Hello Cyclone fans! We are just days away till the 2011 football season gets underway. I thought I would give my thoughts on the upcoming season. We are entering Paul Rhoads third year as head coach and I believe he has his most talented team yet. Not only do we have a strong nucleus of returning players, but I feel like we have the athletes to compete almost every game in the Big 12.
Let’s start off with the schedule…brutal isn’t it? I’ve heard a lot of fans upset about it, but I believe that if you want to be the best you should play the best. I’m not saying that we are best team in the country by any means, but I am a firm believer that beating up on mediocre teams in the pre-conference season is not the way to get prepared for the Big 12. This team has a good chance to go 3-0 prior to conference play, and if they do, it isn’t a long shot to win 3 or 4 more. I wouldn’t be near as confident in saying that if we had a Snyderesque schedule.
Does this team have a good chance to go to a bowl? Yes, but there are some things that need to happen. I know the hot topic right now is the new quarterback Steele Jantz, but in order for him to make an impact we have to have improved lines. We have all heard it a million times, “the game is won in the trenches,” well if we want to win we have to do a much better job on both sides of the ball. Jantz is new and there is going to be a learning curve, so our o-line needs to give him some time to make good decisions. It would also be nice to see some big gaping holes for our running backs to go through. Kelechi Osemele is primed for a great season and I can’t wait to see his name pop up in the first round of the NFL draft!
Remember the holes we need for our backs, well I saw those types of holes quite a bit last year, but a lot of times it wasn’t our backs taking advantage of them. Our defensive line has got to do a better job of stuffing the gaps. I really think this the area we are going to see the biggest leap from last year. If the line can take 40 combined tackles away from Jake Knott and A.J. Klein we will be okay. I think the x-factor is Jake McDonough. The kid looks like a beast and he has to play like one. Pressure on the quarterback is going to be huge as well if we want to be in every game and it needs to be consistent. We can’t allow quarterbacks like Landry Jones to have all day to throw because they will pick us apart.
Speaking of the “Killer K’s” I am in no way worried about our linebackers. I believe they are on their way to being the best linebacking tandem in Iowa State history. Our secondary is about as complete as we have seen for a while. They have experience and speed….oh yeah and we have a lockdown corner in Leonard Johnson, who is going to be 1st team all Big 12 by season’s end.
Now I will get to Jantz. I have no reason to doubt that he actually beat out Jerome Tiller regardless of the academic ineligibility. If coach says it than I believe it. I know it is a lot to live up to, but I can’t help but think he might be the second coming of Seneca Wallace. I think he will be a pass first run second type of quarterback, but I believe he can have the same type of impact/success that Wallace had. He has some veteran receivers to throw to and he has his former teammate and favorite receiver Aaron Horne. I was disappointed to see that Darius “Money” Reynolds hurt his toe, because it seems like we have not seen this guy play at 100%. If he can get there he might be scary good. The newcomer I am looking forward to the most is Jarvis West. The guy can fly and make people miss, which is why we might see a slant go for 50+ yards once or twice this season.
The other strength to our offense is our running backs. I understand they are young, but they all have a year in the system and all bring something different to the table. Most importantly there is depth! We can go four deep if we needed to. I think Shontrelle Johnson will be the surprise running back in the Big 12. He may not surprise us, but we know what he is capable of (there might be a Kansas player who is aware of this as well). If we are inside the five we have Jeff Woody to punch it in. We should be able to throw some fresh legs at a worn out defense with James White and Durant Hollis as well.
Ah..the cyclone kicking game. It has been a thorn in our side almost since I can remember, but hopefully the battle going on right now will help change that. Wouldn’t it be nice to have 100% confidence on kicks 40 yards and under? I’m not worried about the punting situation as Kirby Van Der Kamp has that under control. As for our return men, well I kind of already touched on them (Shontrelle & Leonard) and they are all good so enough said.
Well lets take a look at the schedule and I will give you my picks.
- UNI (W) 35-10 No one can say we didn’t beat a ranked team this year.
- Iowa (W) 24-21 We lead the series 1-0 since the Iowa Corn Assoc. took over
- Uconn (W) 28-17 We make the Big East feel good about the invite they had waiting for us
- Texas (L) 31-17 The talented Texans finally start to play football
- Baylor (L) 24-23 This losing streak only lasts because of Griffin
- Missouri (W) 27-20 This will be the signature win of the year
- Texas A&M (L) 35-13 Whatever…have fun in another conference…we still have 2005!
- Texas Tech (W) 45-35 Why not have another victorious barn burner
- Kansas (W) 35-7 First football and then basketball
- Oklahoma St. (L) 42-17 The cold isn’t going to stop that offense
- Oklahoma (L) 45-10 Sooners may very well win it all this year
- Kansas St. (W) 27-17 Farmageddon is no longer a heartbreak loss
Can anybody say Big Apple????? That is my prediction for our bowl destination!
LET’S GO CLONES!
Steve's focus at Caffeinated Thoughts will be primarily blogging about sports.