MID-WEEK MAILBAG: Game day weddings, redshirts, and more

Sep 9, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) runs for a first down against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium. The Hawkeyes won 44-41 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Well folks, it’s here. Nearly 250 days ago, Iowa State football gave us the ol’ “it’s not goodbye, it’s see ya later” after their Liberty Bowl takeover. Matt Campbell and Co. slipped quietly into the night dark (#WinInTheDark) and left us to cheer for a basketball team mired in growing pains, followed by the mythical entity in the space-time continuum known to other Big 12 schools as “baseball season.”

Thankfully, the long wait is finally over. It’s Cyclone football game week, which means you can stop clutching your faded Seneca Wallace jersey against your chest to help you fall asleep at night. Football is BACK, baby.

As part of Cyclone Fanatic‘s game week content lineup this fall, I’ll be penning a Mid-Week Mailbag every Wednesday that answers questions submitted by fans like you. Chris Williams was kind enough to grant me his blessing to write this column (I may or may not have broken into his house and furiously dumped out full cans of Busch Light until he gave in) and it should provide some lighthearted, hopefully informative reading as you count down the hours to kickoff each week.

If you ever have a question you’d like answered in the Mid-Week Mailbag, be on the lookout for a thread asking for submissions on the CF forums early each week, as well as a tweet or two from the CF Twitter account.

Let’s get started.

cyclonpediaJoe (forums) asks: Why do people get married on the Iowa/ISU game day? I had a wedding during the 2016 game, and that worked out, but come on!

Joe, this is an epidemic that we, as a society, must work together to eliminate. Holding a wedding during the Cy-Hawk game is especially bogus when the bride and groom are well-aware that the majority of their guests are big ISU and Iowa fans (which probably applies to 90%+ of weddings within state borders).

Some people just aren’t into college football at all and have no awareness of what it means to not be able to watch a game, let alone a game against your team’s bitter in-state rival. I’d be more likely to give those people a pass for scheduling their wedding on game day, even though they should at least attempt to put themselves in the shoes of the guests who they expect to attend their special day.

But those who are big supporters of Iowa or Iowa State and STILL choose to pick THAT Saturday out of all the other Saturdays of the year? Come on!!

I get that it might be the only day your venue was available, that it’s the day you guys started dating or got engaged or had your first kiss, yadda yadda. It’s still a pain in the butt and as the catalyst in this decision, you must go into your wedding day expecting that you will be judged heavily by your football fan friends. You also shouldn’t be surprised or angry if you see people checking the score of the game on their phone every now and then (outside of the ceremony, of course, I’m not a monster).

Think of it this way… For many of us, supporting our college football team is like supporting a best friend. We always want to be there during the big moments and we can feel extremely remorseful if we aren’t. If you rip us away from our best friend during one of the biggest occasions they need our support, it’s gonna hurt. I realize you can reverse it and say the same things about a wedding, but again, weddings can be scheduled for days that aren’t college football Saturdays.

LoyalFawker (forums) asks: My wife’s friend is getting married on the Iowa State vs. Iowa game day. I was put in charge of RSVPing, I responded no and said who in their right mind puts their wedding on Cy-Hawk gameday in the comment. I told my wife and she was pissed, she said that’s not something you put in an RSVP. I disagreed. The question I pose to you Fitz is, who’s right?

To answer this one accurately I would need some more information… How close are your wife and her friend? Does your wife’s friend like football, appreciate brutal honesty, and/or have a sense of humor? Was your wife’s anger directed solely at your choice of comment or the fact that she might have to do damage control with her friend?

Taking your question at face value, I must admit that I think your wife has a case to be angry here, even though I’m strongly #TeamNoGamedayWeddings. You took initiative and made the tough decision, and for that I applaud you, but the execution could have been a bit smoother.

The way I would have played it would be to write “prior commitment” in the comment section. It’s vague enough that the bride will accept it as a fact and if your wife were to read that and ask you what the prior commitment is, you could tell her “Honey, I’m taking you out for celebratory dinner after the Cyclones beat the Hawkeyes!”

Boom. You don’t have to go to the wedding, you get to watch the game, and your wife gets a special dinner date. Remember that for the next time you’re in this situation, LoyalFawker.

dafarmer (forums) asks: With the new redshirt rules, do you scatter out the playing time, or wait until later in the season when we have injuries?

CyBlitz (forums) asks: Who burns a redshirt or at least plays four games?

In case some of you reading this aren’t already aware, the new rules allow non-redshirted players to play in up to four games and still qualify for a redshirt.

The first question is kinda tough to answer before the season because there are a lot of variables at play… How many blowouts will ISU play in? Does the staff want to get guys playing time early in the season to see what they have, or save them for the heart of the conference slate? Should you bank on injuries, and if so, will experienced backups be the ones to step in or inexperienced players with more room to develop?

If I was a betting man, I’d bet that non-redshirted players will fall into these three main categories:

– Those who will play every game.

– Those who the coaching staff are still evaluating and may or may not burn their redshirt based on performance or need at their position.

– Those who would have regularly redshirted under the old rules and will only play during blowouts.

Players who arrived in the class of 2018 (that are redshirt eligible) that I’m counting on falling under the first category include QB Re-al Mitchell, OL Trevor Downing, MLB Mike Rose, and K Brayden Narveson. Mitchell will likely be used as a wrinkle in the offense thanks to his athleticism, Downing is listed as the lone backup at right guard on the week one depth chart, Rose is apparently making a huge push to be the starting middle linebacker, and Narveson is competing for kicking duties with Chris Francis and Connor Assalley.

Freshman QB Re-al Mitchell throws a ball alongside senior Kyle Kempt at ISU fall camp.

As for the second category, I would have guessed a guy like WR Joseph Scates would have been a perfect example prior to his untimely suspension on Friday. Scates reportedly has a lot of raw talent, but he’s at a position that has plenty of depth and he would have needed to shine on the field in order to secure more playing time. It’s unfortunate that he may not have the opportunity to play late in non-conference games against South Dakota State and Akron, because those are two of the few match-ups on the schedule where Iowa State might have a large enough lead late in the game to put in the backups. Knock on wood, of course.

The final category should include pretty much everyone else. Redshirt usage should be one of the more intriguing storylines to follow during the season.

Goldfinger (forums) asks: We lost probably our two highest-profile assistant coaches on offense in Manning and Ayeni, plus we have a new quarterback coach. There also seems to be no designated offensive coordinator. Yet there seems to be little concern about our offense. At the very least just the dynamic amongst the staff on game day would seem to be a potential problem. Do you think we should expect some stumbling blocks?

I think it’s safe to say there will be stumbling blocks early on, but I think they will be more personnel-related than coach-related.

Campbell has pointed out before that play calling and the offense, in general, has always gotten input from more than one coach. And if there’s one thing that always seems to ring true about Campbell’s staff, it’s that they are a cohesive unit, even if they have a couple new faces this year. Recruits have reiterated that fact lately when commenting about their visits to Ames and it’s been a priority dating back to Campbell’s time at Toledo.

Here are the two main things that do concern me about the offense heading into Saturday:

Will the offensive line be improved? Their performance last year was underwhelming and for Iowa State to take the next step, they’ll have to be better.

– How will Kyle Kempt/the receivers adjust to life without Allen Lazard? Lazard was about as good of a security blanket as there was in college football last year and he often came up with some miracle catches on balls thrown in his general vicinity. Does Hakeem Butler have that capability? Can the receivers and tight ends in general fill that void?

Stay tuned…

Aclone (forums) asks: If the offensive line gels and is a strength, what’s the limit for this team?

The first double-digit win season in program history. A good offensive line + one of the most talented running backs in the country = a scary good offense to complement what should be a rock-solid defense.

LarryISU (forums) asks: The new kickoff rule allows for a fair catch inside the 25 with the ball then spotted at the 25. Do you expect most teams to call for the fair catch a lot? Will the kicking teams try to take advantage by kicking the ball to an “up” man at the 20? How will the Cyclones address both of these questions? 

I think if I’m the kicking team, I still try to boot the ball through the end zone every time. No return chance means no explosive scoring chance. If teams try to get cute and kick the ball somewhere in the “iffy” zone near the 15-20 yard lines, then that sets up for great field position for the receiving team AND they could get even better field position than the 25.

If I’m wrong and teams do try to kick it short to force a decision, then I’d expect the Cyclones to have one returner “deep” and another one “shallow” to give them a chance to make a big return.

cyclones500 (forums) asks: Based on preseason expectations, which ISU position group overachieves and which underachieves in 2018?

You’re putting me on the spot here, cyclones500. I’ll give my honest thoughts with the disclaimer that even if I pick underachieve for a group, it doesn’t mean I think they’ll have a comically bad year – and I hope I’m wrong each time!

QB: Underachieve. Look, I love Kyle Kempt‘s steadiness and Zeb Noland‘s potential as much as the next guy, but history isn’t in their favor here. Iowa State’s quarterback position has been a revolving door for years now and I’d expect some kind of adversity to hit at some point. The odds are that Kempt won’t start every game, and as mentioned above, the passing game will take some getting used to without Lazard no matter who’s behind center.

RB: Overachieve. David Montgomery was a beast last year and the offensive line can’t be as bad as they were in 2017, right? Add in a healthy Kene Nwangwu and some other depth pieces and as a whole, this should be the position the Cyclone offense can lean on all year.

Receivers: Underachieve. I swear I’m not as down on the passing game as I’m making it sound, but relative to expectations, I think the receivers are going to take some time to find their groove.

OL: Both. Yeah, I’m cheating. The line was notoriously bad at run blocking last year and I think they’ll have made that an emphasis enough this off-season that they’ll be better in that department. Meanwhile, they were actually pretty good at pass blocking in 2017 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave up a few more QB pressures this time around.

DL: Underachieve. Again, relative to expectations here, people. I think the Cyclones have arguably their best defensive line ever, but there will be film on the three-man front for opposing teams to have studied this off-season and there are some hyped backups that need to prove themselves (looking at you, Matt Leo and Kamilo Tongamoa) before we deem this group the second coming of the Purple People Eaters.

LB: Overachieve. Marcel Spears Jr. and Willie Harvey are both talented and experienced enough that they should anchor the second level of Iowa State’s defense. Whoever ends up filling the majority of playing time at the MIKE linebacker spot shouldn’t take long to adjust thanks to those two guys and the services of Ray Lima directly in front.

Secondary: Overachieve. Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne will have the corners locked down and I think the starting safeties (likely Greg Eisworth and Lawrence White) will be able to fill the middle of the field and be even better in coverage than last year’s safeties.

Special Teams: Overachieve. Kicker is the biggest question mark here, but whoever ends up winning that job should be serviceable at worst. Word on the street is punter Corey Dunn is the real deal, and I’d bet teams will avoid kicking to Tarique Milton by the end of the season.

throwittoblythe (forums) asks: Beyond what age is it no longer appropriate for a man to wear a backwards hat? My vote is 30 yrs old.

Enjoy your ban from the forums, throwittoblythe. Ha! But for real… CW could wear a rainbow tutu with angel wings if he’s running an event that raises over $10K for a Cyclone fan battling cancer.

Cyched (forums) asks: In regards to the upcoming season, which player has the best chance to go from being a relative unknown to becoming a fan favorite by the end of the season?

Assuming he gets as much playing time as it sounds like he’s going to get, I’ll go with freshman linebacker Mike Rose. Just watch his highlight tape and imagine him making those types of plays in a Cyclone uniform. The kid has great instincts and makes things happen on the field. Young + talented = fan favorite.

DandyCyclone (forums) asks: Who leads the team in tackles at the end of the season?

Joel Lanning led the Cyclones last year with 114 total tackles. Spears was second with 107, with a wide margin between him and third place (Peavy, 88). Give me Spears as the leader this season.

JHUNSY (forums) asks: Tap, Case, Shotgun: Natural Ice, Icehouse, Earthquake High Gravity.

Tap Earthquake High Gravity, case Natural Ice, shotgun Icehouse is the correct answer. But there’s no winning combination there no matter how you shuffle them.

srjclone (forums) asks: On a scale of 1-10, how controversial is Monte Morris dating Amber Rose in the eyes of Cyclones fans?

It’s up there, probably an eight or nine since most Cyclone fans have only ever thought of Monte in basketball terms and forget that he has a life outside of the game. If he’s happy, she’s happy, and she’s not carrying any sort of Kardashian curse with her, then I can only be glad that Iowa State basketball has gained another high-profile fan.

cyrocksmypants (forums) asks: Why do your feet smell and your nose runs? Not a generic you. You specifically.

It’s because you have nearly 44,000 posts on the forums and when I have to wade through that much trash, I start to smell like and have reactions to it.

I think that’s a good place to end, ladies and gentlemen! Thanks to everyone who submitted questions this week. If you’d like to submit your own for next week’s Mid-Week Mailbag, feel free to tweet or DM me (@KFitzy87) and I’ll take your Qs into consideration.

Enjoy the rest of game week! Go Cyclones!