ISU's Rhoads talks up Lazard, others on signing day
AMES — He was excited.
In short, Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads formally announced the class of 2014 Wednesday with typical bravado, then stopped talking and held up an important document.
“That’s Allen Lazard’s National Letter of Intent,” Rhoads said of his four-star crown jewel recruit. “Let me talk about Allen Lazard a little bit.”
So he did.
Lazard, a 6-5, 215-pound wide receiver from Urbandale, maintained a commitment he’d made 14 months ago to the Cyclones’ program.
That’s a big deal, as Rhoads’ affirmed while referencing Lazard’s main other suitor (Notre Dame), as well as an in-state program to the east.
“He’s not going to a school in northern Indiana,” Rhoads said of Lazard, a high school all-American. “Boy, they wasted a lot of time and money. He’s not going to another school in this state, who feverishly tried to call him about a half a dozen times in the last week.”
Rhoads held court in a room filled with media, assistant coaches, players and supporters of a program that went 3-9 last season, but finished on a two-game win streak.
He talked up the son of a former ISU captain (Lazard, whose father Kevin played defensive back), the son of an astronaut (offensive lineman Cole Anderson), a bruising hockey player (punter Colin Downing) and a 2,500-yard rusher (running back Mike Warren), among others.
He touted seven junior college transfers — more than double the number recruited last season — who will naturally be expected to make an immediate impact.
“Six on defense, we needed depth there, we needed some experience injected with those guys,” Rhoads said. “So I think all six of those guys will have an opportunity to compete.”
Three of those guys were in attendance.
One, 5-11, 233-pound linebacker Jordan Harris, led the JUCO ranks in tackles last season with 13.8 stops per game.
Rhoads said he’ll be “a guy that will knock peoples’ fillings loose” — words to which Harris grinned broadly.
“The sky’s the limit for my goals,” said Harris, who could slide into the MIKE linebacker spot vacated by NFL prospect Jeremiah George. “I plan on continuing the linebacker tradition: First team all-Big 12 linebacker, lead the team in tackles and most of all just make my teammates better. Hopefully they can make me better, too.”
Another JUCO transfer, safety Devron Moore, didn’t field a single FBS offer out of Carthage (Mo.) High School.
And how’s this for a “blue collar” characteristic Rhoads often seeks out?
Moore ended up working in receiving at a local Sears store before attending a high school game and rekindling his interest in playing big-time football, which set him on a path to Northeast Oklahoma A & M, where he became a 3-star recruit.
“I just had to fight through it and had to keep the faith,” said Moore, who chose ISU over Wisconsin, TCU and Texas Tech, among others. “Keep working hard and it paid off.”
Moore and transfer Quijaun Floyd could star in a secondary depleted by the graduation of starting safeties Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield, and starting cornerback Jansen Watson.
Gabe Luna — who also is enrolled in classes — hopes to do the same on a revamped defensive line that will feature two other top JUCO performers, Dale Pierson and Terry Ayeni.
“I’m a fanatic for working out,” said Luna, a 6-1, 245-pound defensive end. “I like to get everyone else excited, get everyone going.”
He does it vocally.
Lazard did it by staying close to home, side-stepping the noise, and simply standing by his word.
“I’ve been going there since I was born, basically,” Lazard said recently about Jack Trice Stadium.
Now, as then, it’s home.
And he may be an impact player, but he won’t have to talk about it.
“As a bonus to Allen, I’m going to keep him off-limits to the media for his freshman year,” Rhoads said. “I think he’s earned that after what he’s been through the last 14 months.”
RHOADS ANNOUNCES STAFF CHANGES: Rhoads said Wednesday that Brandon Blaney has been hired as the Cyclones' new offensive line coach.
Blaney replaces Chris Klenakis, who left for Louisville after one season.
Blaney was the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive quality control coach and previously worked under new ISU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino at Kansas.
Rhoads also said former wide receivers coach Todd Sturdy is now the quarterbacks coach and Mangino will coach the tight ends. Mangino's son, Tommy, also joins the staff as the receivers coach.
D-LINE DEPLETED: Early this winter, defensive tackle Brandon Jansen, who would have been a fifth-year season, chose not to play football anymore.
Wednesday, ISU sports information director Mike Green confirmed that defensive end Nick Kron is no longer on the team.Jensen had four tackles for loss last season and a sack. Kron totaled 1.5 tackles for loss and a half a sack.