AMES — From the standpoint of game preparation, Iowa State’s 2014 football schedule could not have been scripted more favorably.
Iowa State’s first three games were against the most (power) run-oriented teams that the Cyclones will see all season.
Now, Iowa State has a week off before the up-tempo, high-flying and downright frightening seventh-ranked Baylor Bears will invade Ames.
After that, it is (for the most part) spread offenses the rest of the way.
“It was very favorable in that way,” Paul Rhoads said after Tuesday’s practice. “Favorable from a preparation standpoint but not as favorable from a personnel standpoint, being built to withstand that.”
That’s because over the course of history, the Cyclones tend to be more dinged up after playing the Kansas State’s and Iowa’s of the world than some of the other spread programs in the Big 12. Playing North Dakota State, Kansas State and Iowa back-to-back-to-back was a significant challenge.
“It took its toll physically – not from an injury standpoint on the defensive side of the ball necessarily – but it weighs on you physically,” Rhoads said.
Through three games, Iowa State has already lost four members (only three if wide receiver P.J. Harris is able to return after surgery) of the season-opening two deep for the year due to injury. But for the most part, the power teams are out of the way.
Now, Rhoads and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham will face the chore of slowing down the top offense in college football, Baylor. The Bears, who also have a bye week, are currently averaging 654 yards and 59.3 points per game in wins over SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo (not exactly murderer’s row).
Unsurprisingly, Baylor boasts the No. 1 offense in America through three weeks.
“Not only were we advantageously taking advantage of the time to prepare for Baylor but we are also taking advantage of the time and resting and going shorter on the practice field,” Rhoads said.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The bye week will consist of Baylor prep, resting the players and perhaps more importantly, lots of recruiting for the Iowa State coaching staff.
“You are allowed 42 recruiting days in the fall evaluation period,” Rhoads said. “Thursday, we are going to use seven of them. Friday we are using 10 of them. Saturday we are using nine of them.”
Rhoads said that his staff will be all over the country.
“We are going all the way to North Carolina and we are going all the way to California,” Rhoads said. “We are covering a lot of schools, a lot of ground and seeing a lot of kids.”
Iowa State currently has 10 known verbal commitments in its class of 2015.
SAMMY FOOTBALL: Sam Richardson’s completion percentage through three games is at 68 percent.
“With this offense, we need to be at 65 or better,” Rhoads said. “Being where we are right now is part product of the offense but it is a heavier product of Sam’s accuracy, getting through his progressions and guys catching it and doing a nice job of getting open to be in position to catch it.”
Notably, Richardson’s completion percentage is up five points from this time a year ago, when he exited game three with a 62.5 percentage next to his name.
Rhoads said that an improved group of receivers has a lot to do with it too.
“That was one of my points of emphasis with the offense last week, we have to throw and catch but that starts with getting open,” Rhoads said. “We have to gain separation and give him a window to throw to.”
MEDDERS: Raise your hand if you had walk-on Brett Medders having more receptions through three games than D’Vario Montgomery…
Medders, who filled in for an injured Jarvis West during the second half of Saturday’s 20-17 victory over Iowa, caught three passes and showed why Rhoads and his staff has so much trust in the junior.
“We talked about it this summer, that we knew he would eventually play this year, that we would need him and that he would be ready when that time came,” Rhoads said. “Good hands. He is the possession guy. Probably a little bit faster and athletic than just that but he catches it. He is where he is supposed to be. He works hard to get his job done on every snap. He’s reliable.”
MUTCHERSON: T.J. Mutcherson’s interception of Jake Rudock on the third quarter Saturday was a major turning point in the game. On Tuesday night, a reporter asked Rhoads what Mutcherson’s ceiling is as a defensive back for the Cyclones.
“He will get his endurance tested as the year goes along,” Rhoads said. “I thought Coach Mo wisely put Darian Cotton in there for about 10 snaps to a dozen snaps, which gave him a little bit of a breather, which he needs right now. He throws his body around recklessly. He is not overly big. He is strong but he is not a big guy. If his hips continue to improve, I think there is a high ceiling there.”
BRING ON BAYLOR: Speaking of Mutcherson, the sophomore strong safety was not shy when talking about the opportunity that playing Baylor in a week presents.
“We are going to compete with them," Mutcherson said Tuesday. "We’re not scared of them. They put on their pants just like we put on our pants, one leg at a time. We are going to go out and compete with them.”