2009 CFN Iowa State Preview
Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud
Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud
Posted Jun 28, 2009

CFN's 2009 Iowa State Preview, Breakdown, and Analysis.

Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

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- 2009 CFN Iowa State Preview | 2009 Iowa State Offense
- 2009 Iowa State Defense | 2009 Iowa State Depth Chart
- 2008 ISU Preview | 2007 ISU Preview | 2006 ISU Preview   

Head coach: Paul Rhoads
1st year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 21, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Cyclone Players
1. CB/KR Leonard Johnson, So.
2. QB Austen Arnaud, Jr.
3. FS James Smith, Sr.
4. LB Jesse Smith, Sr.
5. RB Alexander Robinson, Jr.
6. OG Ben Lamaak, Jr.
7. LB Fred Garrin, Sr.
8. OG Reggie Stephens, Sr.
9. WR Darius Darks, Soph.
10. DE Christopher Lyle, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 3-9
2009 Record:

9/3 North Dakota St
9/12 Iowa
9/19 at Kent State
9/26 Army
10/3 Kansas State (in KC)
10/10 at Kansas
10/17 Baylor
10/24 at Nebraska
10/31 at Texas A&M
11/7 Oklahoma State
11/14 Colorado
11/21 at Missouri

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2008 Record: 2-10

Aug. 30 S Dakota St W 44-17
Sept. 6 Kent State W 48-28
Sept. 13 at Iowa  L 17-5
Sept. 20 at UNLV L 34-31 OT
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 Kansas L 35-33
Oct. 11 at Baylor L 38-10
Oct. 18 Nebraska L 35-7
Oct. 25 Texas A&M L 49-35
Nov. 1 at Oklahoma St L 59-17
Nov. 8 at Colorado L 28-24
Nov. 15 Missouri L 52-20
Nov. 22 at Kansas State L 38-30

After just five wins in two years, and after all the problems in a ten-game losing streak to close out last season, did Gene Chizik leave a program that's about to emerge as a productive part of the Big 12, or did the former regime stink and is Iowa State starting from scratch again?

If nothing else, new head man Paul Rhoads should make things a bit more fun. Iowa State went from being bad, but pesky, in 2006 to bad and boring last year. The passing attack put up numbers but they mostly came in comeback mode thanks to a defense that wasn't even close against the high-octane Big 12 offenses. However, there was success against Colorado in the 28-24 loss and the D held Iowa to 17 points. No one was stopping anyone in the Big 12 last season, and there were four losses that could've swung the other way, but it's not time to assume that the coaching change and all the returning experience will result in an immediate turnaround.

The talent level isn't up-to-snuff compared to most of the rest of the Big 12, but the coaching staff might be in place to maximize the potential of the players in place. While Chizik's teams failed to show any consistency, hurt mostly by his bad defenses, this year's team will be inconsistent with more to show for it.

The defense will be far more aggressive. Chizik, a defensive coach, forced his secondaries to do too much when he was a coordinator at Texas and didn't get enough out of his front seven to help the young defensive backs when he took over in Ames. This year's defense should have a better secondary, with players like corners Leonard Johnson and Ter'ran Benton now veterans after struggling through tough freshman seasons. The line should generate more pressure, while the linebackers will be allowed to to do more to come up with big plays rather than try to hang on to make the routine.

While the offense made nice strides last year, mostly because it had to bomb away to try to keep up the pace, this year there should be steadier production throughout with even more explosion. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman made Rice's attack deadly with far less talent than he has to work with now. QB Austen Arnaud is a rising playmaker with a decent receiving corps to work with, while the running backs are good enough to carry the attack at times.

No, Iowa State isn't going to win a Big 12 title any time soon, but the team will be more than a punching bag against the big boys. Rhoads will have veterans to work with and few expectations after one of the nation's most bizarre coaching changes. Call this the equivalent of the fighter who'll get knocked out a bit too often, but will make the other guy know he was in a battle.

What to look for on offense: The shotgun spread. While the offense will put the ball up early and often, there will be a major rushing element to the attack. Alexander Robinson is a good back who can explode, while Florida transfer Bo Williams and battering ram Jeremiah Schwartz will add more power. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Jerome Tiller is a speedster who was made for the spread. Even so, Arnaud is the all-around talent who should put up huge numbers once he gets used to the new style.     

What to look for on defense: More sacks. The Cyclones will forget about trying to whip the guys up front and will try to find the holes and fly through them. Nothing worked last year, with the run defense pushed around way too much and the pass rush non-existent for stretches. This year's D will try to do at least one big thing right, and that will be getting into the backfield with all four spots up front being asked to get into the backfield while the linebackers will be allowed to do more to hit the quarterback. After registering 17 sacks last year, the ISU D might flirt with 30.

This team will be much better if… it can control the clock. More big plays will be a huge plus, but just keeping the opposing offense off the field will be vital. With a good trio of backs and a veteran quarterback in Arnaud keeping control of the game early on, and not going into the locker room in a major deficit like the Cyclones did last year way too often, this will be one team that will care about time of possession if the home runs aren't being hit.

The Schedule:
The first year of the Paul Rhoads era starts out as easily as could possibly be asked for. The only game in the first five against a bowl team from last year is against Iowa, but that's almost always a nasty battle and it's in Ames. There are only two games against 2008 bowl teams (Kansas being the other) in the first seven, while getting Baylor and Texas A&M from the South is the biggest break possible. The Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri games would probably be losses no matter where they'd be played, so they might as well be on the road. However, a stretch of three road games in four weeks isn't going to be easy in the middle of the season. There isn't an off-week to rest up at any point.

Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Austen Arnaud. He had to press way too much to try to jump-start the offense, and that resulted in too many interceptions. He'll throw his share of picks, but he'll also make more big things happen with his good deep arm and the mobility to keep plays alive. While he's not nearly the runner that backup Jerome Tiller is, he can move and should finish with 500 rushing yards.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore CB Leonard Johnson. An elite kick returner, he also showed last year that he can tackle as well as any of the defensive backs in the open field. While safety James Smith led the team in tackles, and linebacker Jesse Smith will be a star with all the plays working through him on the inside, it's Johnson who has the quickness and toughness to be team's best all-around defender. He'll give up his share of big mistakes, but he'll have his moments.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DT Austin Alburtis. End Rashawn Parker and noseguard Nate Frere are veterans who struggled throughout last year, but should be good in the new scheme. Christopher Lyle might blow up on the end now that he gets to grip it and rip it into the backfield from the right side. However, the key to the run defense might be the 267-pound Alburtis, a promising, active defender who has to hold his own against the run to let the decent players around him work.

The season will be a success if ... the Cyclones win six games. It's a bit of a tall order considering it'll take wins over all the mediocre teams (North Dakota State, Kent State, and Army), wins over the teams that are on the same level (Kansas State and Baylor), and a few upsets (Colorado?), but this team has enough experience to do it. Four wins would likely be more realistic and it'll take a few breaks to get to six wins, but there's enough potential to flirt with a winning season.

Key game: Oct. 3 vs. Kansas State. The Wildcats will be looking to reestablish themselves with the return of Bill Snyder as the head man, but Iowa State has to win the Big 12 opener in Kansas City to have any prayer of a decent season. Kansas State won a 38-30 battle at the end of last year, and this game should be nothing less than a wild, fun shootout with the loser likely to be done dreaming of a bowl.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 129 - Iowa State 63
- Third down conversions: Opponents 76-of-149 (51%) - Iowa State 67-of-176 (38%)
- Penalties: Iowa State 77 for 689 yards - Opponents 58 for 472 yards

- 2009 CFN Iowa State Preview | 2009 Iowa State Offense
- 2009 Iowa State Defense | 2009 Iowa State Depth Chart
- 2008 ISU Preview | 2007 ISU Preview | 2006 ISU Preview