By Rob Gray
AMES — Iowa State’s first day of spring practice came earlier than ever before and produced, understandably, mixed results Monday at the Bergstrom Football Complex.
“I wouldn’t call it ragged,” Cyclones Coach Paul Rhoads said, “but I wouldn’t call it sharp either."
Day one meant square one for an experienced offense with all-new coaches, including offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.
Among the most seasoned players: The Cyclones’ top two quarterbacks — Grant Rohach and Sam Richardson, who were visibly larger than they were last season thanks to offseason workouts devised and overseen by strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight.
“Yancy’s been getting pretty much everybody big in the weight room,” said Rohach, a redshirt sophomore who went 2-2 as a starter last season. “This is a time where we’re all going to be the heaviest. We’ve bulked up and this is the heaviest I’ve been and I think it’s probably the heaviest Sam’s been, too. Just a lot of Olympic lifts; really working on size.”
Rohach, who cited sharper and quicker decision-making as a developmental point of emphasis, weighs in at 224 pounds.
Richardson, who battled through injuries and a 1-7 mark last season as the starter, tips the scales at 223.
Both are the lead characters in what’s currently a four-man fight for the starting spot, with redshirt freshmen Joel Lanning and Trevor Hodge trying to muscle on to the marquee.
“Take every rep that you get and make the most out of it,” said Richardson, who said he’s worked on arm strength in the offseason and seen results. “(Rohach) is going to compete with me — him, Joel and Trevor. I’m going to compete with those guys and we’ll make each other better. At the end, we’re going to have the best guy out there on the field.”
Mangino said he has no time-table for trimming the number of competitors at quarterback down from four, to three, to two, and finally one, but noted the battle will play out in that methodical manner.
The former National Coach of the Year at Kansas who replaced Courtney Messingham as ISU’s offensive coordinator also said he was impressed with the attitude he’s seen from players on both sides of the ball in the wake of a 3-9 season.
“When you’re talking about players that have a lot of pride, I don’t think they liked their record last year,” said Mangino, who most recently coached at his alma mater, Youngstown State. “They decided collectively, offensively and defensively, that they were going to do something about it. I sensed that urgency as soon as I got here.”
Richardson said he’s enjoyed having Mangino — who led Oklahoma’s offense to a national title in 2000 — sharing wisdom and demanding peak performance.
“I’ve already become a smarter player from him being here,” Richardson said.
Rhoads said under Mangino the Cyclones will continue to play no-huddle and with a varied tempo.
Other than that?
“What exactly we’ll do schematically, we’ll hold that under wraps,” Rhoads said.THEY’RE OUT: Rhoads said defensive lineman Rodney Coe and David Irving will be held out this spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. Also out all spring: LB Luke Knott (post-hip surgery) and DE Justin Madison (ACL). LB Jared Brackens will serve a two-practice suspension for “a compliance issue related to team expectations,” Rhoads said.