Big 12: Iowa State Cyclones

Big 12's lunch links

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
12:00
PM ET
Tap, tap. I can't wait for this 30 for 30.

Take Two: Which QB advanced?

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
10:30
AM ET
This week's "Take Two" topic: Which Big 12 quarterback still in a battle for a job took the biggest step toward earning a starting role during the spring games Saturday?

Take 1: Max Olson -- West Virginia’s Paul Millard

If the season started today … well, that’s a question Dana Holgorsen doesn’t have to answer, so no way is he going to any time soon.

[+] EnlargePaul Millard
James Lang/USA TODAY SportsPaul Millard was impressive on Saturday for West Virginia, but can he nail down the QB job?
There’s no gun to the West Virginia coach’s head when it comes to his quarterback decision, not when only three of his five potential candidates played in the Gold-Blue Game. No need to commit to anything now, though the Mountaineer quarterbacks did have one important audition Saturday.

And the passer who made the best impression this weekend was Millard. Which is understandable, considering this was the senior’s fourth chance at a spring game at WVU.

Millard completed 14 of 19 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, with both of those scores coming in the red zone. With Clint Trickett out for the spring and touted freshman William Crest not yet on campus, this was a prime opportunity for Millard to what he can do with the offense.

His competition on this day was junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former Division II transfer Logan Moore, who played receiver last fall. Holgorsen wanted to see his quarterbacks do a better job of getting the ball to playmakers like Mario Alford, but it’s hard to demand that consistency when your quarterback play is ever-changing.

Millard started three games, appeared in four more and finished with 1,122 passing yards and six touchdowns last season. But all three WVU starting QBs threw as many interceptions as they did touchdowns in 2013. He knows as well as anybody it’ll be imperative for the Mountaineers to find their best guy and stick with him.

“We all know it’s a long road ahead,” Millard said after the spring game. “Just got to keep competing.”

Take 2: Jake Trotter – Iowa State’s Grant Rohach

Millard certainly had a sharp spring game. But because Trickett wasn’t on the field Saturday due to the shoulder injury, it was impossible for Millard to distinguish himself from his biggest competition.

Rohach had no such issue in the Cyclones’ spring game. With Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning also getting ample opportunity, Rohach outshined them both Saturday while taking a strong step toward locking up the starting job.

Building off how he finished last season, Rohach completed 22 of 38 passes for 171 yards. He also dashed for an 8-yard touchdown off a slick read option, and was behind center on three of the offense’s six scoring drives.

The offense wasn't nearly as crisp when Rohach was off the field. Lanning, a redshirt freshman with a lot of potential, completed only 7 of his 14 attempts with 44 yards. Richardson, who began the 2013 season as the starter before suffering an array of injuries, threw for just 55 yards while completing 8 of 13 passes.

While head coach Paul Rhoads cautioned that the derby wasn’t necessarily over and that a lot could happen until August, he admitted that Rohach was the top spring game performer among the quarterbacks.

“We will come out of spring with two leading candidates,” Rhoads later reiterated.

The Cyclones have good reason to take their time in naming a quarterback. The players are still adapting to new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offensive system. And one spring game is no reason to overreact. Rohach wasn't perfect, either, throwing two late interceptions.

But Rohach has been surging since the end of last season. As a freshman, he was on point in a 34-0 win over Kansas. Then he rallied the Cyclones from a 24-point, second-half deficit to lift them to a triple-overtime victory at West Virginia.

Rohach still has work to do to nail down the job in August. But after his spring game showing, he will head into the summer as the clear front-runner to do so.

Spring game review: Iowa State

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
1:30
PM ET
Iowa State held its annual Cyclone Gridiron Club spring football game on Saturday. A recap of what happened:

[+] EnlargeGrant Rohach
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesAfter a solid spring game, Grant Rohach will head into the summer with an edge in Iowa State's QB competition.
Best offensive performance: Quarterback Grant Rohach got the first turn with the first-team offense and he didn’t disappoint. The sophomore completed 22 of 38 passes for 171 yards and led the Cyclones on three of their six scoring drives. He capped one of those with an 8-yard touchdown run. The quarterback competition with Joel Lanning and Sam B. Richardson isn’t over yet. But Rohach will head into the summer with the edge.

Best defensive performance: In a surprising performance given how many key players were missing, the first-team defense forced seven three-and-outs to begin the game and finished with 12 sacks, even though a defender only had to touch the quarterback to be credited with one. Still, it was a dominating charge led by ends Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, who each totaled four sacks apiece and were constantly wreaking havoc in the offense’s backfield.

Best debut: With junior college transfer Devron Moore out because of homesickness and T.J. Mutcherson suffering an MCL injury, the Cyclones have taken some hits at safety, where they already faced the task of replacing starters Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield. But redshirt freshman Kamari Syrie had his moments on Saturday, including an interception off Rohach. Pending Moore’s return and Mutcherson’s recovery, Syrie could end up playing a big role in the Iowa State secondary in the fall.

Notable play: Receiver P.J. Harris flashed his playmaking potential on Saturday. He took a quick hitch from Richardson on the right side, made a couple of defenders miss at the line of scrimmage, then galloped left across the field for an impressive first down. “[Harris] had the longest run of the day,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “Eighty yards to gain 18, or whatever it was.”

Developing storyline: Eleven receivers caught at least one pass in the spring game. But Quenton Bundrage was not one of them. The Cyclones targeted Bundrage, who tied a single-season school record with nine touchdown catches last season, several times, but most of the attempts were badly overthrown. And the one that hit him in the hands, he dropped. The wind had something to do with the misfires. But there were times last season when Bundrage basically disappeared from the offense. Successfully getting him the ball down the field will be paramount for the Iowa State offense to meet its full potential in the fall.

Biggest question answered: Whoever the quarterback turns out to be, he’ll have the best array of weapons surrounding him that Iowa State has enjoyed in a long time. The 1-2 running back punch of Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy looked sharp on Saturday as they rushed for 71 yards with an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Versatile tight end E.J. Bibbs and slot receiver Jarvis West each caught eight passes. Even backup receivers Brett Medders and Harris had nice outings. The Cyclones still have to settle on a quarterback. But otherwise, they appear stocked with playmakers.

Quotable: “There comes a point that you really get concerned about timing and making sure the lead guy is getting the majority of those reps with those No. 1s. Whether I’ll announce that in April, when we get through practice Wednesday, or we’ll wait to see what happens in August. … you’ve got to remember, there’s a lot of things that could happen in May, June and July leading up to August that could change things.” -- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads on the QB competition

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
12:00
PM ET
It's not like bringing a cat to the spring game but Kliff Kingsbury is still winning ...
Saturday, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia all held their spring games. Below is a sample of the sights from each stadium:

IOWA STATE

KANSAS

OKLAHOMA

TEXAS TECH

WEST VIRGINIA

Spring game preview: Iowa State

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
1:30
PM ET
This weekend, Iowa State will hold its annual spring game, which will be open to the public. Here’s a closer look:

When: 2 p.m., Saturday

[+] EnlargeIowa State Cyclones
David Purdy/Getty ImagesCould Sam B. Richardson be the answer at QB for Iowa State?
Where: Jack Trice Stadium

What to watch for:

  • New offense: Before the spring, coach Paul Rhoads gave few clues as to what Mark Mangino’s new offense would look like. Iowa State is going to be transitioning to a no-huddle attack, but after that, much is left to be revealed. In the interest of competitive advantage, the Cyclones are sure to hold back most of the playbook on Saturday, but at least Iowa State fans will get a glimpse into what the Mangino offense will look like in the fall.
  • Quarterback battle: More than a decade later, the Cyclones are still essentially trying to replace Seneca Wallace. After multiple seasons of musical quarterbacks, a problem that has handcuffed the Cyclones in the past, could this be the year Iowa State finally uncovers the long-term answer at the position? It could be. Sam B. Richardson, who opened last year as the starter before getting injured, has shown promise when healthy. Grant Rohach, who finished last year as the starter, closed out the season with two strong performances in Iowa State wins. The two have been getting the majority of the snaps this spring. But don’t rule out redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, either. The former high school wrestler has impressed the Iowa State coaching staff with his toughness, work ethic and big arm. He could be the darkhorse in this competition, which figures to linger into August.
  • WR D’Vario Montgomery: With All-Big 12 candidates E.J. Bibbs and Quenton Bundrage leading the way, the Cyclones could wind up featuring the program’s best collection of pass-catchers in years. Montgomery, who sat out last year after transferring in from South Florida, could add to that corps. On Saturday, Montgomery will get to show the fans what he can do with his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame.
  • Veteran offensive line: The offensive line should be one of the best in the Big 12, with the entire unit coming back from last year. Tom Farniok is an All-Big 12-caliber center and one of the team’s unquestioned leaders. Left tackle Brock Dagel has been out this spring with a cut on his leg that got infected, but he has the potential to play in the NFL some day. Guard Daniel Burton is physical and one of the smartest players on the offense, and right tackle Jacob Gannon has a ton of experience. The Cyclones could push several opposing defensive lines around next season, and with Iowa State still rebuilding its front seven, the offensive line ought to dominate in the spring game, too.
  • Depleted defense: While the offense will be operating at close to full strength, the defense will be operating with a dearth of able, experienced bodies. On top of graduating five starters, injuries, defections and expulsions have hampered coordinator Wally Burnham’s unit this spring. Tackle Rodney Coe was kicked off the team last month and safety Devron Moore has since left, at least temporarily, after getting homesick. Both players were potential starters. Linebacker Luke Knott is still recovering from a hip injury, and defensive linemen Pierre Aka (concussion) and David Irving (shoulder) have been knocked out with ailments. Reinforcements will arrive in the summer, but it will be interesting to see how the defense copes on Saturday. It also will be an opportunity for younger players to make their mark.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
12:00
PM ET
Happy Friday, everybody. Here are the links...
We've been doing something different with Friday's Big 12 mailbag. From now on, we'll be including Twitter questions with the regular mailbag submissions. To submit a mailbag entry via Twitter, simply include the hashtag #big12mailbag. You also still can send in questions the traditional way here, too.

To the 'bag...
Trotter: So far, Oklahoma State running back/receiver Tyreek Hill, TCU safety Kenny Iloka and Kansas receiver Nick Harwell. With his speed, Hill could lead the league in all-purpose yards. Iloka is going to be a key piece in the best secondary in the Big 12. And Harwell should finally give the Jayhawks that go-to receiver they haven’t had since Dezmon Briscoe.

Trotter: The Cyclones get K-State in Ames the second week of the season, which could be a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who might get caught looking ahead to that Thursday night clash with Auburn. Another team that must pay heed is Oklahoma. The Sooners go to Iowa State the week before hosting Baylor in a game that could determine the Big 12 crown. OU can't afford to be looking ahead, either.

Trotter: I'm going to set it at 1 1/2, and I think I would actually bet the over. The Jayhawks are going to be better this season, and quite possibly good enough to steal two conference wins.

Trotter: Right now, the Red Raiders have one on campus, and that's well below the national average. I don't see an issue. The way Davis Webb has improved in the last five months, he's going to be the guy the next three seasons barring something unforeseen. That would still give Jarrett Stidham three seasons of eligibility to be the starter, if he redshirted next year. Patrick Mahomes will get this chances, too. Seems like what TTU is going to do is be really good at quarterback the next six years.

Trotter: I have no inside info here, but if the game is at 11 a.m. again, hit me up in the fall and I'll share with you my shortcut to the Texas State Fair.

Trotter: It was a move that had to be made. Sams is too talented to be standing on the sidelines. He's not going to instantly become an All-Big 12 receiver. But if they can devise ways to get Sams the ball in space, the move could work out well. I see Sams getting a lot of his touches through flares, screens, reverses and maybe a handoff or Wildcat formation here or there. If they can get Sams the ball 10 times a game, that will only help the K-State offense. Think Trevone Boykin in TCU's offense late last year. That's how I see Sams best fitting in.

Trotter: Playing? Yes. Starting? No. I think Williams ultimately favors one side of the ball. The most likely scenario is he still keeps a major role at running back, then gives coordinator Matt Wallerstedt 15-20 plays at outside linebacker, which is more than I would have predicted at the beginning of the spring. Williams can really help the defense, but not at the expense of playing 130 snaps.

Trotter: Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Mike Gundy, Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson have ironclad job security. Paul Rhoads and Kliff Kingsbury have nothing to worry about, either, and Charlie Strong is too new to have to worry (though in Austin, that could change fast). That leaves Charlie Weis and Dana Holgorsen, whose seats are warmest among Big 12 coaches. I think Weis just has to show improvement this season. He can't go 0-12. Holgorsen is the most interesting to watch. Considering the brutal schedule, it's very possible West Virginia is better than last year and still goes 5-7, which might not be enough for Holgorsen to keep his job. But if the Mountaineers go, say, 7-5 against that slate, then I would think Holgorsen would be deserving of another year. West Virginia has been recruiting at an impressive clip, and the schedule will line up more favorably in 2015.


jrodxc07 in Dallas writes: Jake, love the blog, nice work sir. I think you could make a case for incoming Baylor receiver K.D. Cannon as Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Can you explain why you left him off your list?

Trotter: Appreciate it, sir. Cannon was actually on the poll for Offensive Freshman of the Year two weeks ago. The newcomer poll was for transfers, which is why you didn't see him there.


I only care about the Big 12 writes: Please go ahead and give us your way-too early power rankings? That is, if you haven't already...

Trotter: I actually released a power poll in January that went this way: OU, Baylor, K-State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas. I'll be updating it, though, after spring ball concludes.

Athlon ranks the Big 12 coaches

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
4:00
PM ET
Athlon Sports has always been big on lists. And this week, Athlon’s Steven Lassan ranked all 128 FBS coaches. He also pulled out the top 10 Big 12 coaches.

As a disclaimer, this is NOT our list. This is Athlon’s. So forward all hate tweets and emails to them. Not me. I already get enough.

[+] Enlarge Art Briles
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesArt Briles' status has grown in the eyes of Athlon.
Without further ado:

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

2. Art Briles, Baylor

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

5. Gary Patterson, TCU

6. Charlie Strong, Texas

7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

9. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

10. Charlie Weis, Kansas

Some observations:

  • Athlon prefers coaches who win conference championships. Briles, Snyder, Gundy and Stoops, the top four on this list, have won the past four Big 12 titles.
  • I went back and checked and noticed some interesting changes. Snyder was No. 1 in 2013, but dropped two spots this year (why, I’m not sure; K-State did win six of seven to close out the season). Mack Brown was No. 6 -- the same slot that Strong opened up here. Kingsbury moved up only one spot after going 8-5 in his first season.
  • In the eyes of Athlon, Patterson’s stock is falling. He was the No. 2 coach going into his first year in the Big 12 and was ranked third going into last season. On the flip side, Briles has made the biggest rise in the last two years, going from sixth to second after winning the Big 12 last season.
  • Athlon actually had Snyder fifth in 2012, which is hard to believe. We’re talking about one of the best coaches of all-time, right?
  • As you can see, I have a bigger beef with the 2012 and 2013 rankings than the 2014 one.
  • Kingsbury has the potential to ascend the most of anyone on this list. I don’t know that the No. 8 spot is completely unfair, considering he’s only been a head coach one season. But if he can turn Texas Tech into a Big 12 contender on a quasi-regular basis, he could jump several spots.
  • This is obviously not an easy list to compile. How do you weigh what Briles has done the last five years against what Snyder has the last 25? It’s all a matter of subjectivity.
In 2013, Charles Sims transferred to West Virginia from Houston for his final college season. After finishing third in the league in rushing, Sims deservedly was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

This year, several offensive transfers have the potential to impact their teams in their first year in the league the way Sims did last season.

But who will win this year’s award?

SportsNation

Which of these transfers will win Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 2014?

  •  
    23%
  •  
    4%
  •  
    23%
  •  
    7%
  •  
    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,647)

Oklahoma State running back/wide receiver Tyreek Hill already has the look of a serious contender. Hill was the No. 4 overall juco recruit this year and figures to be one of the fastest players in college football. He was named Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Outstanding Freshman of the Year and finished fifth at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 200-meter dash. Though he’s been splitting time this spring between track and football, Hill has been almost as impressive on the gridiron as on the track. The Cowboys are hoping to utilize Hill the way the Mountaineers did Tavon Austin two years ago as a slot receiver and backfield threat. Hill has spent the spring working mostly at running back, the position he played in junior college. But he also has good enough hands to line up at receiver, too, which would give Oklahoma State more ways to get him the football.

Hill isn't the only intriguing offensive player to transfer into the league from the juco ranks.

Kansas State is counting on big things from receiver Andre Davis, who most likely will be lining up opposite All-Big 12 performer Tyler Lockett. Davis averaged more than 20 yards per reception last season at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, and should get plenty of opportunities in single coverage downfield with defenses keyed on Lockett. Davis could also help out in returns with Tramaine Thompson gone.

The Big 12 has other talented receivers joining the league, especially Kansas newcomer Nick Harwell, who was second in the country in receiving in 2011 for Miami (Ohio). Harwell, who transferred to Kansas last summer, has 229 career receptions, 3,166 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He should instantly give the Jayhawks a go-to receiver, something they’ve desperately lacked in recent years. Kansas, in fact, hasn’t had a top-20 Big 12 receiver the last four seasons.

Iowa State is also getting help from a transfer receiver in D'Vario Montgomery, who arrived from South Florida. Montgomery was a top-100 player in Florida, coming out of the same high school as Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Montgomery gives the Cyclones a physical presence on the perimeter. And with him, Quenton Bundrage, slot man Jarvis West, tight end E.J. Bibbs and hotshot freshman Allen Lazard, Iowa State could field its most talented group of wideouts in a long time.

The West Virginia offense is also getting a shot in the arm with another high-profile running back transfer. Rushel Shell, who transferred in from Pittsburgh last year, set a Pennsylvania high school record with 9,078 career-rushing yards. He was formerly rated the third-best running back in the country and had offers from programs such as Alabama and Ohio State before signing with Pitt and rushing for 641 yards as a freshman. The Mountaineers have plenty of other options at running back in Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. But the 6-foot, 220-pound Shell gives West Virginia a potentially devastating power back between the tackles.

Could he give the Mountaineers a second consecutive Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year? Or will one of the other aforementioned candidates snag the award? Weigh in with your opinion in this week’s poll.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
12:00
PM ET
You missed a crazy night in Ames, including riots and car flipping.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
12:00
PM ET
A bad day for Ball State.
We’re almost done breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.

These lists don’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus yet. Rather, they include only the players currently on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now.

Next up, the Iowa State Cyclones:

1. WR Quenton Bundrage: Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads believes Bundrage can be an all-league wide receiver, something Iowa State hasn’t had since Todd Blythe in 2005. Bundrage, who finished third in the Big 12 last season with nine touchdown catches, has the talent. He just needs a little more game-to-game consistency.

2. TE E.J. Bibbs: With Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro gone, Bibbs is the best returning pass-catching tight end in the league. Despite the lack of stability at quarterback, Bibbs still finished 15th nationally among tight ends in receiving and second in the Big 12, behind only Amaro.

3. C Tom Farniok: With 35 career starts, Farniok is one of the most seasoned offensive linemen in the league. He struggled at times through injury last season, but is the undeniable leader of the offensive line and one of the better centers in the country when healthy.

4. RB Aaron Wimberly: As Texas found out firsthand, Wimberly can be electric when 100 percent. Unfortunately for the Cyclones he wasn’t at that level for a very long span, as an assortment of injuries slowed Wimberly for most of the season. If the speedy, though slight, Wimberly can stay healthy, he has the ability to be one of the five best running backs in the league.

[+] EnlargeEJ Bibbs
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesE.J. Bibbs is the Big 12's top returning tight end and could be primed for a big season.
5. DE Cory Morrissey: With Jeremiah George and Jacques Washington gone, Morrissey has taken on more of a leadership role defensively this spring. Morrissey was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection last season, and a very solid defender off the edge.

6. CB Nigel Tribune: Tribune is the only Cyclone to play as a true freshman in either of the last two seasons. He got off to a rough start, but settled in the last half of the season. Tribune should give Iowa State a reliable primary cover corner for the next three seasons.

7. OT Jacob Gannon: This rising senior has been a key piece of the Iowa State offensive line since his redshirt freshman year, with 12 career starts scattered over three seasons.

8. OT Brock Dagel: Dagel's return is another big reason why the Cyclones are pumped about the potential of their offensive line. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound tackle won a starting job on the strong side as a sophomore and has a lot of potential. Teamed with Gannon, the Cyclones could wind up featuring one of the better bookend combos in the Big 12.

9. WR Jarvis West: West has 71 career catches out of the slot and could see his role expand in new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s no-huddle system. West also can be an dynamic return man. He produced Iowa State’s first non-onside kickoff return touchdown in 19 years last season against Texas Tech.

10. RB DeVondrick Nealy: Wimberly will be the featured running back but will have a competent wingman in Nealy, who rushed for 53 yards against Kansas State and 48 yards against Oklahoma late last season. Like West, Nealy is also dangerous on special teams. He was sixth in the Big 12 last year in kickoff returns, returning one for a touchdown in a narrow loss to TCU.

Big 12 lunchtime links

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
12:00
PM ET
He was onsides, right?

Video: Iowa State's  E.J.Bibbs

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
10:30
AM ET

Brandon Chatmon discusses Iowa State tight end E.J. Bibbs, who could be a key part of the Cyclones’ offense this fall.

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