The Big 12 will hold its annual media day event in Dallas on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Unofficially, the season is here.
Here’s a football-only mailbag to get you guys in the mood.
Daserop writes: For ISU football what position concerns you the most and why?
CW: Other than defensive line (because this is pretty much always a concern at Iowa State), I’ll go with the offensive line and specifically the center position. Attempting to replace Tom Farniok will be a chore.
I’m concerned about center because I think that if healthy, the rest of the line is set up to be much better than what we saw a year ago. Jake Campos and Brock Dagel combine to equal two quality Big 12 tackles. Iowa State actually has options inside with Oni Omoile, Wendell Taiese and Jamison Lalk.
The center position is the only unknown.
Will Lalk end up there (that’d be my guess)? Is sophomore Nick Severs ready to go? Assuming that JUCO Patrick Scoggins is ready to jump right in and play Big 12 caliber ball scares me.
Across the board with the skill players on offense, I think Iowa State has guys who can compete and win in the Big 12. But it all starts with the offensive line. If those guys aren’t any good then we will likely be talking about another disappointing season on offense at the end of the year.
Sigmapolis writes: We start 5-0. Close games, but we get it done. We finish 0-7. Not many of them are close. What happens then and how does the fan base feel?
CW: Even though five wins is better than most are currently expecting in 2015, the fan base would still be depleted should the scenario that you described play out.
If you’re fishing for a coaching change answer, it’s very possible but I really don’t know. Jamie Pollard works in mysterious ways. It would be difficult to stay the course though (IMO) after losing seven straight to end the year, regardless of who those games were to.
Bozclone writes: I think so much of our success this year will depend on the quarterback position. In your opinion, where does Sam Richardson rank vs. the other quarterbacks in the league?
CW: Before I answer that specific question, I do think that a couple of things are important to note here. 1) The fact that this will be year two under Mark Mangino should help Sam greatly. 2) Like I noted above, I think Sam can/will be as good as his offensive line will allow him to be. He will certainly have plenty of tools at wide receiver to work with.
Where does he rank in the Big 12? If you go by what we have actually seen, he’s a bottom-half guy. Zero questions asked. He can be better though.
Fitzy writes: If we take on a lot of injuries – again – does that give Rhoads more breathing room as far as job security if results go south?
CW: No, I don’t think so.
One year of a rash of injuries is an anomaly. Two years in a row makes that anomaly a coincidence. Three years in a row? That would mean there is a systemic problem when it comes to player development and that goes on the coach.
(It’s important to note here that a lot depends on the injury too. Some truly are freak deals. Some, not so much.)
TailG8ter writes: Which receiver do you think will lead the team in yardage & touchdowns?
CW: I’ll go with D’Vario Montgomery for two reasons, the first being how he ended last year. After not recording a statistic during the first three games, Montgomery quickly became one of Richardson’s favorite targets in the fifth game of the year when he caught nine balls against Toledo. He caught nine for 100 yards the following week at Texas. Statistically, those were Iowa State’s two best offensive games of the season.
Secondly, I think he will be used a little bit in the E.J. Bibbs role from last year too. I’m simply guessing that Montgomery will get more targets than the other guys.
AdRock4Cy writes: Gun to your head. Do we beat UNI and Iowa, Split, or lose both?
CW: Win both would be my guess.
JustAFleshwound writes: If Rhoads calls for his typical punt on fourth-and-one from the UNI 40-yard line in the first quarter, will the whole stadium boo or just part of it?
CW: Everybody will boo but let me make one point here: Did you watch last year’s offensive line? Did you see how awful that offense was in short-yard situations?
I’m all about rolling the dice and playing to win too. These days, what exactly does Iowa State have to lose?
There’s rolling the dice and there is being stupid. For a coach (any coach, not just Rhoads) to go for it on fourth down, you have to have confidence that your line can give you some push. Last year’s group simply couldn’t do that, which it proved time and time again.
Upstateclone writes: Which true freshman are most likely to see the field this year?
CW: It’s tough to fully answer that question because most of them aren’t on campus yet. Who knows what kind of shape they will show up in?
On paper, the two running backs (Joshua Thomas and Sheldon Croney) probably have the best opportunity strictly because of the depth chart. However, the Kendall Williams commitment will likely hinder their chances.
Talent wise, I’m very high on Seth Nerness but it will be tough for him to crack the two-deeps as a rookie on the defensive line.
Cybychoice writes: Who will have the biggest impact on the defense this year?
CW: It needs to be Demond Tucker at defensive tackle. I actually kind of like Iowa State’s defensive ends. Tucker, the highly-touted JUCO, needs to be a game-changer for this defense to truly take a step in the right direction.
EnhancedFajita writes: The offense seems more stable to me than the defense. Assuming the offensive line is competent/healthy and provides run & pass protection, does this offense have the ability to overcome a mediocre defense? Or do we need to have some pleasant surprises on the other side of the ball as well?
CW: I think that there needs to be balance, mainly because we have been burned by this very scenario multiple times before in the Rhoads era. Entering fall camp, it has usually been the same story.
All sorts of potential on offense and our hair is on fire defensively.
More often than not though, the defense has outplayed the offense.
If you go strictly by history, Wally Burnham’s group will likely be better than we think and the offense won’t be as strong.
I’d take a "mediocre" defense right now in a heartbeat.
If Iowa State is going to go to a bowl this year though, the offense will have to carry the program. This is Big 12 football. You have to be able to score points to win.