2011 Iowa State Preview
Iowa State QB Jerome Tiller
Iowa State QB Jerome Tiller
Posted Jul 9, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2011

- 2011 Iowa State Preview | 2011 Iowa State Offense
- 2011 Iowa State Defense | 2011 Iowa State Depth Chart
- Iowa State Previews 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

- Be Somebody ...  Blog About Iowa State Football
- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ... http://twitter.com/ColFootballNews  

By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Paul Rhoads
3rd year: 12-13
Ten Best Iowa State Players
1. LB Jake Knott, Jr.
2. LB A.J. Klein, Jr.
3. OT Kelechi Osemele, Sr.
4. RB/KR Shontrelle Johnson, Soph.
5. QB Jerome Tiller, Jr.
6. NG Stephen Ruempolhamer, Sr.
7. LB Matt Tau'fo'ou, Sr.
8. P Kirby Van Der Kamp, Soph.
9. CB Leonard Johnson, Sr.
10. CB Jeremy Reeves, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Northern Iowa
Sep. 10 Iowa
Sep. 17 at Connecticut
Oct. 1 Texas
Oct. 8 at Baylor
Oct. 15 at Missouri
Oct. 22 Texas A&M
Oct. 29 at Texas Tech
Nov. 5 Kansas
Nov. 12 at Oklahoma
Nov. 19 Oklahoma State
Nov. 26 at Kansas State

Oh, great. NOW Gene Chizik starts to coach.

You'll have to forgive Cyclone fans if they wonder what might have been if Chizik had been half the head man in Ames that he was for Auburn during a national title run – keep you comments about Cecil and Cam Newton to yourself – but third year coach Paul Rhoads has done a nice job over the last two seasons to keep Iowa State decent. Now he has to do more to make the program productive.

Big 12 titles aren't going to come Iowa State's way on a regular basis, if ever, unless there's a perfect storm of breaks happening all at once, but that doesn't mean this can't be a yearly bowl team that can once in a while come up with a stunning year. More than anything else, though, Iowa State football needs an identity and it needs have something that differentiates itself from the big brother school in the state.

Oklahoma State is trying to counteract Oklahoma by cranking out a high-powered offense. Michigan State has tried to be better than Michigan by being physical on the inside and fast on the outside. Iowa State needs to find something that takes some of the focus away from Iowa, like a Texas Tech-like passing game or a pounding ground game, that can finally jump-start the success. This year's Cyclone team should be strong on defense and it should be able to run the ball a bit, but can it do any one thing at a high enough level to scare anyone in the Big 12? The key for Rhoads over the next few seasons is to find a reason to make people care about Iowa State football, and more importantly, to be more than just an assumed win by the big boys in the conference.

Winning more key games would be a start. After stunning Texas Tech in a blowout and beating a depressed Texas, ISU was 5-4 with Nebraska, Colorado, and Missouri left to play. The Cyclones gambled and lost in the overtime battle with the Huskers, and then they didn't even show up the following week in the 34-14 loss to Colorado. A loss to Mizzou later, and the season ended with a thud.

This year, the Cyclones can't give away any close games and they'll have to find ways to manufacture wins to get a 13th game. The offense has plenty of running options, especially if Jerome Tiller is under center, but the quarterback situation is a bit of a muddled mess and star RB Alexander Robinson is done. The passing game has the speedy receivers in place, but someone needs to get them the ball and the line has to keep the quarterback upright for the first time in years.

The defense has had some great coaches over the years – like Chizik – but no one has been able to make the ISU D a killer. This year's group has the chance with uber-tough guy Jake Knott leading a terrific linebacking corps, and with good, athletic corners to rely on in the secondary. The potential is there for this to be the best ISU defense in years, but will it finally translate into a big year?

Iowa State hasn't won more than seven games since 2000 and has done it only once since 1978. The defense should be in place to keep the team in games, the offense has explosive potential if the right combination is found in the backfield, and the special teams should be decent.

Now Rhoads has to be Chizik - the good kind.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Jerome Tiller is a dangerous runner with good size and the experience to know what he's doing from the start. He's not a top-shelf passer, though, and he has yet to prove he can consistently move the ball down the field with key third down plays. Enter Steele Jantz, who has size the game to go along with his great name, but he has to show that he's worthy of being a starter after bouncing around a bit. A passer, he'll get his shot if Tiller can't move the attack, while James Capello and Jared Barnett are young options who are getting every chance to win the job. It's Tiller's gig for now, but he has to own it early this fall.

What to watch for on defense: The experience. The overall production wasn't there last season with too many missed opportunities and not enough big plays, but the D always tries hard and everyone is always working. Now the experience has to translate into more production with good size and the potential for a strong rotation on the line, and with outside linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott in place to clean everything up. The run defense should be far better, and if there's some semblance of a pass rush, the secondary should be decent with corners Leonard Johnson and Jeremy Reeves as experienced and as quick as any tandem in the Big 12. Cohesion shouldn't be a problem and motor is never an issue. But Rhoads needs this to be the year that everything comes together after working to this point for the last two seasons.

The team will be far better if … There's a pass rush. The secondary did what it could, allowing a not-that-bad 223 yards per game, but finished ninth in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense. However, it didn't get any help whatsoever from a defensive front that never got into the backfield. The Cyclones were dead last in the conference and 115th in the nation in sacks, coming up with just 11, while the offensive line gave away 33. This has been a major problem over the years, finishing 111th in the nation in sacks in 2009, 94th in 2008, and 88th in 2007. In a conference with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech, if you don't get to the quarterback, you're dead.

The schedule: Considering Northern Iowa always gives a push to the other Iowa teams, the Cyclones have a rough non-conference slate. The rivalry game against Iowa is going to be a fight, as always, and going to Connecticut isn't going to be easy. If ISU can start out the year 2-1, consider it a major win. The off-week before the start of the Big 12 season is a must considering how brutal the start is with Texas in the home opener before going on the road to Baylor and Missouri. With a trip to Texas Tech, the Cyclones will have three road games in four weeks, and if that wasn't nasty enough, the year closes out with two road games in the final three going to Oklahoma and Kansas State wrapped around a home date with Oklahoma State.

Best offensive player: Senior OT Kelechi Osemele. A steady starter, the 6-6, 354-pound massive left tackle can't pass protect, but he has 27 straight games of starting experience under his belt and he was a good enough run blocker to earn Second Team All-Big 12 honors. The former guard has to do a better job against the speed rushers, but he's the anchor that should be a steadying force at times for an offense that needs someone to work behind.

Best defensive player: Junior OLBs Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. The two combined for 241 tackles last season as they did a little of everything to try to clean up messes against the run and can get into the backfield if they're allowed to be turned loose. Klein is a pass defender who came up with three picks, but he's also a 244-pound block against the run. Knott is the ultimate tough guy, not missing a beat after undergoing surgery on a broken arm. He's a mortal lock for 120 tackles, minimum.

Key player to a successful season: Senior WR Darius Reynolds. The offense needs to make a splash, and it has to start with the veteran receivers. The quarterback situation has to be settled and Shontrelle Johnson has to prove he can step in and produce as the main running back. Now the Cyclones need a more dangerous receiver who can stretch the field and give the offense more pop. Darius Darks is a good, big veteran who should be steady, but it's the 6-2, 206-pound Reynolds who has to finally get past a broken leg he suffered in 2009 to be more than just a decent short-to-midrange target.

The season will be a success if … the Cyclones get to a bowl game. This might be the ninth best team in a ten team league – yay Kansas! - but that doesn't mean the defense can't rise up and have a great year while hoping for a decent enough season from the offense to come up with six wins to get a bowl game. Beating Kansas at home is a must, but a bowl isn't going to happen if the Cyclones can't come up with road upsets over Baylor and Kansas State. It'll take a shocker against a Texas A&M or an Oklahoma State to get it done, but after winning five games last year and coming so close to a good year, anything less than six victories will be a step back.

Key game: Oct. 8 at Baylor. Now the Cyclones get to play the Bears every year, but this isn't the same BU team of vintage Big 12 time. Even so, going back to 2005, ISU has lost two of the last three games in the matchup, and that can't happen this year if there's any dream of a bowl season. With Iowa, at UConn, and Texas after the opener against Northern Iowa, and with at Missouri, Texas A&M, and at Texas Tech to follow, a loss in Waco could mean a 1-7 start before getting Kansas.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 33 for 191 yards – Iowa State 11 for 76 yards
- 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 13-of-19 (68%) – Iowa State 9-of-23 (39%)
- Kickoff Return Average: Opponents 26.9 – Iowa State 21.9

- 2011 Iowa State Preview | 2011 Iowa State Offense
- 2011 Iowa State Defense | 2011 Iowa State Depth Chart