Monday, September 7, 2015

Iowa State Cyclones (1-0) seek to rebound in 2015 fueled by JUCO players

2015 Iowa State Cyclones leaning heavily on junior college transfers to
rebound from 3-9 and 2-10 seasons under coach Paul Rhoads.
Ames, IA -- The Iowa State football team has hit the junior college trail in the last couple of years. The returns will likely pay dividends for the Cyclones in 2015, especially on defense.

Iowa State is entering its seven season under Paul Rhoads, after 4-8, 3-9 and 2-10 seasons by Dan McCarney (2006, final season) and Gene Chizik (two seasons 2007-08). Rhoads lead Iowa State to three bowl games in four seasons, before disappointing 3-9 and 2-10 seasons, the past two years in Ames.

When you a look at Iowa State’s recent depth chart, you will find 10 players listed on the defensive side of the ball who came to Iowa State after spending time at a junior college.

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Iowa State's Paul Rhoads, ahead of
the 2013 Cy-Hawk Game in Ames. Iowa won 27-21.
After the 2013 season ended, Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads knew he had to improve on defense. One of his options was finding the best possible talent availability from the junior college ranks.

Rhoads’ last two recruiting classes have been filled with outstanding junior college performers. It’s something he has made a priority.

It’s going to be a point of emphasis,” Rhoads said. “We have the opportunity, with the success I think we can have with those kids, as standing out nationally as a program that junior college players can go and be welcome. We’re looking for that impact on the field first, and then further impact on recruiting second.”

Iowa State will have four former junior college All-Americans hitting the field for this week's Cy-Hawk Game. Demond Tucker, a junior defensive tackle from Copiah-Lincoln CC in Mississippi, was the 2013 NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year. His teammate at Co-Lin was junior linebacker Jordan Harris, who was a second-team NJCAA All-American in 2013. Tucker had a sack in the UNI game, while Harris had nine tackles from his MLB position for the Cyclones.

The other two All-Americans are reserve defensive end Jhaustin Thomas (Trinity Valley CC) and starting strong safety Qujuan Floyd (Santa Monica CC). Thomas had one tackle and Floyd had six tackles against the Panthers.

Many players go to junior colleges in order to mature physically and mentally. Such is the case for junior linebacker Jay Jones, who made his first start at strong-side linebacker after transferring from Georgia Military Institute. 

Rhoads knew early in the recruiting process that he had a player ready for big-time college football in Jones. Jones contributed nine tackles and one sack, as well for Cyclones against the Panthers.

He was smart enough to understand and recognize he needed discipline and he put himself in that position,” Rhoads said. “He’s benefited from it, but he was intentional benefiting from it. Right now we are the recipient of where it took him.”

Jones has been a bright spot for the Cyclones in fall camp. He doesn’t regret the decision to go the junior college route in his journey to Iowa State. 

It (junior college) really helped me be a better student-athlete, football player and with time management,” Jones said. “Just all the things you need to be a successful person.”

Rhoads hopes to continue his success plucking high-caliber players out of junior colleges.

We’ve got a long list of them we’re recruiting right now,” Rhoads said. “Our open date, we’ll be all over the country watching games, seeing kids late in the week at their schools.”

Like in most college football games, the game will be
fought in trenches, as Iowa-ISU play in '13.
For the first time, since the 2012 season, Iowa State won their season opener, with a 31-7 win over Northern Iowa. The win over Northern Iowa, raises Paul Rhoads opening game record to 5-2 over the seven seasons. Rhoads opened the 2011 and 2012 seasons, with a three game winning streak, including back to back wins over in-state rival, Iowa.

In 2011, the Cyclones under Rhoads opened the season with wins over UNI 20-19, Iowa 44-41 in 3 OT, then a road win at Connecticut 24-20. The Cyclones would later win three straight Big 12 games, including the 37-31 home win over #2 Oklahoma in 2 OT. The only difference in this year's opening schedule is the Cyclones travel to Toledo this year, rather than UConn. 
Three year starting QB 12 Sam B. Richardson scrambles vs.
UNI in the season opening win. Last year, Richardson had
8 carries for 29 yards, including a 12 yard run, vs. Iowa.
Iowa did not have a sack, in last year's ISU win.

The Cyclones are likely on cloud nine, after the win over Northern Iowa. ISU defeated both Iowa (20-17 in Iowa City) and Toledo (37-30 in Ames) last year.

Senior DRE Dale Pierson lead the Cyclones with three sacks
and his first career interception in the 31-7 win over UNI.
Iowa State returns seven offensive starters, including senior quarterback Sam B. Richardson, and six starters on defense, though senior DE Dale Pierson, one of ten defensive junior college transfers, is a new starter and opened the season, with three sacks and an interception over UNI. It was Pierson's first career interception.

Iowa State has shifted from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense for the 2015 season. Tucker has moved from defensive tackle to nose guard in the 3-4, with Pearson playing RE. Junior Gabe Luna is the new LE, another JC transfer.

On offense, QB Richardson enters his third season as a starter, leading Iowa State to the win over Iowa last season. Sophomore RB Tyler Brown in the new feature back. He ran for 68 yards, including a long of 34 yards.

In his two games vs. Iowa, senior QB Richardson is 47-for-75 (62.7 pct.) for 515 yards and five TDs. He was 25-of-36 for 255 yards with 2 TDs in last year’s Cyclone road win.

Iowa State QB 12 Sam B. Richardson
in the '13 game, as Iowa gang tackles him.

One big difference in the Iowa State offense is the loss of former junior college TE E.J. Bibbs. He was a big contributor last season in the win over Iowa. Senior Ben Boesen replaces Bibbs and junior Justin Chandler, also 

Look for the ISU offense to use more three or even four wide receiver sets against Iowa. QB Richardson has a strong group of receivers on the outside and in the slot to attack Iowa in the air. Senior Quenton Bundrage returns from an ACL injury in 2015, while sophomore Allen Lazard is a threat both as a receiver and as a punt returner. Lazard and junior Dondre Dailey scored on pass receptions against UNI, as Richardson threw 21 of 29 for 233 yards and two touchdowns.

WR Bundrage missed last year’s Iowa game, but was outstanding in the 2013 contest. Bundrage caught seven passes for 146 yards and 3 TDs. His 3 TD catches tied for the second-best single-game total in school history

Junior D'Vario Montgomery is another receiver in the Cyclones passing attack. ISU will also use Brown and junior Mike Warren out of the backfield in the passing game. True freshman Carson Epps made his first catch against UNI.

The interior Iowa State offensive line against UNI, in the season opener.
Senior center 76 Jamison Lalk is the veteran of the unit, with 20 starts.
Iowa State's offensive line from left to right is sophomore Jake Campos (6-8 297), senior Oni Omolle (6-3 305), senior Jamison Lalk (6-6 304), senior JC transfer Wendell Taiese (6-6 350) and senior Brock Dagel (6-8 300). The Iowa defensive front 7 will see a considerable larger offensive line this week, as opposed to Illinois State, in Iowa's 31-14 win over Redbirds.

Iowa State was fueled by another punt returner in the opener against UNI, as well. Redshirt sophomore walk-on Trevor Ryen, a former UNI scholarship track athlete, returned a punt for 81 yards and a touchdown against his old school. Lazard was the primary punt returner in the opener.

In the secondary, sophomore free safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is a leader. He had eight tackles to lead the secondary. Iowa State returns two other starters from last year, in corners senior Sam E. Richardson and junior Nigel Tribune. Floyd, a senior, is the new starter.

Junior Cole Netten is the returning starter at placekicker. He was one of three on field goal attempts in the UNI game. He hit 24 yard kick, but missed from inside the 39 and inside the 49, as well.
Junior PK 1 Cole Netten connected on one FG against UNI.
Last year, his 42-yard field goal with 0:02 on the clock
won the Cy-Hawk Trophy for the Cyclones, 20-17.

Iowa State uses two punters, with sophomore Colin Downing and pooch punting specialist, sophomore Holden Kramer. Kramer came on in five games last season, as Downing was the regular punter in 2014.

Iowa is 11-6, since 1981 in Ames. Iowa leads the all-time series vs. Iowa State at 40-22, but the Cyclones have won 10 of the last 17 games in the series, including three of the last four. The Iowa-ISU series resumed in 1977, after 40+ years the series did not play. Iowa has won two of the last three games in Ames. 

Iowa State won last year’s meeting in Iowa City, 20-17, battling back from a 14-3 halftime deficit. Junior PK Cole Netten drilled the game-winning 42-yard field goal in the closing seconds, marking the second time ISU defeated Iowa on a last-second FG (Bret Culbertson in 2007).

Iowa defeated Iowa State (27-21) the last time the two teams met in Ames. Iowa led 21-0 at the break and held off a late ISU rally.  In 2013, Iowa led 27-7 with less than five minutes to play.

"It will be the first road trip for this football team and then with a lot of new players, that is going to be a great challenge," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It's a great environment to play in. Historically, the series has proven to be extremely competitive. It gets down to playing your best football.

"It is a big week in-state and most of the people around our state will be talking about this game. That is one of the great things about intrastate rivals, especially when we are in different conferences. I think that adds a lot to it as well."

Junior wide receiver leads Hawkeyes with 6 catches against Illinois State
Junior wide receiver 83 Matt VandeBerg had six catches for 59 yards and a 9-yard touchdown 
that gave Iowa a 24-0 lead late in the third quarter against Illinois State. VandeBerg caught
a touchdown pass during Iowa's bowl game vs. Tennessee, as well. He has not caught a pass
in the Cy-Hawk Game, over the past two seasons at Iowa.

In the last four Iowa games, junior wide receiver Matt VandeBerg, nicknamed “meerkat” by his coaches and teammates, has 11 catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns -- second on the team to senior wide receiver Tevaun Smith (13-210-1).

Matt is a great receiver and I have full faith in him,” Iowa junior quarterback C.J. Beathard said.
He is going to be where I need him to be when I need him to be there. He is a good receiver and he did a great job.”

Two of VandeBerg’s receptions Saturday led to first downs, another to a touchdown, and a fourth set up a field goal. Not too shabby for a guy making his fourth start in 24 collegiate games.

Senior WR 17 Jacob Hillyer had this 26-yard catch-and-run for a
touchdown during the 2013 game. The reception, as a sophomore, was
Hillyer's first career touchdown reception. Hillyer is one of two
senior wide receivers. Iowa also has two senior tight ends.
I want to focus on what I’m doing and make myself better every day,” VandeBerg said. “I know C.J. has confidence in me, I know the coaches have confidence in me, otherwise I wouldn’t be on the field. To come out and be able to play like that means a lot. It adds more dimensions to our offense.”

Could we witness both Iowa and Iowa State work to establish an air attach in this year's Cy-Hawk Game?

Iowa senior RB 33 Jordan Canzeri running the ball in the
2013 Cy-Hawk Series game. Canzeri had a career game
in the passing game in the season opener in '15.
Because of an effective running game against Illinois State (44 carries, 210 yards, three touchdowns), the Hawkeyes attempted just 25 passes. The 16 receptions (for 221 yards) were spread among five receivers. Look for Beathard to continue sharing the wealth and leaning on VandeBerg.

Senior backup RB Jordan Canzeri had 118 all-purpose yards (28 rushing, 90 receiving). His 90 receiving yards are a career best. 

Iowa has a new primary rusher heading into 2015. Junior RB LeShun Daniels set career highs in carries 26, rushing yards 123, and longest rush. His 27-yard rush on the game's opening drive was a career long. Daniels made his first career start in the season opener vs. Illinois State.

This will be the first Cy-Hawk start for QB Beathard.

QB C.J. Beathard improved to 2-0 as a starter in the 2015 season opener for Iowa. Beathard made his first career start at Kinnick Stadium. 

The Iowa offensive line is lead by two seniors in 2015.
RG 65 Jordan Walsh and C 63 Austin Blythe were starters
for Iowa in the 2013 win in Ames for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa State forced three sacks on last year's starting QB.
He was 15-of-24 for 211 yards passing and one touchdown. He rushed eight times for 26 yards and two touchdowns. The eight rushing attempts was a career high. He lead Iowa to a 24-20 second-half road victory at Pitt last season, in relief of former two-year starter Jake Rudock, who lead Iowa in the 2013 victory in Ames. His first career start was at Purdue, last year, in the Big Ten road opener.

Iowa opened 2015 with two new offensive tackles, in sophomores Boone Myers and Ike Boettger, both Iowa preps. Iowa returned three offensive starters from last season. Seniors Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh, along with sophomore Sean Welsh started last year's Cy-Hawk Game.

In the last trip to Ames in 2013, Iowa ran for 218 yards, one touchdown, on the ground and passed for only 160 yards on 14 receptions, but two touchdowns. 

Turning to the Iowa defense in this year's Cy-Hawk Game:

Junior CB 14 Desmond King made his
second career start in the '13 Cy-Hawk Game.
King and the Iowa secondary will be tested
most likely in the 2015 game on Saturday.
King is also Iowa's new primary kick and
punt returner on special teams for Iowa.
The Iowa secondary, like Iowa State, returns three starters, each at corner and free safety. It will be sophomore strong safety Miles Taylor first road start, as a Hawkeye. The Hawkeyes can expect the ball in the air from the Cyclones this Saturday.

Senior WLB Cole Fisher had a career-high eight tackles in his first career start against Illinois State. Fisher is the veteran, as two sophomores start at MLB and OLB, respectively, with Josey Jewell (5th start, but first at MLB) and Ben Niemann. It was also Niemann's first career start, as well.

Another interesting match up will be the Iowa defensive line against the Iowa State offensive line. Senior defensive ends Drew Ott and Nate Meier, along with defensive tackles junior Jaleel Johnson and sophomore Nathan Bazata.

In last year's loss at Kinnick, the Hawkeyes defense had issues with containment and failed to record one sack. 

In 2013, Iowa limited to the Cyclones to 181 yards and seven points over the first three quarters before Iowa State found fourth-quarter life. The Cyclones piled up 138 yards in the fourth quarter alone en route to 14 points to stage a late-game comeback primarily through the air, with Bundridge.

Next Up
Iowa State (1-0) hosts Iowa (1-0) in a Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series showdown next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. The game will be televised by Fox. 
Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt in the booth and Molly McGrath on the sidelines. 

The Iowa State Cyclones own the Cy-Hawk Series Trophy currently in Ames.
In 2013, in Ames, the Iowa Hawkeyes brought the trophy back home to Iowa City.
This is a new group of Hawkeyes. New starting QB and many new linemen on both sides.

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