AMES — How productive could Iowa State’s long-struggling offense become under new coordinator Mark Mangino?
Let one of three quarterbacks competing for the starting job count the ways:
“As Coach Mangino says, we do it all,” said strong-armed redshirt freshman Joel Lanning, who’s joined past starters Sam Richardson and Grant Rohach in the chase for the No. 1 slot. “Spread, pistol, under center, throwing it, running it — I don’t know what else to offense there is, but we do it all.”
Mangino’s M.O. is no-nonsense.
If you struggle, the 2007 national head coach of the year at Kansas will tell you.
If you’re solid, the 2000 national assistant coach of the year at Oklahoma will note that, too.
“They really get after us in practice,” Rohach, who closed 2013 with twin 300-yard passing games, said of Mangino, quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy and the Cyclones’ head man, Paul Rhoads. “I think being really tough-skinned and being really consistent is what they’re hammering to us.”
It’s a hard-nosed approach that Mangino’s perfected.
It also frequently pays off in the form of a high-octane offense — an upgrade ISU’s play callers are committed to help implement.
“They give the effort,” Mangino said of his offense. “They’re engaged. We’ve made a lot of progress, tremendous progress from the first day (of spring practice) to today.”
ISU ranked 89th or lower nationally in five key offensive statistical categories last season.
Reasons for the sputtering abounded — and included a constantly banged-up offensive line, uneven quarterback play and receiver drops.
So the word “consistency” is being stressed over and over, ad nauseum, by coaches and the three top quarterbacks.
The underlying message: Good is not good enough. Great is the goal.
“The challenge is, it’s not OK to complete it, it’s got to be completed with great accuracy,” said Sturdy, a Tipton native who coached wide receivers last season. “Again, what are your expectations? The expectation is throwing the best ball you possibly can throw on every snap.”
That requires unwavering precision.
A ball needs to hit a receiver on his left hand?
Do it — then hit him perfectly on the right.
Right side of the chest?
Boom — then go left.
“That’s the position,” Sturdy said. “That’s taking great pride is what you do in coming to work every day and not settling for a completion. Let’s have great mechanics on every snap; let’s have accuracy and great completions.”
Plenty of zip is required, too.
To that end, Rohach packed on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, growing from 205 pounds to 225.
“It shows up in all of our arms,” the sophomore said.
Richardson’s up 18 pounds, from 202 to 220, and sees an important side benefit to the overall strength and mass gain.
“I almost feel a little bit faster,” said the junior from Winter Park, Fla. who’s generally considered the best runner of the trio when healthy. “But we’ll see how it comes along at 220. It feels good so far.”
Lanning was already 220-plus and now tips the scales at 236.
Saturday’s 2 p.m. spring game will be the closest thing to a real game he’s experienced since high school.
So he’s excited.
Eager to learn and chart a new, touchdown-riddled path — wherever he fits in along the way.“Be smart,” Lanning said. “Be a smart football player and move on to the next play. You’ve always got to forget the past. You’ve got to move on.”