Head Coach | Paul Rhoads
2010 Record | 5-7 (3-5) Big 12 Record
Returning Starters | Iowa State returns somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-14 starters depending on how regularly you want a guy to have started to include him in this category. The split is 50/50 at six and six in terms of regular starters returning to the offensive and defensive sides of the ball with the defense having a few more players with limited starting experience.
Key Additions | The Cylones lot a lot on the offensive side of the ball. In fact they lost their top producer in every major statistical category. Whether that's Arnaud at QB, Robinson at RB or Franklin and Williams at receiver, Iowa State is looking to replace a lot. Two backfield recruits that will likely have a chance to play from the get go are DeVondrick Nealy and Robert Standard. Both were explosive high school players and while a redshirt is still a possibility the opportunity is there if they can produce in fall camp. Another player on the offensive side of the ball that should see the field in a weak receiving corp is junior college transfer Arron Horne.
Impact Offensive Player | Jerome Tiller or Steele Jantz - The two are locked in a position battle to take over at QB after a four year run in Ames with Arnaud at the helm. Tiller has experience at this level and was a player that had a lot of upside upon his arrival, but Jantz put up some gaudy numbers at the junior college level and carried his team to an 11-1 record a year ago. After Spring ball it's an open competition and with the turnover across the board offensively, the QB position is going to be a key.
Impact Defensive Player | Jack Knott - Iowa State actually has a duo in Knott and AJ Klein that will be two of the more productive returning linebackers in the league for the 2011 season. Combined they had over 240 tackles in 2010 and Knott also led the Cyclones in takeaways. Now a junior, Knott will be looked to as a primary leader on defense.
For the Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones it's an uphill climb with a ton of production to be replaced. The Cyclones do have a few returning offensive lineman that turned in strong performances a year ago and that can go a long way toward making the transition, but when you have to replace your leading passer, rusher and two leading receivers, it can be a tall order.
Priority number one becomes the quarterback spot. Ideally Jerome Tiller steps up and takes the position due to his experience at this level and time in the Paul Rhoads system. At the same time Steele Jantz can throw the football and might provide a little more explosion on the offensive side of the ball. Overall their are more questions than answers and most revolve around key positions which is why many are picking the Cyclones to finish 9th in the Big 12(-2)
The Cyclone defense does return a good corp of players and Paul Rhoads has been a coach that puts together a gritty group since his arrival in Ames. Jake Knott and AJ Klein are two linebackers that make the Cyclone linebacking corps one of the most productive in the league. On the defensive front the Cyclones return three starters and a good deal of overall experience and upperclassmen on the roster. Overall it makes for a position with competition, stability and some flexibility in terms of rotation. The Iowa State front seven should be strong in 2011 with the returning players up front and sitting at linebacker.
The defensive backfield lost a good one in David Sims but they also return a 2nd team All Big 12 player in Leonard Johnson. Throw in two other players with starting experience in Jeremy Reeves and Ter'Ran Benton and you can see why there is optimism in Ames when looking at the defensive side of the ball.
Besides, it's impossible not to admit that as a Jayhawk fan you have a good deal of respect for the way Paul Rhoads puts together a team. With the struggle that we witnessed a year ago and our inability to compete, a Rhoads coached team never seems to struggle in that regard. They are going to come out and punch back which is one huge plus in my book for Rhoads and the Cyclones.