The time may be now for Paul Rhoads and the Iowa State Cyclones to make some real noise in the Big 12.
Entering his sixth season in Ames, Rhoads has defeated four Top 25 teams and led the Cyclones to three bowl games, but he has never won more than seven games, going 27-36 in his career.
After finishing 3-9 in 2013, Iowa State brought in six new coaches, including former Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who takes over for Courtney Messingham as offensive coordinator.
“He has a proven track record as a play-caller, but at the very top of the list was the simplicity with which his offenses have had success, and that was something that our program needed,” Rhoads said.
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Mangino was an assistant coach for eight years at Kansas State before moving to Oklahoma, where he helped the Sooners win the 2000 national championship as offensive coordinator.
At Kansas, he won 50 games in eight seasons and went 12-1 in 2007, capping the season with a victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
“I think having coach Mangino is a huge advantage for us. Not only has he had success in college football, but he’s had success in the Big 12,” senior linebacker Jevohn Miller said. “If you have success in the Big 12, you’re going to have success getting to a bowl game ... he knows how to win.”
Rhoads hopes Mangino can spark an offense that finished eighth in the conference in total yards and ninth in scoring.
“We’re going to be a spread offense. It’s a generic term, but we’re going to deploy a lot of three-wide-receiver sets and one-back offense,” Rhoads said. “We’re not going to huddle.”
The offense will be led by senior running back Aaron Wimberly and senior tight end E.J. Bibbs. Junior Sam Richardson and sophomore Grant Rohach are competing at quarterback.
“We don’t have a quarterback named, but we have two starting quarterbacks in our offensive system and I think there will be a lot of coaches that would like to be able to say that as well,” Rhoads said.
Bibbs, a second team All-Big 12 selection a year ago, finished second in the conference in receiving yards by a tight end. As he enters the 2014 season, Bibbs is on multiple watch lists, including the John Mackey Award for the best tight end in the nation.
The defense is expected to be better after finishing 110th in the nation in points allowed (36 per game) and last in the conference in sacks and interceptions.
“We just had to get smarter as a football team,” senior defensive end Cory Morrissey said. “We had a lot of mistakes last year that took us back, instead of taking a step forward with the program. We had to get adjusted to all our coaches and the schemes that they want and from there on, we took some big steps.”
The Cyclones open Aug. 30, hosting three-time Football Championship Subdivision champion North Dakota State.
“There’s so many upsets from the FCS; you have to respect every FCS school and with North Dakota State being a three-time champion and beating Kansas State last year, we have to take it serious,” Morrissey said. “Here at Iowa State, we don’t take any of those schools lightly.”