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2010 Iowa State Preview
Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson
Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson
Posted Jul 31, 2010 2010 Preview - Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State Cyclones

Preview 2010

- 2010 Iowa State Preview | 2010 Iowa State Offense
- 2010 Iowa State Defense | 2010 Iowa State Depth Chart
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Paul Rhoads
2nd year: 7-6
Ten Best Iowa State Players
1. RB Alexander Robinson, Sr.
2. SS David Sims, Sr.
3. QB Austen Arnaud, Sr.
4. OT Kelechi Osemele, Jr.
5. WR Darius Darks, Jr.
6. SS/KR Leonard Johnson, Jr.
7. DE Rashawn Parker, Sr.
8. C Ben Lamaak, Sr.
9. TE Collin Franklin, Sr.
10. FS Michael O’Connell, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 Northern Illinois
Sept. 11 at Iowa
Sept. 18 Kansas State (in KC)
Sept. 25 Northern Iowa
Oct. 2 Texas Tech
Oct. 9 Utah
Oct. 16 at Oklahoma
Oct. 23 at Texas
Oct. 30 Kansas
Nov. 6 Nebraska
Nov. 13 at Colorado
Nov. 20 Missouri

With all the coaching changes over the last few years and with all the turmoil, it’s been hard for Iowa State to figure out exactly how good it can be. While the top-shelf talent won’t ever find its way through Ames on a regular basis, the Cyclones have a recent history of success going to five bowl games from 2000 to 2005 and rebounding in the first year under head coach Paul Rhoads to get to a post-season game for the first time in four seasons. Good coaching, the right attitude, and beating all the bad teams on the slate, while getting an out-of-the-blue big performance against a good team, has been the formula for the program. And now the goal has to be to see if there’s one shocking season left in the tank before the Big 12 starts to lose its top teams to expansion.

It took one of the ugliest games in conference history, a turnover-fest of a 9-7 win at Nebraska, to give Iowa State one of its only good wins over the last decade, and winning in less-than-scintillating fashion might have to be the norm. That win over the Huskers was the first victory over a team with a winning record since the inspired final game under former head coach Dan McCarney, a 21-16 win over Missouri at the end of the 2006 season. Since 2000, Iowa State has won just 12 games over teams that finished with winning records, and out of those, eight of those came against BCS teams with three of them coming in the emotional rivalry dates against Iowa. So in the last ten years, the program has averaged less than one really good win a season, but that’s fine; that’s what Iowa State has to do.

You have to beat who’s on the schedule, and while the Cyclones will never get by the top programs on a regular basis, they have to find ways to beat the mediocre year in and year out with solid line play (which they got on the offensive side last year), a dangerous running game (finishing third in the Big 12), great special teams play (not that bad), and timely defense (34th in the nation in scoring D). This year, winning all the close games is a must and getting a few big surprises in key areas would be nice.

The offensive backfield should be among the best in the Big 12 North with QB Austen Arnaud appearing to take a step forward in his development, and Alexander Robinson, the league’s second most productive back last year, getting some help. The receiving corps is solid, and the line that was so strong in pass protection and so good for the ground game gets enough key cogs back to hope for a more consistent offensive year.

The defense bent to its limits throughout 2009, but it didn’t break all that often allowing a whopping 416 yards per game while finishing a respectable 34th in the country in scoring defense. It’ll be more of the same with a shaky linebacking corps, no pass rush, and a secondary that can tackle but has a hard time in coverage.

After the disaster that was the Gene Chizik era, there’s excitement and confidence at Iowa State again. The Big 12 North isn’t a killer, so if the program can get a few breaks, win the turnover margin on a regular basis, and get productive, consistent seasons from the stars, this could be one of the best seasons in years.

What to watch for on offense: The right guard situation. It might not seem like that big a deal to have concerns about a guard, but with Scott Haughton getting kicked off the team for violating team rules, the line might have to do a bit of shuffling now to find the right combination. Last year, the play of the front five was a minor surprise and turned out to be one of the keys to the season. Everything appeared to be in place for a big 2010, but with Haughton gone, natural guard Ben Lamaak might have to end up moving back over instead of taking over at center for the star of last year’s line, center Reggie Stephens. The skill players are in place to come up with a more consistent offensive season, but if the line isn’t as good as it was last year, the overall production won’t come.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The line simply isn’t good enough or reliable enough to not get great play from the linebackers, and now the defense has to replace all three starters from last year. There’s promise in former JUCO transfer Matt Tau’fo’ou and sophomores A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, but the corps is so ridiculously thin that the defense might end up using more 4-2-5 alignments throughout the year to play to the strength, the secondary. There was no push into the backfield last year, and while normally the idea would be to get more from the linebackers, this season, just getting steady play from the young group would be a major plus.

The team will be far better if … it could score. The Cyclones went 0-6 in 2009 when allowing 24 points or more and have gone 3-34 over the last five years when allowing that many or more. The defense isn’t going to be a rock this year against the better Big 12 offenses, so the offense that started out well before sputtering and coughing its way down the stretch, scoring more than 17 points just once in the final six games, has to be more consistent and more explosive. Defensively, generating more of a pass rush would be nice after finishing last in the league in sacks and 11th in tackles for loss.

The schedule: It’s going to be a tough second year in the Paul Rhoads era with a mean gift from the scheduling gods getting Texas Tech, at Oklahoma, and at Texas from the South. Throw in the yearly rivalry game against Iowa, on the road this season, and a non-conference home date against Utah and the Cyclones might have five sure-thing losses without blinking. The Nebraska and Missouri games are at home and there’s only one road trip from October 30th on, but no one should have to play the Sooners and Longhorns in back-to-back road games. On the plus side, there’s only one true road game against the North (at Colorado) with the Kansas State game to be played in Kansas City.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Alexander Robinson. A solid all-around back, the 5-9, 186-pounder has carried the offense at times over the last few years, but last season he finally was able to show what he could do with good blocking up front rushing for 100 yards or more six times. With 2,363 career yards and 18 scores, along with 57 catches for 588 yards and three touchdowns, he’s a proven playmaker who should be even more effective with fewer touches, thanks to expected help from backups Beau Blankenship and James White, and a more consistent season from QB Austen Arnaud.

Best defensive player: Senior S David Sims. The secondary desperately needed playmakers, and it got one in the former Oklahoma Sooner. The transfer stepped in and became an athletic, tough force in the defensive backfield as well as a top-shelf kick returner. With a team-leading five interceptions to go along with 88 tackles, he’s a good all-around defender who’ll be asked to do even more this season. He’ll be all over the field and should be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors.

Key player to a successful season: Junior LB Matt Tau’fo’ou. The run defense might not have been a rock, but Jesse Smith was a tackling machine and a peerless leader. The former walk-on finished his ultra-productive career with 305 tackles, and now it’ll be up to Tau’fo’ou to take over and shine in the middle. If he’s good, promising sophomores A.J. Klein and Jake Knott can work on the outside. If there are problems, then Klein will see time in the middle and the defense might have to adjust its alignment.

The season will be a success if … The Cyclones can get back to a bowl game. Forget about beating Iowa (even in a rivalry date), Oklahoma, Texas, or Nebraska without some turnover-fest miracle, and beating Utah at home would be a major coup. That means the Cyclones will likely have to be nearly perfect against everyone else. If they can win home games against Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Kansas, and can get by Kansas State in Kansas City, then it would take a road win at Colorado and an upset somewhere else to get to a bowl again. That would be a great achievement for a team with so many limitations.

Key game: Sept. 18 vs. Kansas State in Kansas City. Iowa State managed to lose this game in a last-second heartbreaker and was still able to get to a bowl. With a tougher non-conference schedule and Texas and Oklahoma from the South instead of Baylor, the Cyclones can’t afford to lose this pivotal Big 12 North game again. With Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Texas to follow in conference play, a loss to the Wildcats might mean an 0-4 Big 12 start before getting Kansas at home.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Second Quarter Scoring: Iowa State 100 – Opponents 58
- Fourth Quarter Scoring: Opponents 87 – Iowa State 41
- Punt return average: Iowa State 6.1 yards – Opponents 2.2 yards (No. 4 in the nation)

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