ISU's Rhoads wants big plays on offense, fundamentals on defense in spring game
By Rob Gray
AMES — Call it a glimpse.
A harbinger of things to come for Iowa State’s football team.
When the Cyclones line up on offense in today's 2 p.m. spring game at Jack Trice Stadium, fans will notice subtle and not-so-subtle differences.
Mainly, the variances stem from the pistol formation, which becomes a bedrock element of ISU’s spread with new offensive line coach and pistol guru, Chris Klenakis, in the fold.
“You can see what it’s done for the running game,” Cyclone quarterback Sam Richardson said recently of explosive runs achieved in practice. “It’s continually getting us big plays.”
How the pistol’s presented — and executed — will be one of several aspects of today’s glorified scrimmage to keep an eye on.
But what’s ISU coach Paul Rhoads looking for the most?
On offense, it’s still big plays.
Significant yardage gained after catch or first attempt at contact.
“Those guys have got to go out and make people miss,” Rhoads said. “They’ve got to turn six-yard plays into 60-yard plays.”
“I’d really like to see those guys go out and play fundamental football,” said Rhoads, who noted improvement throughout the spring in this regard. “And tackle singly. Tackle more aggressively when they have a partner there, not lose containment, things like that.”
Big plays can come on that side of the ball, too, and senior safety Deon Broomfield — who played mostly nickel last season — aims to provide them.
He’ll occupy the strong safety spot manned in 2012 by Durrell Givens, who led the nation with nine takeaways (six fumble recoveries, three interceptions) despite missing seven quarters late in the season because of a knee injury.
Broomfield snared two picks last season, recovered a fumble and forced two while playing in all 13 games, but starting only six.
“He doesn’t always look good in practice, doesn’t always look good in fundaments, doesn’t always look good in winter workouts, but when the lights come on, he makes plays,” Cyclones secondary coach Troy Douglas said.
“I hear that from all the coaches,” Broomfield said, smiling. “Sometimes (Douglas) will make fun of me and give me a hard time. I tell him I’m working on it.”
Other elements to scrutinize from the stands include the trenches — where a rebuilt offensive line has impressed with its tenacity, and a largely inexperienced defensive line has created head-turning, along with eye-rolling plays this spring.
Then there’s the place-kicking game, where Edwin Arceo and Cole Netten are engaged in a “dead heat,” Rhoads said.
It’s all a work in progress.
So Saturday’s as much a celebration of work done as it is a portent of the tasks and dreams that lie ahead.“Just getting out there and learning again and using some of the gains that we’ve gotten through the weight room — it’s exciting,” said linebacker Jeremiah George, who looks to become the second level of the defense’s standard-bearer. “I’m really looking forward to (it).”