Monday Musings: Opening week mailbag

Chris Williams

Publisher

AMES --- Despite some semi-bleak external expectations for the 2014 Iowa State football season (depending on who you talk to), the opening week of the season is always an exciting time here at CycloneFanatic.com.

In fact, this is my favorite time of year. We are in that transition from summer to fall and football will be on the radar from now until February. What’s not to love about that, Jack?

Iowa State wrapped up fall camp last week and I threw the floor to you – the Fanatics – for a camp wrap-up mailbag. Let’s begin with a question from CloneinWDSM.

CloneinWDSM writes: Do you think coach is still trying to light a fire under Jared Brackens and that why he is still behind Drake Ferch. Or, is Ferch just a better option?

CW: When Iowa State exited the spring with Ferch No. 1 at the nickel, I thought exactly what you asked. I mean, Jared Brackens started 12 games last season for the Cyclones. In addition to that, he played as a true freshmen, which is rare at Iowa State. The coaches obviously like him as an athlete but it seems to me like they don't trust him. Wally Burnham is obsessed with guys being in the right spot. On a bend but don’t break defense, that is almost more important than a guy being able to make a player or two that another might not. Because of that, I think the Drake Ferch thing is legit. It is also notable that Ferch was given a scholarship on Sunday. 

Is Jordan Harris a starter at any point of this year? It seems as both Meeks and Seeley are ahead of him at this point. Meeks' frame is perfect for MLB. Are the coaches just waiting for his light to click on like Jeremiah George? 

CW: You are right about the coaches waiting for that light. I think that the schedule sets up nicely for Iowa State due to the fact that the first three games of the season are all against “running teams.” When playing against a team like Iowa, Meeks is the obvious starter in the middle. When Baylor comes to town? If he has the mental part of the game down, Harris might be a better option. I’d guess that he starts at some point but regardless, I believe all three of these guys will play quite a big in 2014.

And for the record, Alton Meeks' future is very bright. They thought about playing him as a true freshman. Keep in mind that he is a former high school quarterback so this defense thing is still fairly new. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he starts every game this season. 

Beyerball writes: How is the overall health of the team? We know that last year pre-UNI it was a disaster that no one was telling us about.

CW: I think that Iowa State is a pretty healthy football team right now. Of course, Ben Loth went down on the first day of camp but after that, I’ve yet to hear of another serious injury. Having said that, I’ve done this long enough to expect a surprise or two today when Paul Rhoads meets the media. There is always a suspension or two stemming from the offseason that we learn about on Monday of game week.

Cyman05 writes: What do you think the biggest question marks about this team are heading into this year? Do you feel like there have been resolutions to any of those questions yet based off of what you've heard?

CW: First and foremost, the defensive line is clearly the biggest question mark. I actually like Iowa State’s situation at defensive end as Cory Morrissey and the Mitchell Meyers/Trent Taylor combination should be formidable, but the interior line is going to struggle all season long. I don’t see any way around that either. Brandon Jensen returning for his senior season was big but one man can only do so much. I am greatly concerned about Iowa State’s depth at that position. 

Mesaclone1 writes: How are Vernell Trent and Pierre Aka progressing? Are they ready for prime time...as in, a solid role off the bench?

CW: Your guess is as good as mine. My guess is no, though, unfortunately. Redshirt freshmen (Trent) in general are not equipped to play at this level on the interior line. Even if Trent has a promising career ahead of him - which we have no reason to doubt at this point - guys like that simply are usually not ready to play in the Big 12 at that spot in their careers. As for Aka, this is a guy who like Trent, has great size but was injured all of last season and while he is listed as a sophomore, is basically a rookie. Until these guys prove me wrong, I will continue to be skeptical about Iowa State’s interior defensive line. 

Any chance we see Joel Lanning as a short yardage QB?

CW: Again, I really don’t know. I hope so but if it does happen, I suspect it will be later in the year. The new system/playbook appears to be what is holding Lanning back at this point but if he is as good as advertised, why not use him in some capacity to help your team win games?

Who will be the fullback/Woody back this year?

CW:Rob Standard, but he is still a different player than Woody. Standard will be used in that role to a point but it won’t be as blatantly obvious as in the past.

How's Trevor Hodge coming along at d-back?

CW: I didn't hear his name mentioned once during camp. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.

Mjacobs writes: How do you expect the playing time at wide receiver to break down with so much perceived talent? Will there be a ton of subbing or will we go with our "best" guys out there most of the time? 

CW: I hope that the “best” guys are out there most of the time. I’ve never played quarterback at this level but I can only imagine that subbing guys in and out every other play doesn’t help when it comes to continuity. Having said that, I bet you they’ll sub more than in the past. Still, I think that Quenton Bundrage, D’Vario Montgomery and Jarvis West will be your consistent three starters with Allen Lazard, P.J. Harris and Dondre Daley being consistent contributors too. 

Erikbj writes: How balanced is the offense going to be with Mark Mangino? Are we going to be a 70/30 pass/run or more 50/50?

CW: I think there is a common misconception out there that because Mark Mangino is in Ames that Iowa State will quite trying to run the ball. I just don’t believe that is going to happen. Your 70/30 guess is probably too much. I’d lean more 60/40. The great thing about Mangino is that he will do what he is able to do, if that makes sense. I just see a guy who has a proven track record of being able to adjust on the fly. Iowa State has been lacking that for some time.

Awd4cy writes: When will lakesbison be permanently removed from this site?

CW: Who?

CyArob writes: More plays this year. Tyler Brown or Rob Standard?

CW: Rob Standard. 

Stormin writes: Do you think we will play any 3-man fronts this season? 

CW: Yes, I do. I don’t think it will be a regular thing but I do believe we will see that look out of Wally Burnham’s defense sparingly.

Check out the site later today for complete coverage of Paul Rhoads' season opening press conference (that begins at 1). 

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  • Iowa State vs. Baylor
  • September 27, 2014
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