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Football

MAILBAG: Bye week edition

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I can’t not write on a September Saturday afternoon. 

As my wife often tells me, I have problems. 

While you are all out at a local pumpkin patch, catching up on yard work or sitting around your house watching the rest of the country play football, I figured now was as good of time as any to catch up on a little bye week Cyclone Fanatic mailbag.

Cheers. 

Let’s begin with a couple of questions from Luth4Cy.

Luth4Cy writes: The defense started to look like Wally’s defenses of old on Saturday. How good is this defense, and is there any chance they reach the levels of Knott and Klein’s defenses by the end of the season? 

CW: Has this defense improved exponentially since that opening week disaster vs. North Dakota State?

No doubt. 

But that 2012 defense consisted of seven Cyclones that eventually ended up in NFL camps.

I doubt it. 

While that group gave up 442 yards per game (94th nationally), it also held opponents to an average of 23.92 points per game (38th nationally). That’s especially impressive considering – you know – the Cyclones play in the Big 12.

Statistically, I don’t see the 2014 defense being as good as that one.

I’ll say it: There is no way that this defense gives up fewer than 24 points per game.

The defense in 2012 was the ONLY reason that team went to a bowl game (the offense ended the season ranked 85th in scoring and 92nd in total O). 

While I don’t see this group being anywhere close to that, it will continue to get a lot better. But these guys have plent of mistakes to make (and learn from). Next Saturday night’s date will Baylor will tell us a lot as to how the group will perform in the Big 12. Hang with the Bears and well, maybe I’ll change my tone. 

I LOVE the potential of this young secondary, especially over the next few years. Wally Burnham finally has the type of athletes he needs to play more man in the Big 12. 

I actually think that the defensive line is a lot better than anybody thought it would be. Moving a guy like Mitchell Meyers inside will make a huge difference when against spread offenses in the Big 12. I love the three linemen look. It just makes the defense that much faster.

Still, don’t forget what Iowa State beat a week ago though. Iowa’s offense caught some fire this weekend in Pitt, but last week in Iowa City that was a very mediocre unit.

I need to see more from this group before I get too excited, too soon. 

Will this be Wally’s last season in Ames? If he does retire who are some potential replacements?

CW: It could be. Honestly, I thought last season would be. 

I think that his son, Iowa State defensive tackles coach/special teams coordinator Shane Burnham will be the clubhouse leader to be named as Wally’s replacement. A handful of former players have told me how important Shane already is to the game planning that is done in Ames. He is very well respected. 

But who knows…Paul Rhoads hired a coordinator from within a few years ago (Courtney Messingham) and we all know how that worked out.

Another guy to keep an eye on is the new secondary coach Maurice Linguist. Everybody I’ve talked to seem to be incredibly impressed with the work he has done. He has future DC/head coach written all over him.

Erikbj writes: When are we going to win a home game?

CW: Oct. 11 vs. Toledo. 

Triggermv writes: With Bundrage out for the season, of our remaining receivers, who ends the season with the most receiving yards? Most receiving touchdowns?

CW: Through three games, Allen Lazard actually leads the Cyclones in receiving yards with 143 compared to Jarvis West’s 137. However, West has 15 caches to Lazard’s nine. Give me the senior, West, to lead the Cyclones in receiving yards this season and tight end E.J. Bibbs to have the most touchdowns. Other than his bail out of Sam Richardson at Kinnick Stadium last weekend, Bibbs has been relatively quiet so far this season but I don’t see that lasting very long.

Jay moe writes: What is the word on Daniel Burton? Serious injury or not?

CW: Not. I fully expect him to play next weekend against Baylor.

BallSoHard4Cy writes: Can ISU make a bowl game? There are plenty of winnable games in the second half of the season for a team that is making huge strides each week. 

CW: Of course Iowa State can make a bowl game. But will they? Let’s break down the rest of the 2014 schedule into likely wins, likely losses and games that could go either way.

Likely losses: Baylor, at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

Likely wins: Toledo, at Kansas.

Toss-ups: at Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU.

Labeling a road trip to Texas as a “toss-up” is probably a bit too optimistic but I haven’t been impressed with Charlie Strong’s team early this season. They are down on talent and now, down on numbers. That’s a winnable football game if Iowa State continues to improve. 

I like Iowa State over Texas Tech in November but to call that a “likely win” would be too much, too early. 

If the offense continues to come around, at TCU is very winnable just because I don’t see the Horned Frogs scoring much at all this season. 

Iowa State keeps improving, no doubt, but this is still a 1-2 football team heading into late-September. The one win came against a watered-down Big Ten team.

I need to see more before I make any travel plans this holiday season.

swarthmoreCY writes: Given our path to success is being having superior development, did the staff make a mistake in burning redshirts on guys like Morrissey, Miller, and George?

CW: With Morrissey, they didn’t. He was a three-year guy and they needed his body immediately, even though he didn’t play a ton.

The linebackers are interesting.

I have always wondered why Jevohn Miller played as a true freshman. I’ve never understood it. All he did was play special teams and athletically, he certainly wasn’t better than other options that they had at the time. They might have missed the boat there. 

George played as a true freshman because the staff was certain that he would be a difference maker on special teams and from that standpoint, he was pretty good. Good enough to not have him on the field this season? 

Great question. 

My philosophy is if a guy isn’t going to make an immediate difference like Allen Lazard is doing this year, then redshirt him. Having said that, every coach has a plan when it comes to scholarships, what they want to do and who needs to be playing. For me to say that Rhoads was wrong on those two guys would be unfair but in the case of Miller (and perhaps George too), yes, I do have questions.

Browns4cy writes: My question was how much of Mangino’s playbook have we seen to this point? Seems we are still a little on the vanilla side but are executing very well. How good can we be offensively?

CW: This question really captures what I think will be looked at as the theme of the 2014 Iowa State football season. Constant progression. Constant improvement.

This summer, Seneca Wallace told me that the understanding of Mark Mangino’s offense would be a major work in progress for the Cyclones – much more than what most people understood.

I trust Seneca Wallace. He knows a lot about football.

If you consider that, it makes complete sense that Mangino will add a little bit to the playbook each and every week. For the most part, I think we have seen that through the first three games. 

The same will be true for the defense too, although it is about to face much tougher (perhaps different is the more appropriate word) offenses going forward compared to what it has seen up until now.