices that programs are able to have during the course of the week during the season. As an old defensive coordinator, do you like that rule and what kind of ramifications do you think it might have for college football if that does come about?
COACH RHOADS: I’m certainly in favor of anything that aids in player safety and the research and everything that goes behind that, and certainly we have a best practice guide that’s been put in front of us and suggestions of what we should. As that’s put in front of us, research will continue to evolve and give us more true information of what’s impacting what with our game.
But when we had our Big 12 head football coaches meetings back in the month of May, these proposals that were being put in front of us, all of us, I think, to a man, were hitting less than what these best practice guides are. So I think we’re all taking care of our kids and being very mindful of them. And I think this research is very important as the game moves forward.
I think anytime that you do talk about a lack of contact, though, and wearing pads and so forth, you’ve diminished the development of certain skills necessary to play the game well. And I think that’s something that we’ve got to be mindful of as we continue to change those standards.
Q. Over the last several years you had arguably some signature wins each of those years and the immense coverage you had after those games, in the locker room, the emotional conversations you had with your team, very inspired. What has that meant to your team overall and the coverage of that?
COACH RHOADS: First of all, it means that the brand has grown. Before the 2011 victory over Oklahoma State, there would be a lot of young men a lot of people in the country wouldn’t know who this team was.
And I think with some of those signature wins, Iowa State has gained the attention that’s advanced our program.
I think if you’re playing in our program, you know it’s one that’s passion‑filled. It’s blue‑collar. It’s hard work. It’s a program where we’re not afraid to wear our emotions on our shirt sleeve, and that kind of honesty is appreciated by our kids.
Q. Getting back to the question about recruiting, you recruited 12 defensive backs, but you’ve got a numbers game going, do you cut back now on your linebackers or defensive linemen who are harder to find? How does this compare to how maybe you recruited in 2004?
COACH RHOADS: It’s a combination of linebackers and linemen who you’re recruiting. Our system uses a Will, a Mike, and a Sam linebacker, and just generally speaking I’d like to have around a three‑deep scholarship‑wise at every position. By recruiting more of a nickel back/Sam linebacker, we might shortchange the linebacker group. At the same time, if we’re going to utilize some three D‑line situations, we’re going to be able to recruit one less defensive tackle in that regard.
So that’s how it’s affected ‑‑ you use the year 2004, I was visiting with Dave Wannstedt earlier, and when he came to Pitt in 2005 ‑‑ Dave is a tremendous football coach, tremendous recruiter, but he filled our roster with down defensive linemen, and we had great depth at that position.
We were at a place where we could get them. He attracted them, but, yeah, you were going to get as many of those guys as you could at that point.
Q. You opened the season with a tough matchup against North Dakota State. Have you watched the film last year of their game in Manhattan against K‑State, and, if so, have you learned anything from that game?
COACH RHOADS: I saw it live. I don’t know if I was in a hotel or where I was. But I remember watching the conclusion of the game. All of us have such great respect for all levels of football. Our football team got beat by an FCS team last year in Northern Iowa that played a great game, and the job Craig did at North Dakota State ‑‑ and I think they’ve got 24 consecutive victories and certainly three straight National Championships, we’re very aware of how dangerous they are and how effective that they can be no matter who it is that they’re playing.